She eased her way over to where I was standing, wearing a mixed expression of curiosity and caution. I was talking at the time, the microphone in my hand. When I set it down, she leaned in for a closer look.
“That’s you?” She was shaking her head, slowly. “I thought you were a man.”
Thinking that same thing about myself, I was little distressed that her opinion seemed to be wavering. But I’d run into it before, when someone met in person the one they’d been listening to regularly on the radio. Reality rarely matches imagination. We were broadcasting records live from a furniture store, something we did back in the days of 45 RPM. (Google it.)
Clearly, she thought I should have looked as tall as my voice might have hinted. That’s the thing about working in radio. You talk to people everyday, but there’s no face-time. Listeners come to know the voice in the box.
Waiting on folks who come in the shop provides me plenty of in-person conversations. The voice hasn’t changed much, but it doesn’t come out of a skinny teenager any longer. I have to admit, I enjoy chit-chat these days, however trivial. Over time, I’ve gotten to know some customers a little bit, jobs and family-life basics, and such.
“Do you worry?” one of our regulars asked the other day. “Do you worry when someone who usually comes in – doesn’t show up?”
It even comes up in the kitchen. Dustin might remark that so-and-so hasn’t been in for a while. I’ve brought up the same sort of thing. Once I remarked to a lunch guest that I hadn’t seen a couple who often sat near him. I had seen him speak to them on occasion.
“Oh,” he said. “They moved out of town. Couple of weeks ago.”
It’s crazy, but I was a little hurt that the couple hadn’t mentioned they were quitting Broken Arrow. Foolish on my part. I had come to expect to see them, knew their drinks and lunch favorites. But – honestly, and I realize it now – I was no more a part of their lives than the I-thought-you-were-a-man lady was a part of mine.
Sometimes, there is no explanation at all.
There was a couple who told me they had weekly business in Broken Arrow, and they enjoyed stopping in for lunch. They came in often enough that I could set the table and have their drinks poured – just before they sat down. Then, they never showed up. Ever. Again.
Maybe I offended them with chit-chat. Or maybe I turned in the order wrong. Maybe they moved to Texas, too. Whatever the case, I’ve not seen them in years now.
Sad truths are difficult.
Ordered a book for a regular guest and long-term customer. When it arrived, I propped it up on the front counter knowing he’d be in for it within the week.
Except he wasn’t.
Cleaning the countertop a couple of days ago, I moved it out of the way and, as I did, I thought about him and wondered that he had not yet been in to pick it up.
Today, after paying for a couple of books, a lady on the other side of the counter remarked that she was just in town for a funeral. Her companion mentioned a name, and that she had heard him remark more than once about the “Irish stew” and how much he enjoyed it. Of course, I immediately knew who it was she was talking about and it was as though I’d been hit in the chest with a mallet.
And now I know why the book is still sitting there, waiting for him to come by.
Rest in peace, Mr. D.
I’ll tackle the book for you and give you a first hand account of it later – but please be patient.
I’m becoming a slow reader.
Booksellers & Irish Bistro
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!