Everything Ordinary in the World Began to Strike Me as Screamingly Funny
The janitors were out in force and dressed all in purple. They carried SEIU picket signs and assorted noisemakers from drums to Coke cans to kazoos as they headed to a specific street corner to demonstrate. It made me wish I had a harmonica and knew the tunes and the words to some of Joe Hill’s music. I would have gone down and serenaded them, if I had. But it’s been a long time, and maybe they don’t even remember Joe, or know anything about him.
My friend, the short, round, and rotund “Reverend”, was in fine form. He not only sang his gospel lustily in front of my building, he also had brought his tambourine to keep time. The fresh produce market in the alley between the buildings was going great guns. And a forlorn old fellow was standing on the sidewalk with a sign on a pole: Licensed Large Midwestern University Sunglasses. Five sets of scarlet and gray sunglasses were attached to the pole. Nobody seemed to want them.
Across the street a man in Mormon Missionary Uniform (white shirt & dark pants) was wearing a Jesus Saves sandwich sign. He was probably not a Mormon. He didn’t have a bicycle. White haired men in yellow change aprons and blue blazers were selling small fake poppies for the VFW. They were also casting a sour eye on the janitors. Perhaps they were thinking about the “W” bumper sticker or the yellow magnetic ribbon on their cars.
I chatted with several casual acquaintances about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. They are going to Michigan, bringing out the barbecue grill, buying the tomato plants to set out in the garden. I told them about the high standard of pizza in Ann Arbor, the $1.99 a pound whole salmon special at a local grocery chain, and the average last frost date. Ex-professors know things.
The brilliant sun and high white clouds made the shirts of the city litter patrol fluoresce beyond endurance. The city fathers have chosen polo shirts for them of Day-Glo chartreuse. I idly wondered if we should all be wearing lead aprons when they came close to us. But they were pulling a huge flat trash can cart, so they hugged the building walls to avoid having to thread the cumbersome thing through the crowd.
The sunlight also fluoresced the puffy red & blue veined faces of the juicers piling out of the buses, revealing every ravage of alcohol to coarse complexioned faces that were once smooth and young. They were both male and female, with the women sustaining by far the greatest facial damage. They wore cast-off basketball logo jackets, generally, and the fragrance of the morning tipple rose off their bodies as the day became definitely warm.
A man in a motorized wheel chair, wearing an impossibly large canvas sombrero, with rough, frayed vent holes cut in the top, made a stately trek in the crosswalk across the five-lane street. The Suits didn’t seem to be out in force. Maybe they had made their long weekend longer. I would have, if I were them.
But I was on a half-day, afternoon, gig. I sat in for the one of the time-flexed, anxious to spring early into the weekend, people--what else? The phones were quiet. Presumably everyone with complaints had decided to stow them for the weekend, too. As I passed by the crude empty kitchen, with the frayed and flapping sign, The Refrigerator WILL be Emptied EVERY Friday, the microwave oven oozed the smell of stale, reheated garlic bread. The aroma floated lazily out the door and drifted into the Men’s Room across the hall.
A square, one-layer, going-away, cake, 7/8 plowed into submission, decorated the counter. It still had fluted squirts of lethally nutrient-free frosting covering what was left. Used plastic forks were strewn all over the cardboard cake box, with large clumps of yellow edible sponge, and it looked for all the world like a Leprechaun construction site.
The psychotropic meds had me too connected to the world. Can’t you tell? It usually happens when the dosage cycle bottoms out. When it tops up, I get drifty. I told my boss one day (at work they know I’m bipolar and medicated, so they cut me some slack) that, unlike other mental health clients who are “out of it” when the drugs peak, I was “into it”. She just shook her head. I have a reputation for irreverence around my shop. When I lost every serious asset that I owned, and then finally got on the medication and into a part-time job after years of fighting to do so, all of a sudden everything ordinary in the world began to strike me as screamingly funny.
It still does.