On foot, we are approaching the front of the doughnut shop at about the same time. As soon as the woman sees me, she quickens her pace, making sure she’s inside the store before me. As I enter, she’s already darted back from the cold drink case with orange juice in hand, and back in front of me, ready to order.
With her dangly bronze-looking bracelet and her quick step, I imagine her to be a no-nonsense kind of businesswoman, in a rush to prepare herself for a hectic day at the office. I wonder to myself if this is the only part of her day – the ordering of her orange juice and doughnut holes – in which she will feel she has some control in her life. I wonder if she is stressed out. I wonder if she is nervous about an impending staff meeting in which she is meant to play a prominent role, despite her fears of speaking in front of groups. Of course, I don’t think about this for long, as I begin to eye the baked goods behind the glass and begin to decide what to order for my own little serving of “control.” The woman pays, she rushes out, and the little bell jingles as the door swooshes closed behind her. Good luck with your board meeting! Good luck with your big presentation!
Once again, I face the short Asian woman behind the counter. Through my disconcerting lust for fried dough, that has re-emerged as of late, I’ve come to know her through these brief, periodic encounters we share. We never really speak and hardly even look at each other. When it’s my turn to pay, I discover that I’m 39 cents short. I’m grateful that she spots me and says I can pay her next time – and then, disheartened, that I’ve been here enough that we both seem to think that there will be a next time. But I go out to the car in the still-dark, misty morning and grab a dollar from the console and return to the store. She’s already served a customer or two and asks me how much it was I owed, and I just give her the dollar, smile, and say, “Keep it, thanks,” or something like that, and she smiles and says, “thank you.” I smile and say “thank you,” again. It was just 39 cents, but thank you for trusting me to bring it back. Thank you for your first real smile. We're really beginning to open up. Perhaps we've reached a turning point in our relationship.
An effeminate, casually, but well-dressed black man is talking to the young white guy behind the counter - about what, I’m not exactly sure. I look to my left, on the other side of the store, where another man behind another counter is helping someone else. I wonder if I should go get in that line. I wonder what the difference is. What the hell does that sign say? I wish I had better vision. I am so lazy. I think I'll just wait here.
I look to my right and see a couple of customers working on those self-service kiosk-deals where you’re able to edit, crop, and print your own photos.
Though I’m not paying close enough attention to really be clear what the man in front of me is having trouble with, I am clear that every suggestion the employee makes to the man, he has a comeback for. The man assures him that he’s tried it, that he’s been there, he’s done that, and that that's NOT IT. I let them do their thing. I just stand and appreciate how nice and quiet the store is. The cool and quiet is alluring. I wonder if I would have the time to go hide in the corner for a nap while they sort things out.
As I stand there amused, imagining myself stretched out and snoring underneath a table display of picture frames, the man ahead of me finishes his business and leaves. I step up to the counter. I explain that I dropped my camera, the lens part has broken, and that it needs to be repaired. I hand it to him. He looks at it for a second and then tells me that it would be cheaper just to buy a brand new camera. Oh. Okay. Great.
Richardson Public Library
Mid afternoon, I wait in line with a blue, plastic basket, full of fourteen books of different sizes and different genres, admiring the people who stand before me. There is an attractive, middle-aged black woman wearing gold-rimmed glasses and a black kerchief, standing with a younger dread-locked man (who I imagine could be her son), and two young girls (who I imagine could be his daughters) – one about four years old, the other seven or eight. I watch the younger one, in particular, bounce around and try to make excited conversation with the older girl. She can’t stand still and I dare say one had better not attempt to make her try! Standing here, holding my blue basket, I look down and happen to make eye contact with the younger girl. She looks back at me in that curious, cautious way that children do - and then, suddenly, she gives me a hateful little smirk. I immediately scrunch up my face and give her one in return. We both laugh.
Somewhere on Belt Line Road
I am sitting at a traffic light in the middle of a school zone, waiting for the light to change. I’m stranded in a sea of cars – not a sea, really; more of a pond – and I’m in the middle lane, right in between them all, unable to escape. Not that I want to escape, exactly. I am actually feeling much more confident with my driving abilities. Was it yesterday or the day before that I lightly tapped our neighbor’s fence when I was backing out of the driveway? Oh, that’s right. It was yesterday. The day before is when I drove over that curb.
No, it’s not that I want to escape. I’ve just not had enough practice out on my own, that’s all. I’ve resolved to go out each day, though, so that I can get my groove and not feel so out of place. It just takes time. Soon comes the day that I’ll be driving across country with the music up and windows down, absurdly cool and sure of myself. I will think back to these early days of driving around these neighborhood streets feeling nervous – but not quite – and laugh at how uncertain I felt. I imagine this as I sit and wait for the light to change – and then it does. And if I keep on, so will I.