Friday, February 3, 2012

Reading the Cover

Picture, if you will,  a beautiful summer day outside a small rural hospital not too many years ago. The sunshine has warmed the air to a perfect eighty-two degrees, and an enormous American flag drifts lazily in a breeze overhead. The sidewalks are framed by heavy fragrant blooms. It's the kind of day that you'd rather not be working, but either way you can't bring yourself to be in a bad mood. You see a drug rep tip-tapping down the sidewalk in very cute shoes and looking very professional in her business attire. She too looks pleased with the day as she totes her heavy bag of drug samples, computers and who knows what else along the side of the hospital. Quite suddenly you see her jerk her head to the right almost laying her ear on her shoulder and then back to the left shoulder. Next she shakes her head back and forth while reaching both hands towards heaven as if pleading for help. You watch horrified as her back begins to arch and buck with each twitch. Muttering to herself she begins hobbling away poking herself in the head. Should you offer assistance or run inside for help? Is she having some sort of seizure or has she escaped from the psychiatric ward? There could be a naked drug rep locked in a janitor's closet somewhere in the hospital right now. If you get involved you may end stabbed in the carotid artery with a sharpened plastic spoon this woman saved from last night's pudding cup. Better stay in the car and mind your own business.

Let's open the cover and look inside this slasher novel. I of course was that drug rep on the beautiful sunny day, and I hope no one was sitting in their cars watching the scene unfold. I have big hair, after all I'm southern, and to achieve this requires a variety of hair spray and styling products. The effect is a pouf that is airy on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside, like a fresh donut at the fair.. On that happy summer day a bee flew into my hair and became trapped in that pouffy cage. Of the initial thoughts that run through your head when this happens, none of them involve what you might look like to other people.

When my brother was thirteen a bee flew up his shirt sleeve while he was riding a motorcycle, and stung him six times. It was instinct on the bee's part, when trapped a bee will continue to sting until it dies or escapes. That was my first thought while the frantic insect was trying to escape my coif. My second thought is how to get rid of it with out beating my hairstyle into oblivion. Vain, probably. Pertinent for the rest of my work day, definitely. The resolution was a head tossing, hair shaking approach that got me away sting free. I will admit that I don't like bee's so I was also doing the scaredy cat shuffle at the same time. In paranoia that the little sucker was still there I continued to poke at my hair all the way to the car.

With out all the details a situation can look very different, and we may point and laugh at what we don't understand. Was this a funny situation? No it was a hysterical situation, but what if a few details were different. What if I had been allergic to bees and didn't have an epi-pen. Or what if it had truly been a seizure.

In college a friend and I went into a gas station late at night. She was barefoot, and to say her feet were dirty would be an understatement, they were green. It was not a warm reception. People stared at us like we were there to shoplift the ingredients for our Daddy's moonshine.

They should have been thankful she didn't wear her shoes, they were caked with fresh cow patty. That green coloring on her feet was a also a "fresh" stain. Those that judged us could not have been more wrong. We were both dean's list students, from a women's college and my friend was a city girl that would pull over to talk to cows because they were cute. Visiting her boyfriend that night, who was a farmer, she had stepped in a rogue cow pie coating her strappy sandals and her feet. Spraying them off with a hose was not going to cut it. Tossing her shoes in the trunk we headed home, but had to get gas first and paying at the pump was not an option in those days. Did she want to go into a gas station of all places with bare feet? I think she still has nightmares about it, but she didn't have much of an option. I have often wondered how many nasty remarks were said about us as the door swung shut.

How many nasty remarks are said on a daily basis? Or how many jokes are made at someone else's expense? These were two off the wall examples, but all too often we're quick to judge when we don't know the situation or what's going on behind the scenes. We accuse someone of being snobby and standoffish when really they're just shy or at least quieter then we are. Jokes about a crabby and mean spirited co-worker are funny until you realize that all along they've been battling depression or cancer. Sometimes we try to read the book by the cover.

Many years ago, before our children were born, my husband and I took a last blast weekend trip to an amusement park. We wanted to get in all our thrill rides before we were relegated to the "other" side of the park. At the end of the first day we each picked our favorite roller coaster to ride one last time. Mine was Apollo's Chariot, taller than any other ride in the park it had huge drops, smooth cork screws and it made you feel like you were flying. As we were strapped in and awaiting our take off some tween girls in line called out to me. "It's OK!", "Don't be scared!" ,"It's really not that bad!" I had just enough time to wave and thank them before we shot off. As we clicked up the one hundred and seventy feet I asked my husband what he thought that was about. He shrugged "You just looked really serious". Apparently my serious face looked like pure terror to those girls. That can't be a good look. I loved that roller coaster, we'd ridden it something like eight times that day. I made a note to keep my thinking face a little lighter in the future. That little lesson has always stuck with me, I have nothing to look so sour about, but people will judge our thoughts and feelings by the expression on our face. I feel bad for worrying those girls, but good for them reaching out to comfort a stranger like that. Somebody I know might call that a seventeen second miracle.

For good or for bad things just aren't always what they appear. We don't know all the details that have led someone down a particular path. Nor do we always know what's going on right in front of us. Someone may literally have a bee in their bonnet.

Special thanks to Jason Wright and his shout out to my blog this week. He's brought a lot of new eyes here, and I hope I don't disappoint. Please, please leave a comment below, I love hearing from you and if you like what you see share it with your friends!


  1. Loved it......definitely a valuable life lesson!

  2. You're awesome, Chastity! Thanks for the shout-out, and thanks for sharing a bit of yourself with the world each week...

  3. Wow! I just read your entire Blog! You have an Amazing Gift. Thanks for sharing your Writing Talent with the World. Looking forward to reading your next entry!

  4. Jason Wright recommended your blog, and I can see why. You have such great insight and I think you are an amazing author (watch out Jason!) I will definitely visit your blog again. You pegged me on the "over complicating my life and way of thinking" article. So much we can learn from our children. Thanks for sharing. Tricia Utley

  5. Excellent point. We should always pause and evaluate kindly before assuming we know what's going on. Someone truly may need our help, not our ridicule. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Yes...Jason sent me. :) And I'm glad he did!!! What a great blog, and most specifically, what a great post!! You're definitely going on my list to "stalk"! :)

  7. From the girl with the green feet, I'm laughing out loud recalling the whole incident! Thanks for taking me back!