Aroma? Odor? . . . I guess it was just a SMELL.

Aroma implies something delicious and odor seems more offensive, so I guess what I experienced in the post office on Saturday would have to be described as a smell.

I was sandwiched between two people -- the one ahead of me smelling of bacon, the one behind me smelling of Mentholatum (or Vicks VapORub?!), when the combination hit me and suddenly I was transported back to this place and my memory was screaming, "That's it! That's it exactly!"

It was Aunt Lillie's house, and although I never identified it until that moment in the post office, I remembered with extreme clarity experiencing that exact combination of smells in her home many, many times before. You might call it one of the top 5 important smells of my childhood
(if smells can be important).

At any rate, it sent me into a reverie in which I could hear the particular slam of the back porch screen door, her trilling "heeere, kitty kitty kitty!" as she doled out food scraps from an old cut-off milk carton, and then my mind wandered to the fact that I meant to share a bit of news with you:

that Aunt Lillie's shop table,

my prized possession and booth companion of many years, had valiantly given its all in Baltimore, coming home with a crack clean across the top, and would have to be retired.

And I hope, repaired.

It was fine when we loaded it to begin the drive home, but I guess the roads of rural Virginia were just too much to ask of it in the back of a pickup and it made its own decision that it was done with shows and wanted to be left alone to live out its days peacefully
in my kitchen.

I was sad (although the drawer sticks terribly which is annoying when you're trying to appear calm while writing up a sale) but I understand its weariness completely and resolved that although Aunt Lillie would definitely be with me at shows in spirit,
she would never again be with me
in table.

I felt like I should pat it and explain that I was sorry I hadn't noticed how it was feeling before. It was selfish of me.

I was remembering all this waiting in line at the post office when suddenly the lady behind me (Mentholatum) began a loud conversation with her two boys (about 7 & 9, by my estimate) that was one of those wonderful occurrences in which I hear something

and think to myself, "you can't make up stuff this good."

First of all, she sends them looking all over creation for a bathroom. Directing them in her loudest traffic-cop voice, because she (very loudly) has to go the bathroom and she needs to go NOW.

Really bad. Really, really bad.

After a few minutes I point out that there isn't a bathroom
in our P.O.

"Cheap!" mutters Mentholatum, if muttering can be loud.

Bacon tries to direct her to the restaurant next door, but she pretends not to hear him.

So she finally ends up sitting down on the floor,

(which I could understand but don't think I would actually do),

and then just raises her voice a few notches for where the conversation goes next.

The boys have planted themselves at the head of the line.

"Count the people in line and tell me how it's moving", she loudly directs the older boy. "Just keep counting them and telling me how it's moving. 'Cause I've really got to go to the bathroom."

"9 people," he yells back. "Can we go to Goodwill?"

"We're not going to Goodwill. We're going to Wendy's," yells 7 year old. "Still 9 people!"

"All this for your DAD," complains Mentholatum with disgust.

"But he's worth it, right?" asks 9 year old. There's something a little desperate or hopeful in his voice. Or am I imagining it?

"Well he told Josh he needed money," answers Mentholatum.

"Isn't this the last time you're gonna' send him money?" asks 9 year old. "You said you're not gonna' send him money anymore. Can we go to Goodwill?"

"She's not gonna' send him money until he gets to his "halfway house," corrects 7 year old. "We're going to Wendy's. 8 people!"

"I don't know," says Mentholatum from the floor and even more loudly. "I guess he might need money for the bus ride home. I don't know if they pay for the bus ride home."

"He'll need money for McDonald's, anyway," says 7 year old.

"Can we go to Goodwill after Wendy's?" asks 9 year old.

"Ha ha, that's pretty funny," says Mentholatum. "He'll sure need his McDonald's. He says he wants food of any kind. How many people now?"

"7 people! It isn't even moving!" yells 9 year old. "We should go to Goodwill! And the reason I folded last night is because Trevor says it wasn't a good hand. Jack and 7 isn't a good hand, that's what Trevor says. And he says you can't bluff Asians.
You just can not bluff them at all."

"Trevor's starting a job at the downtown post office on Monday, and that's hard-core," says Mentholatum. "I can't even believe how hard-core. I hope they give him a place to park where no one will steal his money."

(The line is so slow that I'm beginning to worry about
an accident on the floor. Among other things.)

"If I get to go again tonight, I'm gonna' win," says 9 year old.

(And I'm wondering where 9 year olds go to play poker. With Asians.)

"Your birthday is next Sunday," yells Mentholatum to 7 year old. "But don't you even think of telling anyone it's your birthday! 'Cause you're not having a party for another week until I can get a bunch of coupons from where I work and give them to the manager at Chuck E. Cheese to see if I he'll get me a deal on a party. Because I know the manager at Chuck E. Cheese!"

"Although I'm not supposed to give people coupons for my own benefit," she adds. There could be an ethics lesson there, but she's not teaching it on the floor at the post office.

"Then give them to me and I'll give them to him!"
suggests 9 year old (polker-player and future scam artist?)

"Ha ha, pretty smart," nods Mentholatum, scooting along the floor.
There's the lesson! . . . Oops! Wrong one.

Who are these people?

And how did they get in the middle of my reverie about Aunt Lillie's house?

And still 5 people ahead of me?!
They need more staff at our post office.

Up next on Small Works: Something about "Conversation Pieces" . . . (whereas today I just gave you "pieces of conversation")


Carmen Rose said...

Holy Crap! That's a riot!

Jake and Chelsea said...

hahahhahahhahahahhahahaha.....sounds like you live in florida...

Pam said...

ooooo - I loved this! (said with squinty eyed claps of delight!).I had a similar experience but not half as delicious, standing in the supermarket aisle. The old lady next to me smelt of Wintergreen (arthritis rub). It instantly trasported me back to my lovely grandmother, and I thought, even with my chronically bad back at the time, I would offer to carry her groceries to her car as she must be suffering.I was almost melting as I went to put my toothbrush forward, my solitary item after her twenty, when she shouted at the check out girl "Wait! I haven't finished yet. Gimme me a packet of them cigarettes over there. I'm NOT finished yet and you're serving HER." "Her" declined to help old lady out."Her" thought "You Old B@#+". Haven't done such an immediate 360-degree so quickly before or since!!

susan m hinckley said...

Yes, Chels, it was unnervingly Florida-like, I thought the same thing all the time it was unfolding.

Pretty funny, Pam! I think "her" hit the nail right on the head. Some people . . .

VO said...

There is something disturbing about how people seem to think they're living in a reality show and we're the audience.

It's wacky.

susan m hinckley said...

Great comment, VO! And I'm pretty tired of living in a reality TV show. I'm not really sure why America seems to be moving more and more towards becoming a giant, live "Jerry Springer" episode.

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