Bad things can happen when you don't pay attention.
Which is not a bad thing in and of itself.
I am not referring to tragedies and catastrophes, though a lack of attention can certainly lead to these, too. I am referring those events, born of our own stupidity, just annoying enough to take the wind out of our sails, and occurring with sufficient frequency to make us aware that we fucking don't know everything. I am talking about the sort of event that hits the reset button on our carefully nurtured sense of self-regard, which can all-too-easily morph into pain-in-the-ass pomposity, a condition which should be treated forcefully and in a timely manner, like a Whack-A-Mole. A little hubris goes a long way, as evidenced by any number of corpulent white men in America who draw our reluctant attention. Chris Christie comes to mind, as does Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump. I'd throw Ann Coulter into the bunch, too, if she were corpulent and male. Which she may well be, given the powers of Photoshop.
Paying attention doesn't just mean looking both ways when crossing a street. I believe in portents and omens, much to the exasperation and disdain of my children.
But they'll find out. The events of last Thursday prove my point.
If I were a religious person, I could say, "Oh, God did that," which would relieve me from the necessity for further inquiry. But I'm not, so I don't, though I make an exception for that one time in Boston when I was suddenly visitated by the Feast of St. Anthony Procession & Marching Band. To this day there is no doubt in my mind that it was a harbinger of things-to-come, and that St. Anthony personally interceded to find my son his fancy-ass job.
I prefer to keep an open mind.
But I never thought I would be receiving messages-from-beyond via a purse. This is true, as you shall see, and definitely tips the scale in favor of idolatry, would I need to choose.
Here is what happened:
- Last Thursday, I took the train to go have dinner with my aunt and our friend Babs;
- She picked me up - in her car - at the Walgreens by the train station, having come from a doctor's appointment;
- I needed to stop at the bank, which we did;
- Then my aunt wanted to stop at a store, which we also did;
- And when we came out...
- ...the front of her car was gone.
Not the whole front. Just the part below the hood and above the tires. Nowhere to be found. Gone.
What does one do when the front of one's car disappears?
Call the police? Why? This was a new one on me, as I would imagine it would be for most of the human race, a realization which made me feel singled out and targeted by some great power capable of inflicting bizarre circumstances on the innocent and unsuspecting. It lent a note of paranoia to a bemusement so profound that I was rendered speechless.
Fortunately, the arrival of Babs brought me slowly back to myself. She assured us that it was perfectly legal to drive the car in its present state, and the fact that she somehow knew this jump-started my breathing. We encouraged my aunt to go investigate the parking lots at the doctor's office and the Walgreens, and we would meet her shortly at the restaurant.
No luck, and a pall of unreality and discouragement permeated the rest of our dinner together. Some things are even beyond Stoli.
After dinner, my aunt drove me to the train station. I had a 20-minute wait until the next train and a vague recollection of an excellent second-hand store about a half-a-block away. It was still there, and it was open. I walked in.
And someone handed me a large glass of champagne. Happily, I have long been of the opinion that drinking and shopping are not mutually exclusive.
Now, had I been paying attention, I would have realized that the unexpected arrival of a substantial glass of champagne in my hand was a sign, my first Cosmic Clue that everything was all right. Better than all right. Everything was glorious.
But then I looked up. And there it was: The Most. Perfect. Purse. In The World. I am not lying. I will never have to buy another one.
Emboldened by the champagne, I snatched the purse off the shelf and raced for the register.
"I have ten minutes until my train."
Whereupon which the register line melted away.
And I was informed that the purse was 50% off.
I made the train with five minutes to spare. On the train I noticed that the purse was brand new, tags still attached, dust cover included. Cosmic Clue #2. And yet I went home and spent the rest of the evening with my spirits considerably dampened by my aunt's misfortune. My husband regretted that he hadn't joined us for the evening, since - if he had been driving - my aunt probably wouldn't have lost (stolen? kidnapped by aliens?) a large piece of her car.
"On the other hand," he added, "you wouldn't have found your purse."
My aunt called me the next morning to tell me she had made out a police report.
And then she called me a half-hour later, laughing. She had gone to the bank to cash a check. "Guess what?"
We had forgotten that we had stopped at the bank.
That's where she found the front of her car, lying patiently in wait. It had just spontaneously fallen off. Better in a bank parking lot, I say, than barrelling down a highway at 60 mph. She managed to get it into her trunk, and drove to a mechanic. Who reattached it free of charge, because everybody loves a good story.
This has left me pondering:
- Is shopping, for me, like the slaughtering of a chicken in a sacrificial ritual designed to curry the favor of the gods? or
- Was the purse an omen?
Either way, the answer is: I hope so.
And I have started paying better attention. For instance, what could be the meaning behind "...an aggregation of anchovies amassed near Scripps Pier..." (for no apparent reason), in La Jolla, California, looking like a giant, writhing leviathan from the aerial photographs? They have to be trying to tell us something, though what a multitude of like-minded anchovies could have been trying to communicate to homo sapiens last week is a little beyond the limits of my imagination.
Maybe I'm just reading too much into it.