Some people are just plain odd. I was in town today just gawking around the place seeing what there was to see and happened to venture into a card shop. A lady in her mid-thirties was there. She happened to be talking to the shop assistant at the counter. I have no idea why I was there to be honest, cards are not my thing. However, there I was looking at cards of varying degrees of sappiness all provided by mostly the big guns of card world, Hallmark, Gibson, Carlton and so on.
Anyway, the lady was looking for filo-fax refills for her, um, filo-fax I imagine. The assistant being the professional that she was pointed out that they were in the corner above the padded envelopes and that they were running low on them, as there was rush on the yokes since the start of the new year. She practically skipped her merry way to the stone age version of an iPod, iPhone or whatever it is people use now to file away notes, dates and appointments that couldn't be forgotten on pain of death.
I had moved on from sappy cards and I was looking through some rather amusing ones. I had found a quite nice example for ladies birthdays that involved being able to touch one's toes without having to bend over any longer. She came back again to the young woman behind the counter and as she was about to pay for the item she thrust at the assistant it occurred to her that she needed a New Years card. The cards she sought happened to be beside me. I glanced down at them. I shuddered slightly at the thought of being on the receiving end of a New Years card, then went back to another card about projectile vomiting and drinking but not in that order.
The assistant pointed over at me and said much the same as she said about the New Years cards as she had about the filo-fax refills. There was a mad rush on them seeing as the New Year is nearly not new any longer. The lady twittered with delight. She gushed thanks at the assistant, turned and made her way towards me where she stared at the wall trying to find the New Years cards.
I looked up from the card I was holding with an image of a young man bent over facing away from a cake with hundreds of candles alight on top, his rump level with the candles and a look of concentration on his face (the title of the card said 'Puff up your cheeks and...' you can guess the rest). She nodded at me then went back to staring at the wall blind as a bat. I looked directly at the cards then back to her. She stared a little bit longer still not seeing anything and caught my eye again.
She knew I knew where the cards were but like all people who were in a situation like that she wasn't going to ask me to point them out. We continued our little dance for a moment or two longer before I returned to glancing at the New Years cards as I put back the card I held. I glanced long enough so she could follow my eye line but she still didn't cop it. The assistant tried to help by acting like the guidance system for the amusement arcade claw machine that picked out teddy bears: 'Left! Left! No too far left! Right! Right! Up a bit!'
I gave in and put my finger on them. She laughed and thanked me. While my hand rested upon another card as witty as the previous one I had held in my paws she looked at the few 'Happy New Year' cards that they had left. Now at this point I don't really know what kind of card it was I was holding in my hand (I assume it was about some bodily function failing due to onset of old age) as her phone started ringing as she was glancing through the selection. I had taken in the cover but to the left of me on one knee I could hear a cold business like voice come from below. I was just opening the card but had gotten distracted by this icy voice coming from the lady who a few seconds before was like your one at the end credits of 'Little House on the Prairie' skipping through the fields except on happy pills.
My ears pricked up:
'I rejected her application for membership.'
(Obvious pause for person on other end of the line.)
'Yes. I filed it and sent out a letter to her this morning. The reason I left a message on your phone this morning is you know your one that came in this afternoon?'
'Yes. Well she also fits the criteria. Didn't you go to school with her?'
'Well then I will leave it up to you. You can vouch for her membership?'
'Okay then. Well you can tell her then. You handle that.'
She went on for a few more moments and I tried to zone out of the conversation but this flip in personality change was immense. Her voice sounded stony. I eventually looked at the punchline within the card and didn't get it at all. I had forgotten the opening line as well as the cover artwork. I flicked it back but again I was distracted.
'I am going putting Sharon on probation.'
'Yes. Just like David.'
'He missed his flight.'
And after that she agreed that the probation would stick. I didn't hear anything else as my mind started to race I felt for these people. I wanted to know what did Sharon do to deserve this. Did David deserve to be put on probation? Where was he flying from? It might not have been his fault. Was he held up by traffic? He could have been kidnapped or even had local militant nationalists take him prisoner. What was his job? What are they members of?
She had hung up. I was looking down at her and I couldn't ask. I wanted to. Good god I needed to know. She had that grin on again like the world was lollipops, candyfloss and kittens. She went back to the assistant laughed that (now I found) chilling laugh following it up with very positive banter with the jaded assistant who looked like she was not enjoying this encounter at all. Overly positive people can be exhausting.
When she left out the door the assistant sighed like it was a relief. She looked in my direction and smiled the knowing smile of someone who sees all kinds of mad mental cases come in to her. I smiled back with an answering nod and shrugged too for effect.
'Assassin or life coach.' I said.
This went over her head as that jaded look came back on her face and I realised I just joined the ranks of the mental cases.
'She's probably one or the other.' I tried again.
This time the assistant found something better to be doing and picked up some cardboard that when pressed became a box. She went rooting behind the desk, stood up ripping back some parceling tape, looked in my direction with an expression that now said, 'Are you still here?'
I made my exit.