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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Steeping in the real world

"Helluh," he said. It was surely "hello," but the accent made it sound like he'd eaten all the o's out of his Spaghetti-Os and was left with nothing but a couple of useless letters--like Scrabble at the end of the game. He was 275 pounds if he was an ounce. He wore a mesh trucker cap and some sort of cheap bling over his flannel shirt.

The Greek woman cutting my hair caught my eye in the mirror. The look said, "I may have the sharp object, but I'm going to need your help." I gave her a look back that said, "I've never won a fight in my life that didn't involve words with more than four syllables."

The guy lumbered back behind the rail like he owned the place and grabbed the woman around the shoulders. "Just thought I'd stop in a see how you was doin'. Hadn't seen ya in a while."

"Hi," she said. She carefully pulled her shoulders away and resumed revealing my high forehead.

"I met your sister," he said, rubbing his stomach. "I was down at the DMV and I saw a girl who looked just like you. I said, you look like my hairdresser Rachel. She said, 'That's my sister.'"

The girl cutting my hair was not named Rachel. Her license and business cards clearly identified her by her real name.

"Oh," the hairdresser said, and shot me a look that was very clear: "There are more scissors in that drawer. Get ready."

"I've lost 65 pounds since I been sick," he said. "Colon."

Suddenly I found myself thinking of how terrorists might be attacking the American colon. There are just too many people with bum...well, bums. When I emerged from my revery, the dude was talking about how Rachel's sister was nice and all, but not nearly as nice as Rachel. And, "Boy, when she gets to talkin', you can't stop her. Anyway, just wanted to stop by and check in."

And then he was gone.

I spoke first. "You don't have a sister, do you, Kiki?"

"Um...no."

"You happen to have the Sheriff's Office on speed dial?" I said.

Kiki went back to work, turning a mop into a scrub brush while I thought about how much of a hermit I have become. It's been one year and three days since I stopped dealing with Joe Public five days a week. Occasionally, I think I miss it. And then I realize that most of the The Public is like the beer-bellied dude who appears out of nowhere to manhandle my hairdresser and insult her nonexistant sister. I realize that life is much better when you only hang around the people you like.

"He's crazy," Kiki said, her Greek eyes telling more of the story than she had to speak. "Said he killed two black guys and spent 25 years in prison."

"That's the only thing that's true," Tina, another hairdresser, muttered from across the room.

Ten minutes later I was at the car wash. As I climbed out of my car, one of the workers looked at me with a look of amazement.

"Damn, I thought you put your arm right through there."

I have no idea--NO IDEA--what that meant.

Inside, a City Council woman stood in front of me in line. Despite being African American, I occasinally think Madame Councilwoman might be closely related to Aileen Wurnos. They look nothing alike, but they have the same detached stare and warped view of morality and virtue. I'd interviewed her several times before leaving my old job. I look a lot different now, but I don't think she would've spoken to me even if she had recognized me. I considered cornering her and asking her how it felt to lose a recent court case so badly. Instead, I paid for my car wash.

"You work for News 4, don't you?" asked the lady behind the counter.

I gaved my standard answer. "Used to."

And that's what I find more amazing than anything. It has been 368 days since I appeared on local television. Since that time, I have lost about 15 pounds, grown facial hair, and cut my hair shorter. Well, hell. Here's the side-by side comparison.





Given, it's not a remarkable change, but most people probably couldn't pick G.W. Bush out of a crowd if he lost weight, changed his hair, and grew a goatee. My point is, this woman could still recognize me, but she had no clue that I hadn't been on TV for a year.

While I'm not sure exactly what that says, it says something.

After a quick trip to Lowes to buy a chainsaw, I hurried back home and busied myself with things that didn't involve John Q. Public. Someday I may return to the world, but for right now, I'm happy right where I am.

And if you happen to see me out in public, I'd appreciate it if you didn't molest the girl who cuts my hair. I don't have much left and she needs to concentrate.

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