(An Odyssey Journal)
I chose the blonde-haired lady who works at the cafe at St. Anselm’s. Initially, as she shuffled about the back kitchen among her co-workers, I would have had difficulty telling them apart from the neck down. They all wore the pale blue smocks and white shirts underneath, they all were of approximately the same mid-level shapeless lumpiness, and they all moved with a short stride, not really lifting their feet from the ground, not really moving any part of their body except from the knees down. All this conveyed a sense of boredom, of downtrodden monotony.
What struck me about her, what made me decide to choose her for this exercise, was the way she responded after she saw me waiting at the counter. It surprised me–suddenly she looked up, right into my eyes. Her eyes opened very wide. Her brows went up. She asked what I wanted in a string of very quick, close-together words. I told her. “A small cone of moose tracks.” She looked down a moment to enter it into the register, and for those two or three seconds she regained the lethargy I had seen in her earlier and expected. Then she looked up. Again she was quick, almost jumpy, with big round eyes. She repeated what I’d said, and told me the price. “Moose tracks ice cream, in a small cone. That’s a dollar ninety-five.” My perception of her had entirely changed. With her big eyes and surplus of energy, she struck me as a lot younger–almost to the point that her personality seemed out of place in her body.
I got my ice cream, thanked her, and sat down.
A few minutes later she came out from behind the counter briefly. She’d gotten herself a cup of iced tea, and needed a lid and a straw. Now I could really observe two distinct styles of movement and mannerism. She still shuffled when she walked. But as she leaned against the counter, I noticed that her body did in fact have a rather pleasant pearish shape. She kicked her feet up, one at a time, bending her knees–a habit I’m familiar with, of people who work on their feet–but she did it with a very abrupt quickness I’d be much more likely to attribute to a twelve year old girl pent up inside on a beautiful day. The same thing occurred when she shifted her iced tea from hand to hand, moving it up from her waist to take a sip. She had a way of turning her head that made her hair bounce.
I found that I liked this woman, instead of just feeling vaguely bad that her job was so dull. She had a spark to her. I decided she wasn’t as bored or downtrodden as her job or that shuffle first suggested. She probably has a family at home, and something interesting to do when she got off work. Going mini-golfing, perhaps. Playing wiffle ball with her kids. Of course I was guessing. The point is, I was interested enough to care.