Perhaps seeing the tiny snake on the stoop as I left to go to the Post Office was a portent. The line was long, but not unusual for this branch. I was in line behind a nice older lady who said she needed Christmas stamps. As the line moved slowly along we chatted about each of our Thanksgiving plans. She is dining with family; my husband and I are going to our favorite Indian restaurant.
I also eavesdropped on the two people in front of her. He was a fireman in a nearby community, and he chatted away with a woman about how he was studying to be a lawyer. The woman then had to tell him about her jury duty experiences.
Meanwhile, another lady had fallen in behind me. I realized she was talking away on the phone. She was very angry with someone about leaving the garage door open, presumably, at her residence. She was most concerned that the guestroom would be cold. I tried to tune her out and continue to talk to the pleasant lady in front of me, but it was almost impossible.
Years ago when I worked at the public library in another city, one of my jobs was to take the postage meter to the post office and get it “recharged.” I actually loved this task because it got me out of the office and away from the phone and other duties. Obviously, those days are gone.
After the woman behind me finished talking to the person with whom she was upset, her phone rang. This new conversation mirrored the previous one as she related the garage door business to the new caller. After finally hanging up from that call, she answered the phone again. After yet another round of complaining about the garage door, this call at least morphed into new material about airplane flights and arrivals.
When she finally concluded the third call, I breathed a sigh of relief as she took the Bluetooth device from her ear and put her phone in her purse.
The nice lady and I continued to chat a bit, about how the weather was supposed to be nice on Thanksgiving and all. She also waved to a friend of hers in the back of the line.
After a nice period of silence, the lady behind me began to talk again. Apparently the silence bothered her, so this time she’d called someone. “I can’t believe you planned something for Friday night,” she said. At least, I thought, this is new.
“I can’t believe it,” she said again. I turned to the woman in front of me. “I can’t believe she keeps talking on the phone!” I said, sotto voce. The lady nodded and had she not been so classy, I knew she would have been rolling her eyes.
“But you knew it was my birthday,” the phone conversation continued. “And that I wanted to celebrate at home. With you and…” (I couldn’t understand this part as she had turned to look back out the door.)
After a pause, she began again. “Just don’t expect…” another pause. “No. I just can’t believe you made plans. Remember when we went to Chapel Hill and we ate with you for your birthday? Just don’t expect me to go out of my way to celebrate your birthday next year.”
After another pause, she continued, “No, go out with your friends. Just don’t expect anything for your birthday next year.”
I cringed. The woman had been talking to one of her children or perhaps her sister and layering on the guilt; we’d witnessed a master manipulator at work.
Now, at last, I knew what else to celebrate on Thursday — I was thankful I was not on the receiving end of that phone call.