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People are strange

My mind was wandering a bit as I drove Rylee to school this morning. We were discussing the odds of her catching a leprechaun with the shoe box that she was bringing to school strictly for that purpose, when two squirrels raced in front of my truck. They were having a serious disagreement about something and it almost got them run over. I spent the next several minutes pondering what in the world squirrels have to fight about. There must be a thousand oaks just in my neighborhood and about a billion untouched acorns on the ground in my yard. Plenty to go around... What else would they be fighting about?

The conversation then turned to garbage trucks. "WHY would Henry, the boy in my class, LOVE garbage trucks?" Rylee asked.
"Well...They are really big powerful machines." I said. "And they are loud."
"But why does he love them?"
"I am explaining to you the attributes of heavy equipment that might fascinate a young man. Like hydraulics!"
"What's hydraulics?"
"Hydraulics are what power the arms on the front that pick up the garbage bins. They use fluid to push a piston in a cylinder. You know the syringe that we use to give you medicine?" And I continued to expound on hydraulic principals, but I won't bore you with that. I finished with "Boys just like big machines. Do you like big machines?"
"Umm, no." She said. I guess she isn't going to be my tomboy.

We pulled into the school parking lot "I hope your day goes swimmingly." I said
"What is swimmingly?" She asked
"That means I hope that your day goes smoothly and everything goes your way."
"What is smoothly?"
"I just hope you have a good day and that you are happy all day."

At this point you are probably thinking, "Yeah, you are strange." Well, I won't deny that, but I came across someone even stranger at the grocery store.

I pulled into the Sweet Bay parking lot to pick up some breakfast things for the other three girls. The lot was mostly empty, but I parked right next to the only car in the lot. It was a smart car. I have a Yukon and I couldn't resist parking my gas guzzling, DVD equipped, urban assault vehicle next to the sorriest excuse for a car ever invented and admiring the size difference. I have nothing against saving some gas. I cringe every time I pull up to the pump and have to swipe my card twice to fill up, but Smart cars just have no style. But I digress.

I did my shopping and hit the express lane, even though I had eleven items. (I'm a rebel at heart I guess. I also like to enter through the exit door, mostly because it irritates my wife.) In front of me was a ragged looking fellow. Worn out work boots, covered by filthy faded Levis, a dark blue Members Only jacket that was obviously purchased when they were still in style, about two decades ago. Long stringy hair, that in his younger days must have been blond, tumbled out from under a floppy, camouflage print, mesh hat. His face had that weathered look that one gets from years of working out doors and was covered with a scrubby looking goatee.

I had run across him a few times before at the check out. Always early in the morning and he was always buying beer. He looked about a step away from being homeless. Not that I have much room to talk. My daily wardrobe choices might very well put me in the same category, but he looked pretty rough.

As I said, I had met him before and he always seemed fairly personable, if not totally lucid, so I greeted him. "How ya doin?" I said. He gave me that look you give when someone greets you like they know you, but you have no idea who they are and so you try to pull off that you totally remember them. He sort of reeled back and opened his eyes wide. "Hey, buddy! I'm doin good?" He glanced down at my basket and then turned to the check out lady, Joy. "Put his stuff on mine." He said.
"Aw, you don't have to do that." I said.
"No, I'm getting it." he continued.
"Really, that isn't necessary." I said.
"Ring it up." He said, turning to Joy. "Let me do this." he said back in my direction.
"Well, okay. Thanks. That is very kind of you." I said.
He glanced at Joy's name tag and said "Joy, that is a nice name." and then he looked at me. There was a sort of awkward pause, so to fill the void I said, "Yeah, Joy, it's a happy name, isn't it?" Joy directed him to punch in his pin and then to verify the amount. The guy seemed a little confused by the whole process and I wondered if he was already hammered.

"I never got your name." I said, extending my hand. He shook my hand and then looked a little uncomfortable and said "I'll talk to you outside."
"Um, okay." I said with a shrug.
I loaded the bags in the cart and followed him out side.
"That was really kind of you, thanks a lot." I said, "My name is Mark."
"T.J." he said with a smile. Then he produced the receipt and said "The reason I did that is that I need some cash. It was $17.89. So if you could just give me the cash?"
"Ummm, I don't have any cash." I said with a sigh. I thought about reminding him that when you use a debit card you have the opportunity to get cash back, but as I watched him swaying on his feet I decided that it would be a waste of breath.
"Just a minute, I will go get some cash." I said. So I strolled back into the store and bought a pack of gum, Rylee likes gum anyway, and got $20 back. Joy looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "He did that so I would give him cash..." I told her.
"Do you know him?" She asked, clearly suspicious.
"I have met him in line here a few times. I think he is harmless." I said.
Joy gave me a twenty. "Could I have some smaller bills?"
"You will have to go to customer service." She said.

So I got change and walked outside where I left TJ and my grocery cart. They weren't there. I was thinking "Well, he paid for them anyway... What is he going to do with four pounds of frozen French toast sticks, two dozen eggs, some bananas and a loaf of Wonder bread?" and then I noticed he had walked a little ways down the sidewalk. He was standing there with a lit Marlboro rooting through my grocery bags. He looked up and nonchalantly tied the bag in a knot and set it back in the basket. "This is one strange dude, I wonder what he is up to?" I was thinking to myself.

I gave TJ his $18 and headed to my car while he was slurred something about bumping into old friends in the Sweet Bay parking lot. "Alright, I'll catch ya later." I said as I was getting out of earshot.

On the way home I saw a dead cat in the road. The poor guy was flat as a pancake. There was a vulture standing next to it and as I passed another vulture landed next to the cat and the two birds stood very erect and eyed each other. Neither making a move toward the cat. I was trying to imagine what they would be saying if they could talk.
"You gonna eat that?"
"I was thinkin bout it..."
"It looks a little ripe."
An awkward pause.
"Why don't you try it?"
"No, no, after you."

Then on reflecting upon what had been going through my mind I started to wonder if maybe I am the strange one.


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