He sits beside me on the bench beneath a clear sky outside the doctor’s office. My wife is having a routine checkup.
The guy and I are spaced apart. He wears a mask. I wear a mask. Occasionally he lowers his mask to take a draw from a vaping pen before exhaling a cloud that smells like Chanel No. 5.
He is bone thin. He is late-50s. His skin is all freckles. His ratty ballcap reads, “Presbyterianism: Est. 33 A.D.”
He inhales. Holds. Exhales. Then speaks. “S’posed to be nasty weather tomorrow.”
And already I know where this conversation is going.
Floridians have been cussing the weather since our ancestors first crawled from their prehistoric caves to get their real estate licenses.
The weather is an easy subject in the Alligator State because it’s common ground. Everyone experiences weather. Everyone gets sick of weather. To discuss weather is a grand tradition. And like all traditions, there are obligatory phrases often exchanged between participants.
Such as: “Hot enough for ya?” “Supposed to come up a storm.” And the all-time classic: “We could shore use
This is the stuff that makes us human.
The old man opens with an old standard: “S’posed to rain sideways this week.”
I play my role. “We could use the rain.”
Although technically we don’t need rain. Last week it rained like a son of a gun; my yard had two feet of standing water and became one with the Choctawhatchee.
The man uncrosses his legs. “You here to see the doc?”
“No, my wife’s seeing him. You?”
“Waiting on my wife to finish her checkup. Had my own appointment last week.” He thumps his chest. “Doc says I’m good to go.”
He sucks on his pen again and laughs. “Nice to be told I’m healthy for once. I’m used to hearing the opposite.”
I take the bait. “Really.”
He tugs his shirt collar…