November 6th, 2014
People in Memphis talk to each other everywhere, strangers perhaps in the sense that they don’t know each other personally, but open to each other in the sense that they share this place and this day.
That makes this a warm place to be despite the cold and indifferent wind that blows our way from those who would ignore the so very many for the benefit of the so very few.
We should talk about that.
As published in The Daily News, November 7, 2014, and in The Memphis News, November 8-14, 2014
Parked at the curb, he honked his horn when I walked by, earbuds firmly in place, somewhere in the middle of Morning Edition.
“Where’s your wife?” he asked through the open door of the city bus he was driving. “Stress fracture,” I answered, “I’m on my own.” “Hope she gets better soon,” he said, “and tell her I’m retiring November 21st.” “I’ll do that,” I said, leaning in to shake his hand, “and good luck.” I stepped back, and he pulled away with another toot of the horn and a wave. He’s been waving at us like that for years since his bus is generally passing when we walk out of our driveway each morning, as familiar he to us and us to him as one morning is to another, a dependable sign that this day is up and on schedule.
And we don’t know his name.
Her shoes were three or four colors, every one of them bright, and the effect served to brighten the dark blue of the Kroger uniform above them. “Nice kicks,” I said. “Three bucks at the thrift shop,” she beamed as she pointed me to an open self-service checkout station, “and you know I’m allover those sunglasses.” A couple of weeks before, I left those sunglasses behind and was about to pull out of the parking lot when she ran up beside me and handed me the sunglasses. I see her all the time, and the guy that talks football and shares jokes with me, and the woman who wonders how I find anything but cheerfully serves as guide anyway.
And I don’t know their names.
He goes through the mail every day at the UPS Store looking for checks for me. Okay, he sorts everybody’s mail that has a box, but we have a system. I walk in the door, catch his eye among all the people and boxes and tape and bubble wrap, and hold a thumb up. If I get a thumb up back, I have mail – two thumbs up and a smile, I have a check. In fact, if there’s no check, and he spots me on the phone in the car or in the rain, he’ll come to the door and give me the sign not to bother.
And I don’t know his name.
These are just a few of the people sharing my everyday journey – a very Memphis journey, probably like yours, every day marked by simply genuine and quietly selfless one-on-one exchanges between people who don’t really know each other at all, in fact, more genuine and far more selfless than the public exchanges between the people supposedly representing our best interest.
And we know their names.
Be honest. At this point – after this or any mud-covered, truth-stomped election – who would you rather run into today – that bus driver, the woman at Kroger, the guy at UPS or any special interest or agenda you know by name?
I’m a Memphian, and that’s a name I take personally.
If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.