I took a half day on Friday. The check for a bonus i recently earned was clearing that day. The weather was supposed to be beautiful. I had a bunch of errands to run, which were infinitely easier to run on a Friday afternoon. So I took the vacation time.
After a crappy weak while the boss was away, I couldn’t wait for the week to be over. I ignored the audible passive aggressive comments, and left without incident. And then I was free.
The weather was warming up, the gorgeous day ahead of me, I took off first toward the mall. This is something I usually loathe to begin with, from the under construction on ramp to the awkward parking and traffic patterns. Then you have to get out of the car.
Email forwards and scary movies have ruined whatever sanctity was left in the mall parking lot. I always feel the most vulnerable walking through a parking lot as self defense classes have led me to believe. Fortunately, I employ the smarter parking strategy, using a smaller side entrance but having the advantage to park closer.
I remain calm and avoid eye contact as I move quickly toward the entrance. But not too quickly, I don’t want to seem suspicious. I follow another group into the side entrance and am faced with a huge section blocked off for construction. It’s immense. It’s like a Borg ship has descended through women’s dress apparel.
I follow the edges until I find the interior exit and am turned loose into the mall proper. My first stop is the perfume shop, where I pick up something old (my usual) and something new (a bright, citrusy summer scent that I’m excited to use).
I have to go to Aveda next, but this is the mall walk I hate the most. There’s several kiosks along the most direct route that have very aggressive sales people. These people are usually foreign because they have no concept with the generally accepted American social norm about personal space. That and the accents are a dead giveaway.
Unless it’s one of those business models where guys from Deerfield, Michigan feign an accent so they can make women feel uncomfortable enough in the mall that they’ll drop $45 on your stupid spa products. I wouldn’t feel as bad then, because we’re keeping the jobs here.
I arrive to the shop without incident, but their storefront is also under construction. A tiny sign points me toward a kiosk around the corner. Ah, the irony. I pick up the items I need, but the poor thing had to handwrite the entire receipt.
Heading back to the car, I have a rumbling in my belly. I decide to grab a quick lunch at Don Pablo’s and treat myself to some queso dip. After a quick nosh, I finish the rest of my errands. I’m at the kiosk in Bed, Bath, & Beyond, trying to measure my feet for the custom orthotics, my cell phone rings.
I fumble to answer the hated cell phone as it spills from my hands onto the floor. I snatch it up, cursing softly to myself. A new scratch splits the touch screen on a diagonal. I answer it to find my husband in a bit of a dilemma.
A man and woman had rung the doorbell, looking for work to help them make rent. They offered to paint the metal grate railings on our steps, which had become rusty, for $75. My darling husband, a soft touch, reluctantly agreed. The work needed to be done, and here someone was offering to do it, for a price that wasn’t terrible.
What he didn’t know was that this couple was a Trojan horse of drama. By agreeing, it would now begin to unpack itself. The hitch began with the paint. All they had was black. Every house in the entire neighborhood had white railings.
But they couldn’t go buy other paint, because they didn’t have a car. They had taken a bus to get here, and would need a ride to go buy supplies. I felt for him, the discomfort he was undoubtedly experiencing was palpable over the phone. I told him that he was better off giving them a few bucks, sending them on their way with a “thanks, but no thanks.”
While he was relaying this to me, they were at the door again. Somehow they had managed to find a ride and would return with supplies. Apparently they had neither brushed, nor buckets or anything. It was too late now.
I had at least three more stops to make before I could come home. I hoped they would be finished before I got home, but no such luck. I picked up the brewing supplies for the weekend, then stopped off to pick up my new glasses (which are so much better than my last glasses) and my favorite pumps from the shoe repair place.
When I arrived home, the “painters” had not yet returned. We agreed that I could pretty much hold up in the bedroom with my Netflix instant queue and avoid the strangers I was now convinced were casing our house for a robbery, murder suicide or worse.
Still, it would make sense that I would be the one closest to the door when the doorbell rang. I had to answer it, based on the layout of our house, which leaves few options for avoiding people. I opened the door to find a very sad looking older man, wearing paint flecked clothes and unloading his tools from a black rolling suitcase.
The woman who was with him earlier didn’t return. She was out getting paint. He was going to begin sanding and prepping the railing, which would admittedly take a while. I retreated upstairs and immersed myself in figuring out if I like the show Mad Men. I’m only a few episodes in so the jury is still out.
My husband also went back to work in his office in our spare room, which overlooks the area he was working in. From what he told me later, her return was marked by a pretty loud argument about how they would get home, then her sudden departure. I never did see her, seeing only the aftermath she left behind.
The work was done, not a moment too soon. My husband supervising the final touch up and cleanup. During this time, the guy related how he had a “brush with the law” and how the woman had been stiffed on a really expensive job because she was accused of theft, finishing with a lamentation about how they only needed like $2,100 to get a van.
It was a sob story I had heard all my life. It was as though my father’s own dinner table disclosures that I had practically memorized from repetition were being spoken through this disembodied Jungian archetype.
It pushed buttons for me in a way that it probably shouldn’t, in ways that didn’t really relate to this man whose worst business model ever managed to land him almost a hundred dollars for a perfectly adequate painting job.
We laid low in the house for at least another 45 minutes after he left. He said that he was going to knock on some more doors before heading to the bus stop. It was 5:30 when he finished, and it was far more likely that he would catch the next bus back home.