So, today Steve and I went into Waterville early, first to see the ever-pleasant Jessica, who administered much-needed haircuts, and afterward to carry on with the Big List of Errands.
“Post Office” had a place on the list, so off we went to the other side of town, in Argent the silver Subaru.
Now, you need to understand a couple of things before we move on to the next part of the story.
The first thing you need to understand is that it officially snowed 21 inches in Waterville Friday-into-Saturday, and that yesterday it snowed another two-ish inches.
The second thing you need to understand is that the City of Waterville Public Works Utterly Sucks in Maine Winter Sports, Sidewalk Clearing Division. They’re also right near the bottom in Street Clearing.
The third thing you need to understand is that it’s February, which is winter; and damn’ near everybody dresses “wahm.” I’m talking flannel shirts, jeans/khakis, thick socks, snow boots — you get the idea. In fact, even when it’s not February, many people tend to dress this way.
Oh, and the fourth thing. . .If you sleep at the homeless shelter, you’re not allowed to stay there during the day; you have to vacate the premises and go Do Something Else. Sit in McDonald’s and nurse a small cup of coffee for four hours. Camp out in one of the less-used rooms in the library until staff rousts you. Walk the streets. Whatever.
Got all that? Super, let’s boogie.
When last seen, Steve and I were driving in Argent the silver Subaru from Apollo Day Spa and Styling Salon to the Waterville Post Office. It is a clear day; not sunny exactly, but there’s no weather going on, and it’s warm — about 36F/2C. Because it’s warm, there are people out and about — walking in the street, a lot of them, because the sidewalks are filled with snow. The streets, having been unevenly cleared, are slightly thinner than those same streets are, in August.
You enter the Waterville Post Office parking lot off of College Avenue. For us, today, it will be a right hand turn into the lot. Except that there is a pedestrian walking in the street, close to where the curb might be, if you could see it — an older lady, very thin, wearing a coat a little too light to be “wahm,” slacks ditto, a watch hat pulled down to her eyebrows. She’s a little hunched, her gait’s none too steady, and she’s leaning heavily on a three-footed cane.
The ground is, recall, covered with snow that is slowly morphing into slush. This is a dangerous and slippery material. You don’t — you really don’t — want to be walking in this stuff.
But the lady with the tree-footed cane, is walking in it, albeit very slowly, and she is just stepping into the entrance to the Post Office parking lot. She is ahead of us, and it’s clear that she intends to cross the entrance and continue on down College Avenue.
Steve pulls Argent the silver Subaru to the side of the road and we prepare to wait for the lady with the cane to finish crossing the driveway. This may be some few minutes, granted, but we weren’t exactly on a schedule, and besides, what else was there to do?
Glad you asked.
Because what happened next was that a black Jeep whipped around Argent, and into the Post Office parking lot, cutting in front of the lady with the stick, splashing her a little with slush, and from my perspective, cutting the whole thing ‘waaaay too close.
Happily, the lady did not fall; she continued on her way, and after another minute was far enough advanced that we could pull through behind her.
The parking lot was very crowded and confused, as it often is, especially after a snowstorm, when the grounds crew has pushed all the snow into the two end parking spaces, making a tight situation even tighter. In fact, there is a mini gridlock and right in front of us is the black Jeep.
While the Jeep is stuck in the grid, the passenger door opens and a willowy man wearing a white dress shirt and grey dress slacks risks the finish on his shiny shoes by descending to the slushy surface and rushing into the post office.
In the meantime, the line of cars has moved enough so that the Jeep can swing into a parking slot and so can Argent.
I get out, cross the lot, and as chance would have it, I’m going through the doors to the post office just as the Jeep’s passenger is coming out, and I said to him: “You guys nearly hit that lady.”
He keeps going. Naturally. I shrug, and also keep going, down the lobby and up the hall to our post office box. I hear, behind me, a man yelling, but I don’t think much of it, assuming it has to do with the gridlock outside, until the voice is right behind me: “DID YOU SAY SOMETHING TO ME?”
And it’s the guy from the Jeep in his pretty white shirt, and I said, “Yeah. I said, you guys almost hit that lady.”
“WE DIDN’T ALMOST HIT ANYBODY! WE HAD PLENTY OF ROOM! IT WASN’T EVEN CLOSE! WHY DON’T YOU MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS?”
Now, granted, that was a pretty good question, but honest to GHOD they had almost knocked the poor woman down, and in snow and slush all bets are off, I don’t care how good a driver you are or how your car has four wheel drive.
“MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!” he yells again, and starts to storm away.
“Excuse me?” I said, walking toward the main lobby — he was well ahead of me, but he heard me and when I get to the lobby, he was blocking the door, and three normal people were standing absolutely stock still, staring at him (mind, now, he’s already run into the post office yelling at the top of his lungs, and now he’s leaving the post office — or maybe not — yelling his head off).
“I SAID MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! WE DIDN’T HIT ANYBODY! THERE WAS ROOM!”
A guy about my age, stocky, dressed wahm, gimme hat pulled down over long grey hair, kinda eases up from my left, watching the man in the white shirt with this intent, really still look on his face. Your man is still yelling, standing there in his expensive, not at all wahm, clothes, his fancy haircut and his long silky tie — honest, he looked like an alien, standing there. Who dresses like this in Waterville, Maine, in February, with the slush all over the ground?
I stared at him. The guy to my left stared at him. The woman who had been bending over to pick her key up from the floor stayed exactly where she was, face averted. An old fella over by the parcel post chute was watching, back against the wall.
The man in the white shirt turned and stalked out, splashed through the slush and got into the Jeep, slamming the door behind him. The Jeep was moving before the door was fully shut, backing around at an unsafe-for-conditions speed, and probably without looking to see if there was anything in the way.
The bent-over woman picked up her key and turned aside. The stocky guy shrugged and moved away. I left the post office, crossed the slushy lot, and got into Argent the silver Subaru.
“So!” said Steve, “what’s next on the list?”