You’re not supposed to look at your phone when you cross a big downtown street. But you know how it is.
And please refrain from judging me. It felt urgent. I mean, it binged, didn’t it?
It can be a new story or a reply to that question you asked a week ago, or your kid telling you, with absolute urgency, that you must without delay drop everything and pay attention to how sucky math class is right now.
So yeah. I looked. And next thing you know --
Where did this specimen come from?
A second ago there was nobody there. The sky was blue, the downtown sleepy.
Well, maybe not that quiet.
Lunch-goers had mostly returned to the office, with only a few stragglers keeping the seats warm at the dozen or so restaurants around the Courthouse square.
People who didn’t feel the slightest urge to head back to the office and knew perfectly well they would get away with stretching their mid-day break.
The South at its languorous best.
The gregarious parking attendant on Clinton, who never misses a chance to smile and ask how your day is going, was busy handing people their change, and making them feel like they were about to have the best afternoon of their lives.
Why do we take people like that for granted like paint on concrete?
Without them, nothing would work properly and we’d be no better than robots on a productivity treadmill to nowhere.
Right then on the spot, still recovering from having almost drooled on this stranger who by the way vaguely smells like One by Calvin Klein, I’m nearly ready to melt.
And not in a good way either.
And oh, did I mention he's handsome, too? I mean, if you’re going to bump into someone, might as well pick someone with hard abs and a fresh-smelling suit, no?
He was dressed like a lawyer or real estate agent, pressed dark jacket, open collared shirt, shoes polished just so.
I’m a mess of excuses. Like I’m trying to apologize but rationalize at the same time, knowing full well I wouldn't take kindly to such ditziness if the situation was reversed.
You’re fine, he said, with just enough of a smile.
You can tell a lot about a people by what they say when you apologize to them for being klutzy.
In this little northern Alabama town, for reasons I do not understand, people go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, seen and valued.
Not despite your rudeness, no. Precisely because of it.
What better reason to make you feel at ease than that you just made a fool of yourself tripping over your own misplaced pride?
If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, I don’t know what will.
There are a lot of places in the world that you’d assume would be more polite than this little town. You’d be wrong.
In much of continental Europe, people don’t really say anything. They grunt something amorphous then move on. You could almost mistake it for a burp it’s so unsubtle.
In New England, there’s a lot of excuse me. In fact, excuse me is what you hear the most throughout the United States.
Not I’m sorry. I’m sorry is just too Canadian.
This charming stranger who smelled like success immediately made me feel seen, accepted and welcome.
Would that we treated everyone like that all the time, especially when we goof.
About the Creator
Fighting toxicity since 2016. Using my voice, loudly, in French and English. Beauty capturer. Member of TWUC, UNEQ, AAOF, the Huntsville Literary Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists. Two-time world karate champion.