Friday, June 11, 2010

Vignettes: The Witch, The Welcome, and The Waitress

*While having an email chat with a dear friend, I sent him the following series of stories involving an average week for me. He suggested that I post them. So here they are, with very little editing involved. Enjoy*
The Witch

“Did you hear that? The woman called her a witch,” my coworker said as we strolled up the sidewalk after our work meeting. 

I watched the woman, dressed in borderline raggedy dress, too thin a frame, and haggard facial features as she sauntered past a different woman who wore a clean-cut black skirt, black vest, and a colorful shirt. My first thought was that the raggedy woman’s beat up appearance could be a warning that she practiced the arcane arts. Then I realized it was the raggedy woman calling the clean-cut woman a witch.


Images of potions and medallions and black cooking pots swam before my sight. I didn’t find out that day what it all meant. I found out several days later while passing by a certain store.

This place sold anything and everything you wanted of a religious nature: statuary, paintings, cards, rugs. All in the likeness of Jesus Christ. In one side of the display window was a sign that read. “Stop Abortion!” along with other words I can’t recall at the moment. Sitting in the store was the clean-cut woman, reading a book. A worker? No, she seemed more as the proprietor.

This woman, who has obviously given her life completely into religion, was considered a witch?

I don’t know what to make of it. The other day, while I was walking down the street toward the grocery store, the woman strolled along with a friend. As we neared each other, she automatically said, “Good Morning!” to me in a friendly manner. I said the same back with a smile.

How odd.
The Welcome

I had waited for my hour-and-a-half late boss, sitting outside the building in a chair. I had crossed my legs, a strange polite habit as if this was still Victorian times and all women should do such when about in public (I even cross my legs while sitting on the bus). It didn’t matter what I was wearing - pants or a skirt. My legs, in a weird shy schoolgirl manner, will cross themselves.

I sat, in dress pants, legs crossed, with one elbow propped on a bent knee and my face resting in my open palm. I repeatedly checked my watch, wondering where The Boss could be. I watched a shabby man wearing a backpack, looking the equivalent of a drifter, crossing the street. As he neared, he said something.

It was one of those times when a person talks clearly, but your mind is so preoccupied by other things that you miss what they said. I knew he had said something. I just didn’t know what. I asked, “Pardon?”

He turned around and walked over. He started to apologize, while I said that I hadn’t heard his words. He leaned in close over the table.

“A beautiful woman shouldn’t be sitting all by herself here. It’s a true shame.”

He stood up. I said, “Thank you,” to his kindness. His smile said everything before I heard his parting words. “You’re welcome. You made my day by speaking to me.” He continued his way along the street. 

I continued to wait for my boss.
The Waitress

I had a dismal day at work, and The Boss gave me a deadline of Wednesday night. I only got one task done out of the eight I had left.

I waited for the bus so I could go home, checking the schedule. I read the wrong side, thinking the bus was coming at 3:20. It was 3:00. Then I rechecked the schedule and realized the bus wouldn’t be coming until 4:20. I had an hour wait, in the heat. I checked the other schedules. There was a different bus. I would miss the 3:22 stop but could catch the 3:56 one. Yet this meant walking a mile across one borough and going into a different one.

Not like I haven’t done it before. I started hiking, continually checking the time. It’s strange. I’m a time person, but don’t normally wear watches. When I have one on, I’m repeatedly staring at its round dial.

Anyway, I made my way into the outskirts of the borough. I don’t have to go into the main city. The bus stop was right by the major highway. There was a bench and a woman with her meal of a sandwich, heavy on the mayo, and her soda carton beside her. I asked if this was the right stop for the 1F. She said it is, pointing at the sign. She hurriedly grabbed her stuff, trying to make room on the bench. I told her she didn’t have to, despite my own tired feet, but she exclaimed, “Nonsense! I don’t need all this room.”

I thanked her and sat down, trying to ignore the strong mayo smell. But it wafted up at me when she spoke. And the woman had a lot to say.

“The bus came 10 minutes EARLY today. I’m so angry.” I could hear that she was almost on the verge of tears. “I had lost my other job for being late. I filed a complaint with the transit system before. Those buses aren’t suppose to run that early. I went to the Pat office directly. You know where that is?”

“Yes.” I nodded, faintly intrigued and faintly apprehensive when people start divulging their lives like this right out of the blue to a stranger. But having once worked as a debt collector, I immediately saw she was a woman who needed to vent. They had taught us in class to allow this. So I figured it should apply in this instance.

“Well, you don’t talk with anyone directly. You file a complaint through a phone system in the office where you buy the bus passes. I went there three days in a row during my lunch break. I work as a waitress. Anyhow, I never got a hold of anyone. I went back in there the next day saying enough was enough. I needed my lunch breaks. I wanted to file a complaint with someone. These two guys behind the glass agreed they had seen me in there before. They wrote out a complaint form. Then I left, but remembered I hadn’t told them who the bus driver was or the bus number. So I went back into the Pat office and saw the guys ripping up my complaint and tossing it in the trash.”

I asked if she could take it up with someone higher-up, like a commissioner of transit. The woman seemed fed up with the whole affair and tired, working two jobs. She couldn’t wait to work her other one, as a telemarketer, so she could sit in an air-conditioned room. But her day just wasn’t going well. Then she turned her face sideways, stuck one mayo dirty finger into her mouth, and pulled back her cheek. “Look, I even broke a tooth this morning. It's like the worst is happening today.”

I agreed things were rough. It just seemed like summer came around and everything has been down-sliding. She agreed in a frustrated manner. Then I said things have to start getting better. Perhaps she was at her lowest point now and life will start going uphill, looking brighter. She scoffed at first, but then agreed. She realized - while waiting - that she could be calling her dentist to make an appointment. She asked if I could watch for the bus for her. One came, on the other side of the street at a different stop. But it was headed inbound into the city and not one either of us wanted. We had gotten up to cross the street, then sat back on the bench at our mistake. 

After several moments the woman decided to head across the street and wait at the other stop - just in case. She asked if I would help her put on her backpack. She always had trouble getting her arm into the one strap. She handed me her cellphone and pass. Then she swung the bag around and I grabbed the strap to help slide it on her shoulder. She remarked, “Thank you so much. You are an angel. What’s your name?”


“I’m Mary Ann.” 

I handed back her things and we crossed the street to keep each other company. Another bus soon came, one she could take to work but I could not take to get home. She boarded and left. I crossed the street toward the bench, waiting to catch a different ride.


  1. What a cool little series! LOVE the title too!

  2. Great post. It is amazing the thing one sees when they really listen - not only with their ears, but with eyes, nose, and tactile facilities.

    I like the way your stories all seem to tie in together. Maybe it was because they came from one week, but there seemed to be some underlying thread, like, things are not always what they appear to be at first sight. I like the part where you were waiting for your late boss and the man walks across the street toward you. I was sure that he would turn out to be your boss. I was surprised to find that it was just a man that, in the end, was greatful for your kind words.

  3. As I've told you before, you're a crazy magnet. You draw the strange ones to you like moths to a flame. However, the last woman was (IMHO) an angel sent to help you through. And maybe - just maybe - you were HER angel, too :-)

  4. Michelle...this was a reading that I truly enjoyed. You have a gift of taking what seem to be the small happenings and delivering them to us in such a way that helps us remember that what we see, say, and do impact others....and ourselves. You seem to be an angel walking...

  5. Michelle, you are a Steinbeck...I am reminded of his book "Travels with Charley." Yes, I believe you could write almost ANYTHING and I would LOVE it! You should consider putting a whole series of such vignettes together and sending them to a publisher. And yes, you are an angel...loving, caring, compassionate and kind. Love you, Janine XO

  6. Never a dull moment in the life of the Surly Writer!

  7. Truly enjoyed this Michelle, especially The Welcome. It just proves the truth of the old adage, never judge a book by it's cover.

  8. You are indeed an angel! Your kindness and generosity is wonderful, especially since you give it in the midst of your own stressful life. You are no doubt racking up points in heaven...if heaven does that sort of thing. My only wish is that more people were like you. The world would be a better place.


People want to comment here?'s your two-cents, Bub. Spend it wisely!


Related Posts with Thumbnails

ESPN NHL Standings