Warning: The following post gets a little, well, um, yeah. It's awkward. I'm only reporting things that actually happened. Just remember that.
About mid-March I went to Home Depot in town for some new work gloves. My last pair of gloves I left in a trash can in Mississippi (on purpose) and I needed a new pair for the Texas trip. I was standing in the aisle contemplating my choices when a man in his mid-fifties came up on my right. He started exploring the knee pads. I kept hearing him mutter..."$19 for knee pads. Wow, those aren't bad. Hmm...theses are $25. Whoa! Those are $40 knee pads. What are they made of?" I smiled to myself and went about my business of selecting the right gloves.
Pretty soon, though, it became apparent that the gentleman next to me was not going to be content talking to himself. I was going to be a part of the conversation. Again he said, "$40 for knee pads. Whoa." but this time the comment was directed towards me. There was no escaping. "Yep," I replied, "they must be the cadillac of knee pads." I was hoping that I would get away with that. I didn't see the next comment coming. AT ALL!
"Wow, for that cost I would be wearing these knee pads all the time. I can just see it now heading to bed in just my knee pads. My wife would look at me and wonder what kind of kinky sex we were having that night. She'd probably ask where the whip was."
When the words "knee pads" and "bed" came into the conversation I wanted to run screaming from the store "AAGGHH!!! TMI! TMI!!" (TMI means "too much information" in case you were wondering.) I didn't. I laughed that awkward laugh of someone in an uncomfortable situation. The guy didn't really notice. He just kept talking about the knee pads. And then he noticed the gloves I was trying on. "So what do you do?" he asked. I made some stumbling remark about going to Texas and helping with hurricane relief, which led into a discussion about how I'd been to Mississippi multiple times doing the same kind of work, to which the knee pad man replied "Are you going to Japan? I have a friend who is going to Japan. I told him not to go right now. I'm an electrician, I know about those nuclear reactors. You don't want to go to Japan right now. Don't get anywhere near it." I reassured him that Japan was not on my list of places, yet, to go. After a little bit more conversation, during which I found out that he was a "good catholic boy", I bid farewell to knee pad man. I'm not sure if he bought any knee pads that day. And to be honest I don't want to know.
Now, fast forward to last week. It was 7:30 on a Sunday morning at the La Quinta in Slidell, Louisiana. I was heading to the breakfast area to get a glass of water. A harmless, lousy glass of water. The water container was right next to the juice machine. There was a gentleman standing at the juice machine looking at a pretty weak glass of orange juice in his hand. As I approached he looked up and said, "Well, the it doesn't look great but it still tastes like juice." There was a slight pause and then he continued, "It's kinda like me. I don't look so good but all my parts work." I laughed, awkwardly, and made some comment that I really can't remember because all I could think was "why do random people feel so comfortable talking to me about stuff that I don't want to hear?!"
Those aren't the only two stories I have of random people sharing information with me. I think I must have a face that says "talk to me, it's okay!". Maybe it's because I try to smile when I make eye contact with people. I don't know, sometimes it feels like a curse...I know way too much information about some people out there in the world.
But then there was tonight. Tonight at the grocery store the checker started talking about her mom. Her mom who has cancer. It struck me in our brief conversation that sometimes random people talking to you isn't such a bad thing. As I drove home I prayed for the checker and her mom. As I drove home I felt a little grateful that random people feel comfortable confiding in me, for whatever reason. I need to look at is as a gift...sometimes it means I pray for people and other times I have great stories to tell!