“This is bad traffic,” said my mother-in-law, Mary. “But, I don’t mind sitting. I like watching things.”
“Watching?” I asked.
“Yep, like old men used to do in Brewton, they’d sit down on benches by the department store and just people-watch, tell jokes, and cuss.”
What I would’ve given to be people-watching. Instead, Mary and I sat in stand-still-traffic. Car bumpers touching, exhaust vapors potent enough to make you see pink elephants.
The Land Rover behind me wouldn’t quit riding my tail. If he crept any closer, he would’ve been in my lap.
Mary went on, “Back then, all the farmers would do their shopping on Saturdays. Daddy kept the store open late. The country ladies would drop by, bringing jams, vegetables, berries. Mama called them Daddy’s lady-friends.”
“Sometimes, we’d spend whole evenings just eating one bowl of ice cream until it turned to soup.”
Mister Land Rover laid on his horn. He was trying to get around me. I don’t know where he was going, but if he didn’t get there fast, he was going to stab someone with his cellphone.
“We had fun in those days,” Mary said. “We worked hard, but we moved slower. My daddy just liked to take things easy. ”
More honking from Land Rover.
This guy was enough to make Jesus cuss.
As it happens, I come from a long line of sitters. Men in my family could go full weekends without moving a muscle, counting mosquito bites, telling stories in slow motion—cussing.
Today, you can find the last of the old-man-people-watchers, but you have to make a long drive into the sticks. At a dilapidated service station in Geneva County, you’ll find three or four of them, sitting in plastic lawn chairs, observing motorists who pump gas. It’s the kind of place where they’ll cackle at you if you try to pay at the pump.
For example, me. They cackled at me.
“Don’t nobody carry cash no more?” the old man said.
All the men cackled.
One man spit.
I could’ve spent the rest of my life there.
To be honest, I don’t know when the world sped up, when people started participating in traffic jams, or tailing bumpers. But somewhere along the way, folks gave up on swatting gnats and people-watching.
Mister Land Rover sounded his horn and sped around me. He was talking on his cellphone, waving his hands like he was having a bona fide seizure.
“He’s in quite a hurry,” I said.
“No he ain’t,” said Mary. “He’s just a snotty little sumbitch.”