Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wrong Impressions

Every once in a while, a situtation arises that makes you mistakenly read a book by its cover. I've had this happen with neighbors and clients. You start off on a seemingly karmic wrong foot, and every subsequent encounter between you only intensifies the wrong impression you have of each other. One time we had neighbors who had different ideas about how socially close people should be with their neighbors. We had a very small party exclusively for people DH had hired into a team at work. They were talking company confidential stuff meant for no ears but each other's. The next day, the neighbor lady called me up, crying, and asking why I hated her and hadn't invited them to the party. Whuuuutttt??? On many occasions our children played together, and their children always made my elder son the bad guy or "the devil" because he wasn't a churchgoer. The final straw was when their idiot huge Golden Retriever pup got off their property and was roaming my backyard. I went out to take him home. He thought it was a rollicking game and dodged me for half an hour. By the time I finally corralled him, he had bitten my butt and torn my pants. I went to their door with my hand on his collar, and I looked pretty dishevelled. The neighbor man looked at me horrified, as if I had STOLEN the dog outright from their yard. It never occurred to him that someone in her household had turned off the invisible fence. He regaled me. What the heck was I, brazen hussy, doing with his champion bloodline (but idiot) dog? I politely suggested that the fence was not turned on. And did this neighbor ever thank me? Or replace my pants?

Well, that was a long preamble.

Anyway, the other day I was going to pick up my older kid at the high school. To get there I had to stop at a particular scary intersection that is renowned for causing accidents just because of its design. I was first in line at the very long light to cross the intersection, and noticed an unkempt elderly man on the corner. My wipers swept away a light drizzle. The man had wild, long white hair, a straggly white beard, and was wearing shorts that were too short, a regular tee shirt, and beat up athletic shoes with no socks. He'd topped the ensemble with a deeply wrinkled black trench coat that only a flasher would love--it looked as if it had been balled up under a bed for six months. Furthermore, he looked quite vague and was gazing around the intersection as if in confusion. He did not seem like a homeless person or bag person--just untidy and somewhat disoriented.

I thought, "Oh, great. This guy is going to start walking across the street in front of my car just the second my light turns green! I just know it!" As I said, the light is very long, so I had plenty of time to ponder and get all worked up about hitting him as he crossed. He kept casting his eyes about. And, finally, he did an extraordinary thing. My light was still red, but apparently he had been calculating the timing of every light in the intersection. When he had figured out that no one had a green, he strolled slowly and confidently across that very wide intersection on the diagonal to get to the other corner. He made it in perfect time before my light turned green. Will wonders never cease.

So I had gotten all worked up about a semi-deranged somewhat bag person who I was certain would walk in front of my moving vehicle, only to find out he knew exactly what he was doing. The very next day when I went to pick up elder kid at school again, I saw him again. Only this time he had cut his hair and beard, wore socks, and had put away the trench coat. He crossed straight rather than on the diagonal. And the only outstanding feature of his appearance was a huge walking stick that was definitely not the kind that's carved and polished, but some tree limb considerably taller than he was that he had found in a yard along his walking route.


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