What is it about public service destinations that attract such... um... strange people??
I went to the post office two days ago. We have a PO Box, and I also wanted to send a little package off to a friend and her teething baby. As I collected my mail from the box, my ears caught the raspy voice of a man at the counter around the corner.
Rounding the corner to take my place in line, I saw the owner of the raspy voice. A man, mid-30's, perhaps? He had fiery red hair that had grown far too long than is normal for anyone with a Y chromosome. It was pulled into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His skin was pale and freckly, and damaged from the sun. His teeth, I was about to discover, left something to be desired. Like a full set. He wore black denim pants, a dark blue t-shirt and rugged, worn black sneakers, and he was pushing a giant jogging stroller.
"...well you see, we moved from trailer seven to trailer eight 'bout two weeks ago. That's when my social security check went missin', an' I need that check..." His head twitched to the left.
As the woman behind the counter tried, in vain, to explain to him that he was in the wrong place, his gaze drifted to me, and then to Camden, who was giggling and smiling from his baby bucket.
Penny Postal Worker vanished behind a door to retrieve another employee, and the man turned in my direction.
"How old?" I recognized the question for its two purposes. First, to determine age, and second, to determine gender. (Confused? When I say "HE'S six months old," the quizzical stranger will know how to respond without having offended mama bear. You've all done it--even I have. Anyway.)
"Six months!" I smiled.
"This one here," he motioned toward the stroller, "he's eleven months."
I smiled again. "Almost a year, then!"
This is where things got weird. Really, really weird.
"My lady--she's back home at the trailer--we just got 'er home from the hospital today. She had one popped out two days ago. Eighteen week-er. Just popped right out. So it's a bad day today."
Mortified, eyes popping out of my head and jaw on the floor, I attempted to maintain my composure. Among other things, such thoughts raced through my head as 'who says that?? popped.out. Popped out??'
"I'm so sorry" was nearly all I could muster, and it came after a long, awkward pause. "We lost a baby before this little guy," I motioned toward Camden. "...it's hard." I concluded.
Penny Postal Worker returned in time to save me from any additional, awkward conversation.
After I paid to ship my package, I loaded Camden into the car and made my way off down the road. I spotted the man walking down the street toward his trailer talking on his shiny, new-looking cell phone, cigarette in hand.