Domestic Summer SceneBy http://profile.typepad.com/1237764140s22740 // August 18, 2012 in Seattle
A lot happened in the space of 10 minutes on the sidewalk outside Herkimer Coffee last Tuesday morning.
I was parked on a folding metal chair, reading the only local daily paper, when a fellow approached and asked if one of cars lining the length of the curb were mine. No, I said. When I looked up to meet his face, over his shoulder I could see in the street a white van, stenciled with the word "carpet," double parked, or idling.
He strode up the sidewalk. I deduced he had a crew in the van that meant to install carpet at the cooperative elementary school next door, and went back to my reading.
My eyes were reading the paper but I heard this same fellow bossing out orders in a management style no longer favored in polite society. "Listen to what I'm saying. Bear left. More. Straighten out. Just look at me and follow what I tell you."
A village of associations floated up. I remembered the most successful internet startup founder I know, how commanding he became when time to occupy and furnish a first office, or whenever necessary to give up on a direction in favor of something not yet tried. Everyone knew he grew up on a farm, so his manner didn't feel as overbearing to his employees as it would sound to anyone listening outside. This is how we get the combine fixed when its broken in the middle of the field when the snow is imminent. Or something like that. Was the driver of the carpet van a kid who couldn't stand up to the barker? Was he the guy's brother, innured to the rudeness and hearing only the shared purpose? Maybe he appreciated having someone on the sidewalk to cover his blindspots as he backed up?
Actually, I didn't think that last question until I'd looked up again to see the van reversing on the sidewalk, toward the coffee shop. The van stopped in front of the school and the driver came out of the cab and opened the back doors of the truck. The boss man was already off, scouting the next logistical step, presumably.
I wanted to holler a compliment to them both on their adaptability, but just then a hipster approached and asked if he might sit in the next chair over. Yes, help yourself, I said. A table separated the two chairs, mine and his, and I shifted my coffee cup, phone and other sections of the paper, to give him fair use of it.
He reminded me of my kids. True, he was covered in tattoos, and my kids don't have any tattoos. True, he had piercings in his cheeks, ears, nose and forehead, and my kids have no facial piercings. True, he was attired in a kind of para-military skater uniform, whereas my kids dress more like Seattle or Portland. But his excellent posture, easy rapport and natural confidence made me think of my children.
What are you up to today, I asked him. This is not a question I would ask of anyone who did not remind me of my own kids.
I'm not sure, he answered, philosophically. I need to find a place that sells electronics. Do you know if there is a RadioShack or Best Buy around here?
I told him about the RadioShack twelve blocks south on University Ave. Best Buy would require a trip to a suburban shopping mall.
I asked him where he was from. Las Vegas, he said. We compared notes on regional weather. I learned he flown in yesterday, and was considering moving here. Somewhere in the conversation, he lit up a cigarette, but somehow I didn't mark the fact.
Our conversation was abruptly cut off by a random woman who approached him to ask for a cigarette. He turned her down with the explanation that he only had one more left.
At this point, I was conscious of rucksacks and other signs that he was traveling with friend. I cleared my place to make way. Take care I said and he said take care.