Whom You Meet
By Annette Rey
We meet people everyday and usually take little notice, and we certainly don’t engage in extended conversation with strangers. That’s too bad because we miss good opportunities to study the differences between people, and to discover things about them we can’t read from the surface.
Because I stepped over into another person’s world, today presented fodder for my writing. I remind you, as writers, to do the same.
In the pet supply aisle at the local grocery store, I saw a person bending over to grab a bag of birdseed. I was only aware of a form, that it was human, and that’s all. Looking back, I realize how shallow we can become while busy with our own lives. It was only after I spoke to her that she became a person to me, “The bird seed is cheaper at the feed store.”
Rising from her bent position, a cheerful, freckled face topped by a shock of red hair looked directly into my eyes. Her voice was lit with smiles, “Oh, I know! But we were out of seed this morning and have no choice. And they just can’t do without!”
I smiled, too, and enjoyed looking at her face with all its qualities, slight wrinkling around the eyes that seemed formed by smiles and not by age. The red hair was what a writer might term “wild”, but I saw it as framing her countenance with a bright aura.
“Oh, I know what you mean! My birds are eager, too. The feed store makes it worth it to me to buy in bulk.”
“And you mix it, too, don’t you?” How did she know that? I affirmed that and told her what types of seed I buy, and how I mix them. She listened with all-attention. I told her the store occasionally contracts with a caterer and offers free breakfast in the center aisle at cloth-covered tables moved in for the event. And that they had a “pig walk” every Saturday where the resident porker walked through the store while people followed. It was ingenious and like a parade and fun. But one day a child startled the pig, the pig slipped on the concrete floor, and now he is too fearful to make the journey. I added they have ten-percent-off Tuesdays for seniors and she could buy her cat supplies (litter was in her grocery cart) at the same time she buys birdseed. While I was speaking, her face was lit with excitement and periodically she gestured her delight by patting my arm.
Mention of the seed again brought another remark from her on the subject, “Do you know what I do? I line the seed up in piles on my deck-rail, all the length of it, and all the birds can feed at the same time. I watch them from my window, right at eye level, and eat my breakfast, and enjoy them.”
“I wish I had a deck. In rain or snow, I have to fill and hang feeders. And lug them in at night because the raccoons raid them, and sometimes break them.”
“Oh, I have a friend that feeds a woodchuck!”
“Oh, a woodchuck! They are my favorite people!”
Our conversation was animated with no shortage of unspoken approval of one another.
“My name is Sandy,” she said, offering me a slim hand to shake.
“Gee, I hope I can remember that name,” as if we would meet again.
“Just think of the first letter in the alphabet, A, and maybe the Mouseketeers.”
“Do you know what? I met her! And as life would have it, in a pet food aisle.” She gestured around her. “In California! She was shopping. I wanted to hug her! And my husband got me the signature of Frankie Avalon when he worked at a store!”
“Really? What a neat story! And to think, you have met two Annettes and both in a pet food aisle!”
We had such a nice meeting, like we’d known each other for a long time. I told her I have a website and learned she doesn’t have a computer. She said she is the family matriarch now and keeps up the tradition of letter writing.
Slightly regretfully, we finally had to part ways.
And so, the end came to an unexpected meeting with a kindred spirit – a real-life, flame-headed, sparkling-eyed, vibrant character, someone to write about and remember.
Her final remark was said with a child-like, deep certainty, “I am sure we’ll run into one another again. After all, we met here, didn’t we?”
What are the odds?