Sunday, January 8, 2017

hesitation blues

Right around the week of Christmas, I accompanied my wife on her regular late-day run to the post office. I had a day off from work (one of those "use-it-or-lose-it" days that all seem to clump together at the end of the calendar year) and I was getting a little bored with watching reruns of  Match Game from 1974. Most everyone on the panel — Tom Bosley, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Richard Dawson — was dead and I had had it with their lame and dated double entendres about Dumb Dora. I was looking for a good excuse to get out of the house. So, when Mrs. P offered to pick me up on the way to drop off a load of pre-Christmas shipments from her eBay store, I jumped at the chance.

We found a parking spot at the post office and I helped my wife carry the shipments, now stuffed awkwardly into large tote bags, inside. Since they were all pre-paid, thanks to eBay's print-at-home system, we merely dropped the bags off at the front counter, sidestepping the queue line, and waited for a postal clerk to collect, empty and return our bags. I, however, needed stamps, so I got into line. Mrs. P. went off to choose a greeting card from the small Hallmark concession relegated to a lonely corner of the post office service area.

A man, several customers behind me, was trying unsuccessfully to get Mrs. P's attention. "Susan, right?," he loudly questioned. Mrs. Pincus looked up and tried to identify the man, while attempting to conceal a puzzled expression. Instead, he identified himself. He was the father of a boy that was a student in my wife's class when she taught pre-school nearly a lifetime ago. The fact that he was able to recognize her after all these years (and it is many years), is a testament to her youthfulness. I still maintain that my wife looks exactly as she did the day I met her. I, on the other hand, have aged considerably and not with any particular grace. 

Mrs. P politely asked how he is and how his children are. And this guy launched into a deeply personal ramble about ill-feelings among members of his family. About how there was resentment and animosity between his sons' spouses and their mother (this man's wife). He elaborated on scenarios that should have remained within the private lives of only those members of his immediate family and those personally affected... not a bunch of people waiting to buy stamps and pick up registered letters.

When we finished at the counter, the man met us at the exit door, stepping aside so as to continue his uncomfortable conversation. As he finished up his convoluted personal tale, he half-heartedly asked if we have children. My wife proudly offered information about our son, a DJ on a local public radio station. The man, whose head sported a knit cap embellished with an embroidered "Hot Tuna" patch, interrupted Mrs. P's sentence to begin a new rambling about The Grateful Dead. Using my son's radio station as a segue, he reminisced about a decades-gone-by broadcast allegedly featuring the Dead playing songs for a dollar-a-minute as a station fundraiser. My wife and I covertly exchanged glances, silently acknowledging that this story was complete fabrication. Still going off on a tangent, he expounded on the various Hot Tuna shows he has seen over the years, emphasizing his close relationship with founding band members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. He went into excruciatingly minute detail about going backstage and delivering a camera and talking to Jorma's wife. He paused several times to confirm that we were indeed familiar with Hot Tuna, their origins as an offshoot of Jefferson Airplane, their contributions to the world of meandering hippie-space rock and Jorma Kaukonen himself. His story was endless and disjointed and pointless. He held us, though, positioning himself so as to block our access to the door. He needed to finish this saga and, as far as his captive audience was concerned, we needed to hear it to the end! His description rattled on aimlessly for what seemed like another twenty minutes until Mrs. P glanced at her non-existent wristwatch and announced, "Sorry to cut you off, but we have an appointment to get to." He halted midway through a sentence about Native American jewelry (I don't know how that subject breached this one-sided conversation). We smiled and quickly said our goodbyes, inching towards the door.

We scurried to our car, hoping to outrun our loquacious captor. Behind us, though, we still heard him saying something about some long-closed venue and some long-ago performed concert. Mrs. P gunned the engine and we made our getaway.

I often wonder who listens to radio stations with a "classic rock" format. You know, the ones that repeat the same fifteen songs from the middle 1970s. Hang around the post office at closing time. You'll find out.

1 comment:

  1. Once in a while I listen to the oldies station. It's like all those old tv reruns you like to watch. Reliving a moment in life you know? I'm getting better at saying gotta go quicker to people like your captor. But hey, you got a post out of the experience!