Anyone who has followed my ramblings for any length of time should have come to the conclusion I try to have some fun with what I do.
I post discussions and arguments I have with my fictional characters. I document that I see imaginary people in restaurants and coffee shops. I freely run the risk that should my blog postings ever fall into the hands of a mental health worker, a psych evaluation would be in my future.
To that I say, bring it on. If Joseph Denton can survive it, so can I. (Even here, a reference to an imaginary character in “A Long Walk Home,” who is kept in a mental health institution.)
It appears I spend several hours a day balancing between what is real, as in seen by others, and what only I see or hear. That might sound like it would get tiring, yet, oddly it does not. It does get surprising every so often. Like the other day:
I work with a woman, a marketing manager, named Gayla (more about her in another blog) and we have weekly meetings to coordinate efforts and brainstorm marketing ideas. We meet every Thursday at 2:00 pm in a Panera Bread shop.
I walked into the store and saw Gayla already there, sitting at a table. We both smiled, waved, and I signaled I was going to get a drink before joining her. My mind was already formatting ideas I had developed since last we met. In an odd way, I was grateful for the delay as a line of people stood ahead of me.
I should say person, as there was only one customer ahead of me and she was fighting with her smart phone. She was trying to get her phone to contact her bank, so she would instruct the bank computer to talk to the store computer, and through that discussion, the bank computer would authorize the store computer to debit her account $2.65, which would be electronically transferred to the store computer and it would credit the $2.65 to the Panera account which was most likely not housed in the store in which we were all standing. The woman had ordered a pastry; one pastry.
She was a big woman, tall and broad, and she stood over the clerk by at least a head and possibly shoulders, as well. The woman was muttering, and punching on the key pad, and then she would wait. She would receive a message, I’m guessing not allowing the transaction, because she would mutter a curse, in a low voice, defame all things digital and punch the key pad, again.
She truly was a big woman, she was taller than me, and I stand an even six foot. She had me by half a head, and she was broad. As I stood behind her, I struggled to keep the smile from my face. I do find it funny when people argue with gadgets, and I noticed the clerk, who was on the far side of the woman, lean to her right, look around the customer and make eye contact with me.
Her expression said, “I’m sorry for the delay. I wish she would step aside while she works this out. I’m afraid to suggest it, as she might break me in half.”
I gave her my best version of the Australian “no worries, mate,” expression, shrugged my shoulders and enjoyed the digital tug of war going on before me.
The smart phone won. Which is not meant as the slam against the woman. I’m sure she’s smart as well, but after four or five attempts, she gave up, dug into her purse and produced three one dollar bills to pay her tab. She took her pastry and moved away.
I stepped to the counter, prepared to order, looked at the clerk’s name tag and was stunned. Standing before me, with a grin worthy of her name, was none other than Marcie Smiley Face.
I gaped at her, shook my head to clear my mind and said, “I know you.”
This young lady, possibly a high school or college student, who worked part-time, tried to hide the expression that said, “Why do I get the weird ones?”
I was blind to her pain and blurted again, “I do, I know you. You’re Marcie Smiley Face.”
She lowered her eyes to her name tag, secure in the knowledge two other clerks had taken positions from where they could mount a joint defense should I suddenly bound over the counter.
In a little girl voice, she said, as she again looked at me, “Yes, I’m Marcie. Do I know you?”
I was about to remind her where we met, when reality crashed through that thin barrier that segments my brain, and I stopped. I suddenly felt sorry for her, knowing that she had to put up with weird people like me and the digital phone fighting woman, and all for minimum wage.
I shook my head, “No, I’m sorry, we’ve never met. I’m a writer and a couple of years ago I wrote a story and one of the characters is a woman, who works as a server, and her name is Marcie. She wears a name tag, like you, and on the name tag, she draws a smiley face. Just as you have done.”
I motioned to point at the small rectangle of plastic on her shirt.
She lowered her eyes again and when she raised them a smile grew on her face and she stood just a little taller.
“You wrote a book about me?”
I started to say, “No,” but I became aware her companions were looking at her a little differently, so I said, “Yeah, in a way. You’re certainly in the story.”
“How cool,” she said.
Okay, so I embellished a little. Okay, okay, so I embellished a lot. I’m a writer of fiction and I claim the defense of literary license. Marcie Smiley Face is a very small part of the Jack and Terri story of “The Ghost in the Mini Skirt.” Marcie is in only one scene. She plays a very small part.
Doesn’t fiction mirror real life just a little? There are tens of thousands of Marcie’s, standing by to serve us sandwiches, pastries, coffees, or sodas. They play small parts in our lives. They put up with weirdness, rudeness, anger and complaints. And they come back tomorrow.
Here’s to them.