My Trip to
by Kathy Coogan
I went to my acupuncturist today. Just writing that sentence makes me feel modern and enlightened.
I have always been a conventional patient, respectful and admiring, a little awestruck if I am honest, of physicians. Until the specialist in the long white coat, who suggested that I keep doing what I was doing as long as I could and to call him when I felt worse, which I would eventually. Two days later he billed me.
Two weeks after that I paid him. By that time I had found my acupuncturist/MD and was feeling much better.
I live in exurbia, another modern word which describes the semi-rural, semi-residential areas outside suburbia that nudge ever-closer to an eastern bend in our great river. When I go into the city I usually try to accomplish a lot to save on gas and time, mostly time which is a semi-OCD issue for me.
Today was no different. I would get my acupuncturist treatment, painless needle pokes, grab a quick lunch, go to my writers’ group, the grocery, the library and head home. I could practically do these things in my sleep, except writers’ group which keeps me energized and alive.
I was walking from the deli toward my car where I would eat my sandwich listening to a book tape, "Grace Eventually," read by Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors. Coming toward me was a man, ill-shaven in the fashion of the Grapes of Wrath not G.Q. He was speaking in my direction, from behind the empty grocery cart that he pushed.
I looked toward him, ready to smile in a disarming fashion on this beautiful summer day. I heard him say clearly, pointing at me, “I’ll sue your ass.” I actually looked behind me to see if there was another potential defendant there.
“You bet your ass, I’ll sue you,” he said again, jabbing that finger, as I moved between two cars parked too close together for the armor of his cart to maneuver between. No disarming smile from me. I just wanted to get away from this obviously unstable individual. But as I edged away I saw another sign of the times, like exurbia and acupuncturists.
In his ear was a Blue-Tooth device connecting him through sound waves or ESP or magic or whatever to the cell-phone clipped to his belt and to the poor soul somewhere absorbing his rant. I felt relieved but as outdated and crotchety as my grandmother when she saw her first electric can-opener and said, “What won’t they think of next?”
After writers’ group, revived and buoyed by the way we celebrate each other’s writing, I stopped in a grocery store to pick up a few things, a chore which I dread more than a big shopping trip.
One is required to traipse in all directions for the unconnected items, instead of following an organized list arranged in the layout of the store, from produce in aisle one to dairy in aisle forty.
Hop-scotching from the bread (aisle 3) to coffee (aisle 17) back to dog-food (aisle 13) and back to deli, since I think we’re out of cheese, makes me nuts! And that reminds me that my husband wanted some cashews, all the way in aisle 30.
As I searched all the similarly bagged brands of dog food for Lucy’s favorite, a man’s voice said, “I really like your top.” My first thought was, “Oh no, not again.” I spun around, my disarming smile filed away under, “Don’t Smile at Jerks Ever Again,” and there stood a slight though pudgy man with the large open face of a person with Down Syndrome.
I was so glad I hadn’t snarled. He restated his compliment, “It’s so pretty. I really like it. Roses are my favorite flower and they’re all over it.”
I allowed my smile to climb out of hiding and said, “Thank you. Yes, I love the roses on my top, too.”
Driving home, my mind nominally paying attention to red lights, green lights, dump trucks, yellow cones, right lanes closed ahead and all the other slowing-down-folderol of summertime road repair, I was getting impatient. I had ice cream in the back seat.
I finally arrived at my favorite short-cut street that would bypass all the construction between here and home. I could make time now.
But no. Oh darn it. There ahead was a yellow school bus traveling at 25 MPH. Rats, it was turning on its flashers, stop-sign arm unfolding from the driver’s side. Come on kid, hurry it up. Get off the bus, I thought.
My ice cream is melting, I thought. Come onnnn, I muttered, fingers strumming the steering wheel. Instead of a student, the bus driver, a grandmotherly woman in blue seersucker cropped pants and matching top, got out of the bus, smoothing the back of her slacks as we women do when we stand up from a sweaty seat. She walked to the rear of the bus in a placid manner and operated a lift with a remote control.
A boy, fourteen, maybe fifteen, had come out of the house where the bus was parked, now blocking a line of cars in both directions, me closest. Someone inside the bus, I couldn’t see who, though now I was watching closely, pushed a wheel-chair onto the lift and locked it in place.
The driver used the remote again and slowly the lift lowered, a modern convenience that a pessimistic scientist could brag about. The teenaged boy unlocked the chair wheels and rolled it onto the driveway.
The bus driver carefully, slowly, restored the lift to its proper position and ambled back to the driver’s seat.
In the wheelchair was a beautiful dark-haired, floppy little girl, head bowed down, as if her neck was boneless, pony-tails with bows cascading down to her shoulders. A brunette Raggedy Ann, a cuddle-ee, never to be a cuddle-er. A Sleeping Beauty, someday to be awakened by a kiss or a stem cell miracle.
The teenaged boy began to push her toward the house but not before checking that each of her loose-limbed arms was safely inside the confines of the chair.
He stopped once and patted her on the head, tousling the escaped curls, I know not why, but I groaned with the gentleness of it.The bus pulled away and so did the rest of us.
The memory of the weird angry guy in the parking lot succumbed to the innocence of the child/man who liked my rose-emblazoned blouse and told me so; and the boy who sweetly assisted his little sister home.
This trip to the city would stay with me for a while, the little snippets of good nature overcoming the bad, the scientific breakthroughs that came up short. I thought again of my grandmother who used to say, “It takes all kinds,” and wondered if progress was all it was cracked up to be.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Art by Mo Conlan
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