Must Be a Small Town

I went to my favorite beach town for 24 hours to get away from it all. The weather was foggy, the weeds in my yard were thick, and my two dogs weren’t getting along. But the thrift stores in Carmel had their end-of-the-month half-off sales yesterday, so who cared about the weather, the weeds and the little weirdo rescue dog picking fights with her bigger buddy?
On the way back from Carmel, I decided to swing into Ace hardware for a bag of potting soil. When I parked the car, I saw an Ace employee pouring a quart of oil under the hood of an old lady’s car while she stood next to him.
I must’ve looked surprised because when I got out of my car, the Asian woman said, “I’m an old woman, older than this car.”
I smiled.
“I’m 91, and you’re 19!” she called as I headed inside the store.
“I’m not 19, I’m 62,” I said, “and I love you!”
“You’re 26, and I’m an old lady,” she said.
Everything’s relative. Yes, I dye my hair and even my eyebrows sometimes, so to the old Asian woman, I looked young. The young employee saw two old ladies chatting each other up.
I wrestled the huge bag of organic soli onto a cart and wheeled it up to the check-out counter. Here came the old woman, cutting in line.
“Hello again,” I said. “I’ll just pay for my potting soil and get out of here. I have to drive back to the Bay Area.””
“You are strong and smart,” the old woman said. “S and S.”
“You are my new favorite person,” I said.
The old woman didn’t get the joke, but I got a chuckle out of the guy in line in front of me.
Back in the parking lot, as I wrestled with my huge bag of heavy soil and made three attempts to get it into the car so the hatch would shut, I thought about the old lady and how young I seemed to her.
Everything’s relative. I am sure I didn’t look young to the kid putting oil in her car.
The young employee is a small-town worker. Nobody would help an old lady put oil in her car where I live most of the time, at least I’ve never seen it happen.
That’s why I like going down to my beach town. It’s a change of scenery, it’s another planet, and it’s the last small town —
— where young employees help old ladies, and where old ladies pile on the compliments to soil-purchasing strangers, especially if they’re blond.

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