Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Just 15 Minutes

I pulled into the local smoke shop. A specialty store that I pass everyday on my drive to and from work. I would not say I am a regular at the establishment, I average a visit there about once every two or three months.

They have in stock a flavored clove cigarette that I like. More expensive then a regular pack, and if rumors are to be believed, a more dangerous type. I justify both of these by my irregular usage. I tend to buy and smoke only when I am feeling stressed. At times in my life I have smoked a pack a day. Those days seem to be past. I still like a smoke sometimes still.

I like having the power to choose when to smoke and when not to. After three months, I was now choosing to smoke. I am an adult, making an adult decision. Even if I was not feeling abnormally stressed; I just wanted a treat for myself. I had stopped at the video store and had picked up the kids the new animated movie based on a television show, which they were dying to see. Later I knew I would have to make a trip to the grocery store. At that moment I just wanted something that was totally mine that night.

The store sets on a corner lot of two very busy streets. I do not know what type of business was here before this one; I have not been a resident in this city long. I do know that they had opened up here shortly before I had relocated though. When you think of a smoke store, you probably are thinking of the small, 7-11 store type setting, with shelves of name brand and generic cigarettes. This is not one of those. Care was taken to set the right mood for a high-class shop.

I parked in the badly shaped, too small parking lot and walked to the door. It is a heavy, glass door. There are a couple promos of this or that tobacco product, and a picture of George Clooney with a satisfied smile on his face, sniffing a dark colored famous named cigar. I frown at the smile and push through the door.

I love the smell of this place. The fresh tobacco smell is smooth and tasteful. I do not think the word tobacco though. The majority of my life has been spent in the southern parts of our country. I did not even know I had an accent until I had moved to Upstate New York as a teenager. It was very much evident when I spoke. Once I meet a stranger, a middle aged woman, who actually named which county in South Carolina I had recently relocated from, just from my voice. While southern accents are seen as cute, they are also associated with dumb. So the accent went away. Now no one questions where I am from. Sometimes when I am very tired or been drinking too much, the southern sneaks out. Because I still think southern though, there are a couple of words that have never changed in my mouth. Tobacco being one of them. That said, I describe the smell of the shop as tobacca.

The lighting is also done perfectly inside. Almost like candle light. Nothing intrusive, just welcoming.

My clove cigarettes are kept behind the counter so I waited my turn in the calming atmosphere of aroma and light as the clerk checked out the person before me. I did not really look at the other customer, or the man behind the counter. I am not anti-social; I was not even in a bad mood really. I just was not in the mood to really talk to anyone. This was my time.

The customer finished his purchase and left. I stepped up to the counter and looked at the gentleman behind it. I did not know the man’s name. Sometimes he was working when I came in, sometimes someone else. A tall, clean cut man, around my age, 35 or so. Black pants and a red shirt. Why I noticed the red shirt I could not say, but it stood out to me. With out really looking at the man, I started to ask for my cloves.

As I said, I think like a southerner, and when I talk to someone I try to look them in the eye as a sign of respect. The moment I looked this man in the eyes, my request got stuck in my throat. This man looked like he was going to collapse any minute.

"You look tired." I stated the obvious.
"The flu." He responded "I was up all night with it."

We talked for several minutes after that. While I never learned his name, nor offered mine, I did learn that he works two different jobs. Never having a day off. Trying to keep his house, kids clothed and feed. Keeping the bank off the doorstep. Same as all of us. If not working, not getting paid.

"It struck me the other day," He said in a very serious tone, "That everything living in that house. The wife, the kids, the pets, and even the plants, I feed. Then I thought that there is another creature in the house I feed everyday, the bills."

He did not complain about whom got elected or the price of gasoline. He just said this is what I have to do so I do it. We talked for about 15 minutes. Comparing notes on family, jobs, money.

Then I paid for my cloves, shook the man’s hand and left. Got in the car, drove home, kissed the woman I love, gave the kids their videotape. Later I went out to the grocery store. Smoked a clove on the way there, and one on the way back. Went to bed, cuddled with the most fabulous person I have every meet and went to sleep.

I was not sure why the conversation with the smoke shop clerk had stuck with me. I was not even sure why we had had it. Then I started to realize. It was just pure talk. Two people meet, have a quick talk and move on with their lives. It did not last too long. It did not last too short. No guy thing, joking and laughing about life over a beer in a smoke filled bar. Just a pure, true conversation. Neither one of us wanting anything from the other. Just someone to talk too. In my younger days I would have even called it a moment. Today I do not know what to call it.

4 Comments:

Blogger brooksba said...

Larry,

This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing the conversation you had with the man at the tobacca shop. It touched me.

There are rare times in our lives where there is nothing gained in conversation. Neither side is looking for anything. Those moments help show true humanity and I treasure them. Thank you for sharing this, I really mean it.

Beth

11:02 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Wow. This was very moving. Thank you.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Jacqui said...

It wasn't very long, but it sure was sweet. And it's nice to know that there are still some people that value the small things in life.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

People don't stop to smell the roses, or to care about what's happening around them. Too many people walk around in bubbles of solidarity and can't deal with what is happening in other's lives because inherently, they can't really help them - or so they think... I'm sure your talking to the clerk will stand out in his mind...
IRT your post - you're welcome. She really is my world.

7:30 AM  

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Location: Lansing, Michigan, United States

Desert Shield/storm vet. I am the one at work who comes up with the ideas on filling up those non-work hours. (ok, who is up for canoeing this weekend?) After several wrong turns, have finally found the love of my life.

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