by Chrysa Smith

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

The large lady sat, hung over the refrigerated meat section at the local Giant Food Supermarket. Bopping and swaying, she belted out the chorus of the Peter, Paul and Mary song lyrics above. Of course, there was a small audience, and for good reason. It’s not everyday one is serenaded in the meat department. That 60’s tune stuck in my head (as well as hers, apparently) and I myself bopped on over to the store cafe in an attempt get a little afternoon tea and away from the spectacle that made me so happy I didn’t need any beef or poultry that day.

At the cafe, the little old lady with the walker and one small eye, fussed with the clerk over getting some water to take her pills. ‘I’d like a cup,’ she asked. The clerk pulled out something a little larger than a pill cup found at the local hospital. ‘I need something bigger than that,’ she sternly answered. The clerk found a ‘grande’ cup and humored her as the lady vented about her day and her needs, completely oblivious to the lack of interest or time she stole from the compliant young girl. As she made her way over to me, I cringed. I just knew this kooky old lady was going to bend my ear for awhile, and bend, she did. She asked me the time, then proceeded to complain about that very same clerk, just steps from the counter. ‘Can you believe the size of this cup?’ she asked, ‘She told me it would fit in my walker and it’s obviously too big. Don’t you think? Anyone can see that!’  Too small, too big—would anything really suit her?  I’m not sure.

What I do know is that the entire shopping experience got me to thinking about people-watching. We giggle at those who sing in the meat department, are ornery with the help, talk out loud in public places, gather recyclables, dress oddly, talk to themselves. Yet when you think about it, they actually add a little color to the mundane. It’s not always as blatant as what happened to me during one shopping trip, but that friend with the large lips, the one who talks too much, tells the same story over again, eats with her mouth open, falls asleep during movies, picks her nose, burps out loud—she’s the one who adds those bright shades to our daily landscape. She’s the one who brings about that imperfection that some of us find uncomfortable; and that others find endearing. It lightens us up a little when we’re sewed up tightly as a shirt button. And just maybe, it’s a reminder that regardless of the packaging, we’re all riding together with the same UPS man.

It’s funny, but a friend of mine who’s been married for over 35 years told me that if it weren’t for the naked guy who got arrested for public indecency in town, there wouldn’t be anything to talk about at the dinner table. At times, I think she’s right.
And so were Peter, Paul and Mary—not only about lemons, but about us:

All God’s critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws or anything they got now

Funny experiences brighten your day? Do tell!