A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Taking Candy from Strangers

I work at a Community Action Agency in an unglamorous "diverse" section of Springfield. I usually walk the mile and a quarter home. Ordinarily I have nothing on me but an empty thermos, a cell phone and my house keys, but yesterday I brought two one-dollar bills because I wanted to buy some Junior Mints at the Dollar Store. They'd been out of stock recently and I'd completely depleted my desk-drawer stash of them.

There's a Walgreen's right next door to the office, and it occurred to me that they might also have those movie theater-sized boxes for the same price, so I went in. Sure enough, they were in stock, with a sign below them advertising "99 cents." I selected one box and carried it to the checkout, where I waited in line between Jalisha ( her name was tattooed on her shoulder blade and clearly visible beneath her peekaboo top) and a hulking Hispanic man with his own share of tattoos.

"Do you have a Walgreen's card?" the checkout clerk asked me when Jalisha had been taken care of. When I said no, she informed me that the price would be $1.59. 

"Never mind then," I replied, taking back the dollar bill I had placed on the box of candy. "I can buy this for a dollar in the Dollar Store."

"I got it," said the man behind me, and I felt a little wave of happiness. Many times I had let a clerk swipe my card for a cardless customer at the supermarket, but I hadn't expected such courtesy here. The man handed two bills to the clerk, she rang up $1.59 and handed me the box and some change.

Wait--what??? The man wasn't lending me his card, he was buying me the candy for the full price! I hesitated, and he said slowly, as though to a small child, "You get the candy, and you get the change, too."

I didn't want to reject his gift, or hold up the line by insisting on a return, so I pocketed the Junior Mints, handed him his change, mumbled a thank you, and skedaddled. Embarrassed (did I look that pathetic and indigent?), but also charmed by the kind gesture. In 20 years of life in the glamorous part of town, no random person had ever done anything near as nice for me. Who says you shouldn't take candy from strangers?

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