Shortly after the Earth cooled and most of the dinosaurs had turned to oil, I was of an age when I dated cute girls. One of my first loves was an attractive one who I will refer to as “Jerri.” We did the usual date things one did in those quaint times like movies, roller skating and hamburgers at the drive-in. Does anyone remember those? Carhops, window trays and a big canvas awning. Everyone in our age group went there to be seen and to see who was out with whom on that particular evening. “Jerri” and I made all sorts of plans and then seemed to wander throughout each other’s lives for years ever after. Years later, when we happened to be in town at the same time, we had a grown-up dinner with lots of grown-up conversation. In the course of the evening, I asked, “What did you see in me all those years ago? Her response was, “You always kept your shoes shined and you will talk to strangers.”
Well, most of my shined shoes have long since turned into sneakers but I still talk to strangers. I have found over the years that everyone has a story to tell, if we will only take the time to listen. Grocery store checkout lines are a good place to meet people. Most people are just waiting and their minds are someplace else. After putting my groceries on the conveyor belt, someone frequently walks up, puts the little divider bar between our selections, and goes into mental pause. I take great delight in breaking into their reverie by saying, “I wish you had not separated them. This the last time they will ever be together and now they can’t say good-bye.” I usually get a dazed look, then a smile, a chuckle, or frequently a laugh, but never am I ignored.
One afternoon, I was browsing in a mall store and noticed a young couple who had the sparkle of newlyweds. She was looking at a mirror. He was holding a brass candlestick. He slowly shifted his grip and then lightly smacked his palm with the rather substantial object. It was too good of an opportunity. I said in passing, “Col. Mustard, in the drawing room, with the candlestick.” Shades of Clue. Fortunately, they did not have a deprived childhood and knew of the old board game.
No longer am I in the comfortable confines of Green Country, but I am happy to inform you that people are just people. Just remember to take the time to talk but most importantly, take a moment to listen, for everyone really does have a story to tell.
Written by the late James R. May. Originally published in the Oologah Lake Leader, August 2004.