I just had my first fight with a trucker. Okay, we didn't come to blows. I did have to push him though. gently but emphatically, belly up to the counter at the truck stop deli. Right up against the displays of peanuts and led flashlights and solar keychains. And I held him there. I told him "i *said* you go next". He laughed, but not at me, more in a nervous sort of way......probably because all the other folks behind us in line clearly didn't like his behavior either, and appeared to have my back.
I hate mean people. Which is counterproductive, I suppose. Hate is mean, right?
The lady in front of me was trying to pay for her breakfast sandwich with pennies and nickels and dimes. She was also crying and talking rapidly and rather incoherently in a "word salad" sort of way that some mental illnesses produce. She lived in some kind of van that just got hit by "those people who are stalking me" and she was hoping that this truckstop had a ministry so she could pray......meanwhile the loose coins were flying like winged monkeys out of her shaking hands. I was behind her, and the trucker behind me piped up and said "Jaysus, is it christmas yet? move it, lady". I could feel my heart get really small and hard in my chest, and I pulled out a couple bucks to pay for her sandwich just so I could turn to that trucker and say sweetly " since you are in such a hurry, mister, you go next".
he told me no.
That was it. I'd had a rough two days where I felt all at odds with the world.....rattled out of a pecos truckstop by fighter jets on maneuvers, driving into a relentless sunset with a blinding headache, and driving mile after mile of what was suddenly a terribly lonesome texas highway.
I guess I was looking for a fight, cause I could have ignored him when he told me no. Instead, I stepped behind him, planted my hand between his shoulder blades and pushed him belly up to the counter and told him "i said you go next".
He did. And while I waited for my turn, this lady turned on me and spat words at me like bullets, so great was her need to tell her story, to be heard. She didn't make much sense, so I just looked hard into her eyes and saw her. And I saw her seeing me see her. That quick, a connection, and then gone. It was one of the moments I live for, when, again like the velveteen rabbit, I become real.
My turn came, but as I turned away, I saw a different trucker slip a bill into her hands. Maybe he had become real, too. I betcha. And as I left the store a few minutes later, I saw one of the clerks had come from behind the counter and was standing with an arm round the woman's shoulder, maybe sharing the prayer the woman sought. Who knows. But it's hard to remain out of sorts when you are reminded of all the people in the world who need to have the stuffing loved out of them, and those who are wiling to do it....