Colatta is her name. She and I are in the elevator together. She is pushing a large cart of cleaning supplies and mini shampoos.
Colatta is short, black, cheery. She’s wearing scrubs. She is pure Alabama. She has an accent that won’t quit, and wears a War Eagle headband.
“Went to Auburn,” she says. “Wanted to be a vet, but didn’t even come close to finishing ‘cause I had my son.
"Man, I thought my life was over, it was just beginning.”
Her boyfriend didn’t stick around during pregnancy. She was forced to work. Her job was in a hotel laundromat. She was promoted to a maid last year.
“Have a good day,” she says to me, rolling her cart down a corridor.
“You, too,” I say.
“Me?” She laughs. “Already HAVING me a good day. I’m so blessed it ain’t funny.”
Colatta. I love that name.
Later that day, I drive two hours east. I stop at a cafe inside a gas station. It’s a hole-in-the-wall.
After eating, I pay at the register. The cashier is older, very skinny. She places a handheld vibrating box
to her throat to speak. Her voice is robotic.
She hands me a receipt. Then, she presses the device to her neck again and says: “Have a good day. Enjoy this nice weather.”
There is a gnarled scar beneath her jaw.
And she's wishing ME a nice day.
7:09 P.M.—I’ve driven all day. I’m eating in a locals-only beer joint. People in this room are looking at me funny. I’m an out-of-towner and they smell it.
There’s an old man with a service dog—a brown Lab named Hershey.
The man wears a ball cap with a battleship on it. He shows me a tattoo on his forearm which reads: “Albert, Daniel, Adam.”
“My three brothers,” he says. “Killed in Europe. I was too young for the Big War, they sent me to Korea.”