Overheard and telling

Scene I: Hemlock Gorge.

Players: Older man with his grey-whiskered pug. As is often the case, man and dog look alike. They have parked themselves at the side of the path to let us pass. You’d be surprised how many people do not do this. Courtesy made visible. Man is on his phone.

Important detail? Man speaks with an accent. I can’t identify it. Eastern European, maybe, but not Russian or Ukrainian. In my imagination, he is speaking to someone in another country and he is trying to explain the inexplicable, that is, life in America today.

“It’s amazing,” he starts. “There was an insurrection. It was filmed up and down and still people support him.”

It was filmed up and down and still people support him.

Scene II: checkout at Wegman’s supermarket.

Actors: Two young women working adjacent registers.

Important detail: they are both attractive with the blush and confidence of youth.

Unimportant details: one is Black and the other Latina.

Black woman: “He followed me around the store. I kept turning and asking him, Can I help you? And he kept coming. Can I help you? I kept asking. He was old, like 40 or something. Really old. He asked me for my name. I’m good, I told him. He kept coming. I looked at him and said, You’re old! He asked for my Instagram account and I told him my boyfriend has a temper.”

Latina woman about some other man: “I was wearing a blanket, I mean I was completely covered. And still he came at me. A blanket!”

Black woman, to me, perhaps by way of acknowledging that employees aren’t supposed to indulge in quite so much talk across a customer’s basket: “I’m sorry.”

She apologized to me!

It wasn’t one of those situations where I could have feigned not listening. So I said something, not just to let her know that no apology was needed but to emphatically support their indignation.

I told the Black woman she could have accused the man not just of being old but also of being a fucking creep. To the other I said it never mattered what she wore. Ever.

The Black woman awarded me the “customer of the day” award.

These two exchanges were telling, not just because of how my ongoing, general isolation makes these casual interactions more important than they might otherwise be, but because of what they say about where we find ourselves as Americans — as Americans on a precipitous decline that shows no sign of slowing.

9 thoughts on “Overheard and telling

  1. Marti

    This is Marti in case my name doesn’t appear: I have not overhead anything, have gone nowhere for the past week but this morning, I looked around the neighborhood. Apartment in the next complex, flag on door but no other flags that I can see anywhere…rockets, fireworks have been making noise since July 1 in the evening, today is the big day for firework displays and I ask why..

    In my little hometown in central CA, my immigrant Father who had become a citizen, served in the army in WWII, on this day of the 4th of July, polished his shoes, wore his old army hat, puffed out his chest and standing on the sidewalk, saluted as bands and our Flag went by in our little hometown parade. We stood proudly beside him, my Mother, my sister and I , all wearing red, white and blue and waving little flags…Today my thirteen year old granddaughter said the lgbtqi community is wearing pink green or black to protest but no red white or blue….

    At daybreak this morning, 9 hot air balloons sailing overhead, I wondered if the people in the balloons were all making a break for it…trying to escape America…

    There are times when my words just are not enough so I look elsewhere: Today, these words in The Guardian from Robert Reich:


    “True patriots don’t fuel racist, religious or ethnic divisions. Patriots seek to confirm and strengthen and celebrate the ‘we’ in ‘we the people of the United States.”

    He ends his writing with these words:”America is in trouble. But that’s not because too many foreigners are crossing our borders, or we’re losing our whiteness or our dominant religion, or we’re not standing for the national anthem, or because of voter fraud.

    We’re in trouble because we are losing the true understanding of what patriotism requires from all of us.”

    1. deemallon Post author

      Didn’t read the article but came back to this comment twice. Once before the Highland shooting and once after. And then there was another in Philadelphia. Both made your memory of attending a July 4 parade seem more antique, quaint, and impossible in our Age of Guns and MAGA Rage. Good gawd.

  2. RainSluice

    Well done, Doctor Dee!
    May we all begin to win awards to speaking the truth about what matters, in public places – as long we have public places.
    I wrote a reply on my phone earlier, but I’m pretty sure it went into the ether. Reconstructing a bit (more concise, be grateful) of it here on my laptop:
    We are heading for medieval times. Truth will only told directly, woman to woman, in laundromats, hair salons and grocery stores. We’ll become the pedestrian the bone women. Remember She Who Runs with Wolves?

  3. Liz A

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers … how much longer before we are no longer sure who we can safely talk to? how much we can safely say?

  4. Saskia van Herwaarden

    it is so important to speak out when you can Dee, like you did in the store
    it matters that people feel they are heard and are supported

  5. Joanne in Maine

    Here in my small Maine Town. I am not talking to anyone in grocery but do talk to one or two people at the library and the book store where I order and pay for books. We didn’t have a parade and there were no fireworks. We usually do. Not this year. Perhaps not last year either.


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