A few days ago I hung out at a local auto parts center. My car needed some repair done, and in the end I got stuck at the service center for half a day. I became a witness to some strangers talk. Those were random people from different walks of life, whom I knew I wouldn’t see again.
I attempted to work on my laptop, while most customers entertained themselves by looking at a display of cars and trucks hidden behind a thick window. A few technicians serviced those vehicles separated by glass. The automobiles looked like the quarantined patients that needed some medical isolation fast. My decade old C 230 was lost somewhere in there too, left for a check-up by me.
An elderly man stared at his shiny, white Cadillac and a woman involuntarily copied his actions standing next to him.
“I really enjoy staying with my grand kids now,” he said, “I often ask myself where I was when my kids were little. I have so much fun with my grandchildren now that I’d never had with my own kids.”
A woman looked at him and asked, “Worked?”
“Yes, I worked two jobs, getting up early in the morning and coming home late. I worked, worked, and worked. My whole life passed me by so quickly…”
He shook his silver head with a slight, self-inflicted bitterness. Then he came to the front desk and received a prescription for his Cadillac, like his car was that lonely person who needed antidepressants at the doctor’s office.
A young, pretty woman came by the repair center, asking for an oil change. Her colorful bracelets dangled on her skinny wrists every time she moved her arms up or down, pulling her stuff in and out of her leather purse. She passed her keys to the manager and joined a small group of onlookers. Thin ankles, beaded flip-flops… Positioning herself further away from the rest, she waited for her powder blue Bug to come back nice and healthy.
“I’m having a hard time keeping it afloat,” she whispered into her cell, “I screw it up every time.” She paused for a second, her dark eyes watched someone else’s feet walk by. “I want to be with a guy who likes me for who I am. My thoughts distract me from my work. I often think that I have neither boyfriend nor kids.”
I saw her skinny fingers shake, holding her black phone almost too tight to her lips.
“I’m a slave to my own emotions and thoughts, I suppose. I run in circles thinking that my new relationship will tank before it even gets a chance to develop,” she said, looked at me nervously and turned away…
A tall, handsome man opened the front door. Warm, humid air blew into my face. Confident, he jolted his keys to the manager. Stationed behind the same window, black BMW got raised up to the ceiling in a few minutes. The manager walked by my table, stopped for a second and looked straight at me, gave out a promise to fix my car very soon…
Now the forty-something guy stared at his BMW. He seemed tense. I wondered what bothered him so much, if it were his car or his job, or maybe something else he didn’t want others to know about. I focused my attention on the monitor once again, and zoned out the rest.
“We live to have children at some point. I’m forty four already,” he said to the manager.
“Where was I?” I thought. “Should I work or listen?”
“I must try…but I have no time to call her,” the man said.
I lifted my eyes off of my laptop to see if he was joking or not. His anxious voice distracted me from writing. The skinny woman with dangling bracelets swapped by my nose. This time she had an intention to smoke outside but stalled by the door. Her fingers with a bright pink nail polish searched for a cigarette inside her purse.
“Merry Christmas!” the manager said loud and gave the man his credit card back.
” Thanks…I don’t like this time of the year…There are many expectations,” he replied and put his card back into the wallet’s open mouth.
“Hey, Veronica, can we chat now?” my iPhone buzzed.
“Sure,” I replied and lost track of my work completely.
I saw my car got finally lifted too.
“I need your advice,” the Iphone said.
“Not sure I’m qualified to advice people,” I thought.
The skinny girl came back from her break, dragging a strong cigarette smoke behind her like a long chiffon skirt. She bumped into an oddly placed stack of tires. A clumsy sign “buy four tires, get one free” lost its balance.
“I keep asking my husband to work less, to be with us more often but he just works and works…I said that I’m fine with less money in exchange for more time spent with us, but he thinks I’m too controlling…” My phone said.
I wanted to reply, but instead I watched the same handsome man catch the flying sign. The girl with the bracelets grinned back at him.
“I want to love him and I ask for it but he just eats and goes to bed to sleep…to sleep only, ya know.” Her messaging through me off for good.
The manager called out my name. My car was ready. I thought of my own relationship. I looked at my cell again, another friend calling.
“Would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow?” a familiar voice said into my ear.
I’m glad she is doing well in her sixteen-year marriage, I thought and drove off the parking lot.
- Originally published in December 2013.