Thursday, September 11, 2008
Not Many of Us Around Here.....
I'm so 20th century, but as someone who likes to fancy himself as a writer (hey -- I used to get paid to do it!) it's time to enter the blogosphere. At least that's what the kids are calling it. By "kids" I mean anyone more than five years younger than me and/or those who do not shower or appear to fret over personal hygiene.
Why today? Well obviously it's the 7th anniversary of the worst day of our collective lives. I was a reporter on that day and while it was the worst day of my professional life, it also reminded me of both the power of words, and the responsibility of the journalism profession. Today we should take just a moment to remember, and the rest of the day distracting ourselves. A few days after 9/11, I went back to writing my regular humor column. It was tough to laugh, but so necessary. Like everyday, we need to laugh today.
So to start, I will tell a story that some good friends found funny as I recalled it last night....
Not so long ago, I was in the produce section of my neighborhood grocery store. I was wearing flip flops, shorts, and a $5 navy blue University of Illinois t-shirt I bought because, well, it was $5 and I liked the blue and orange colors. Brought out the color in my eyes, or something. (They are blue. Ice blue, thank you very much.)
As I was perusing arugula, scoping tomatoes and admiring a good variety of melons, a middle aged man passed me and nodded, as if we somehow knew each other. I barely noticed but it didn't totally escape me; I returned to my fruits and vegetables. As our carts passed again, he stopped and said "You don't see too many of us around here." Now, I'm often the last one to "get it" and I hate appearing confused so I managed a smile and said "Yeah" and then searched for the juiciest Macintosh I could sink my teeth into. Then I wondered.....
....Does he think I'm a juicy Macintosh? Does he wanna sink his teeth into....no.....Oh my god, I'm getting hit on in the grocery store. By a man. Who could be my fathers much slimmer, younger brother. I mean, I'm wearing Old Navy sandals -- do they send a gaydar transmission???
I better go look for some cereal. No, raw meat. Something slaughtered. Yeah, that's it.
He finds me again and says "Champagne" and again I panicked and said "Yeah." Then I thought, oh my god, did I just accept a date with a middle aged man over a glass of bubbly delight? Then it hit me. Actually, then I opened my eyes. His hat said "Illinois" just like my eye-sparkling t-shirt. And it all made sense. (He was asking if I attended the main campus in Champaign, IL)
I was embarrassed, but then I realized I was trapped. He said "I graduated in '68, a few years before you, which in fact was a few years before I was born. When were you there?" I said "1993," ignoring the fact that I went to Iona College a wonderful small school north of NYC. It's maroon-and-gold color scheme does not positively highlight any of my features.
I figured that was the end of it, until he said "Wow -- the same year as my daughter! What was your major?" Communications I said, which was true, but at a maroon and gold institution. "That was her major too. Do you know (Julie Smith)?"
Nah, it doesn't ring a bell, I say, hoping that the bell of my cell phone would ring at that moment. A ha, the cell phone. I excused myself to answer what he thought was a vibrating cell phone (a tactic I would have avoided just minutes ago) What's your name, he asks, in that "i know you're on the phone" whisper-slash-lip reading tone. "Joe Kirby" I said, using the name of one of my uncles.
I scurried to the frozen food section pretending to talk to anyone but the Illinois Alumni Office. I managed to lose the Class of 68 in the grocery store.
I do often wonder if his daughter knew a Joe Kirby. Lord knows it's a small world, especially in the produce section.