Thursday, February 2, 1995

Reader to Reader

A husky, somewhat disheveled older man took the last stool at the counter of a small diner near the Greyhound bus station. Beside him sat two gray-haired ladies with suitcases at their feet.

He ordered a coffee. After a minute or two, the woman next to him turned and asked, "What do you do for a living?"

He gave her a startled look and said gruffly, "I'm self-employed."

When he didn't elaborate, she prodded him a bit. "So you're self-employed?"

"Yeah, I am," he reasserted.

"So what do you do?" she persisted in a simple, kindly manner.

"Oh, I sell plastics," he said.

"I hear that's a good thing to sell."

"I make a living."

"What kind of plastics do you sell?"

"Plastic plastic," he said impatiently.

At last she got the message. "I'm sorry. We're just passing through, and I was trying to be friendly."

"Lookit, I've had a bad day, and I just want to be left alone," he said as he rose to his feet, tossed some change on the counter, and left.

The other lady turned to her friend, saying, "Mildred, I told you not to bother people. I wonder if he's one of those mafia guys?"