The people in your neighborhood

           Because I toted restless children with me wherever I went for so very long, I became an expert at talking to them about every bit of minutia in my life. The soothing sound of my voice comforted them as infants and distracted them as toddlers. But then, one by one, they all grew up and now don’t like to tag along with mom anymore.
            And yet, I still end up filling every second of my day with my voice, talking to myself, narrating what I’m doing as if there is a wiggling preschooler trying to throw cookies in the cart.
            Often I get caught doing this, and I find myself apologizing to the people around me. “Just talking to myself, making sure I don’t forget anything,” I say, attempting to cover up the fact that I look like a complete weirdo in too many public places. Sometimes they give a smile and slowly walk away. Sometimes we strike up a conversation. And sometimes, talking to yourself leads you to talking to strangers, which leads you to a better life.
            I like to believe that the people in your neighborhood are mostly good, and that you can learn something from just about everyone. So as I was standing there in the pharmacy, scratching the poison ivy that had appeared all over my cheek and neck and narrating all of the choices before me, I wasn’t really scared when I heard a voice begin answering back.
            “I heard you talking to yourself about your poison ivy. You need to try this,” a voice said, and from around the aisle came a lady holding a bottle of a fairly common treatment for cuts and scrapes. “I do tattoos and piercings,” she said, “and deal with a lot of skin issues. This works.”
            I looked up from the rows of creams and sprays and saw a lovely lady, face dotted in ink and metal. “Wow,” I replied. “I can tell you are a tattoo artist!”
            “Oh yah, honey. I’m covered.”
            From there we chatted while I scratched about her work and medical issues and religion and though it wasn’t a long conversation at all, I took her recommendation remedy. What did I have to lose?
            Talking to strangers always gets a bad rap. We tell our kids not to do it. Our media is filled with abductions and other bad stuff that, if I’m being honest, often makes me want to lock my precious family in a cabin in the middle of the woods and carry a pistol. And while I know there are bad guys out there, deep down I think there are plenty of good ones, too. And that taking a chance on someone might just make your day a little better and your face a little less itchy.

            (And because you all want to know, her remedy worked better than anything else I’ve ever used. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it is. Just start scratching and talking to yourself—the answer will probably find you.)

Originally written 9.19.16


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