Friday morning I saw the dreadful news of the earthquake in Japan and kept thinking of that. Lunchtime rolled around and Himself came to pick me up and I suggested we go to the larger of the few local Japanese eateries for lunch. Line spilling out the door, we drove on, the minutes of my lunch ticking away. We moseyed over to a Red Lobster, and there were curiously few cars in the parking lot.
A little old lady flagged us down as she walked from the front of the store, Himself lowered the window as she approached and launched into a little blurt session in which she scarcely drew breath. I would put her at about mid-80s, and she had that crinkly, powdery soft complexion where the skin is gently ebbing to the tide of wrinkles that will not be denied. She was grinning big, and her short but unkempt hair lifted gently in the wind, like cornsilk and her round-cheeks, sparkling eyes and pleasantly-set chin gave her that tweetie-bird look some fortunate little old ladies get.
Meanwhile, Himself did that funny police thing they do(this is true!) where he was saying "uh-huh" every 40th word or so, as he must have done millions of times throughout his illustrious career. I think it's meant to express interest while not interrupting in hopes that this very loosely-wound thread will soon find its terminus.
"They are not open. You can't eat here today. May be closed until Tuesday." Here she reached up self-consciously and patted down her hair. "I can't warsh my hair on account of shingles. Do you know anyone whose had shingles? Booooy, I tell you, it's something else. If you ever wanna wish something bad on someone, you wish 'em to have shingles." Here she made a twisting motion with her hand on the end of her nose. "I was at the airport, and we were late getting onto the plane because an old lady -- She was about 93-- on the flight before ours had diarrhea and fouled herself and they had to sanitize and deodorize the plane before we could get on, and my head was broke out in the awfulest rash and the flight attendants were worried I was having a reaction to the chemicals but I said no, it was just these shingles. I used to work for a company but then I started my own business and I would have every Friday off and that was my treat-- to take myself to Red Lobster for my lunch on Friday. They have a gas leak and I went in there and I was sitting at the table and they said we all had to leave and I said 'you can just bring me my seafood' but they said I had to leave and I've been working around gas all my life. A little gas isn't going to bother me, and if the whole place was just gonna blow up, well, I'll just grab my crableg and hang on."
Another truck pulled into the parking lot and she lit up like a used car salesman at a new prospect. "I'd better go tell him they're closed."
She said all that in about 30 seconds and it all seemed over too soon, but in my heart, that kooky, adorable conversation will live on. I feel like I've seen the elusive purple yak. Someday, in a desolate parking lot, the chatty little old lady may find you, too. Give her leave to speak, and you will be delighted, and she'll quickly drift away, drawn by the siren call of the next short-term friendship, snuffed out by the last gasp of the breath whence it was born.