To say life returned to normal would be a slight contradiction in terms, as I asked myself, "What is normal?" Normality in Austin is far from normality elsewhere, but then perhaps the abnormal is the normality I craved!
Walking through the supermarket, at lunchtime, I was approached by an older lady. "I have the same problem. I have told them about it, but they haven't done anything to change!" I looked at her a little quizzically, but this did not deter her enthusiasm to continue. "I told them, 'Why don't you make them like Central Market?', they are the same company!" Absolutely flummoxed, I looked around and attempted to decipher as to what she was referring. Standing with a bunch of parsley in my hand, I turned the green vegetation, and contemplated that she may have been referring to the way in which the sprigs were held together, but I could see no problem. "Sometimes", she went on, "I have to do this, so that I can open it!" At that, she took a piece of parsley between her thumb and forefinger, and rubbed them together. I awaited the appearance of the genie, as I thought perhaps he or she could explain to what the lady was referring. I remained calm, thinking perhaps that I would have to humour the poor thing, as she was not compos mentis, but suddenly all was revealed. The said genie did not, thankfully, appear, (as there would have been questions as to my state of mind,) but she leaned forward, (as I backed up slightly,) took a bag from the roll that was in front of the vegetable section, and with the same thumb and forefinger, rubbed the plastic, until it separated. "I have told them", she continued, "The bags in Central Market separate easily. Can you tell them. Perhaps if a lot of people complain, they will do something about it!" Somewhat relieved that all had been revealed, but mostly confused as to why I had been the one to be targeted with the request, I said that I would definitely see what I could do to further her cause for the 'easy open bag'. (Perhaps I should point out, at this time, should some not be aware, the reason for squashing vegetables between her digits was to dampen them, as the displays in this neck of the woods receive a shower at various intervals. Some even have a thunder clap, to warn customers that there is about to be 'a storm', and it would be advisable to stand clear!) Samantha had retreated behind the fruit stalls, and watched with glee as her mother was, once again, singled out as the one who could be enlisted to 'fight' for the downtrodden! It was now my turn to be stared at quizzically, as the older woman waited for my response as to how I would take care of the problem. I was not going to be able to move, until I had given her my 'battle plan', and she was satisfied that this would be a viable option. "I shall email them upon my return to my office", I stated, with such an air of authority, she all but stood to attention and saluted. "Well done, soldier", was what I expected to come from her mouth, but instead I received an expression of thanks.
I did not defer from my duties, and upon my return to my desk, after taking care of some actual work, I proceeded to access the supermarket's website, and the 'contact us' portion, which allowed me to make a comment. "Please, please, please can you make your plastic fruit and veg bags like those at Central Market" was all I wrote. Although I do sometimes have difficulty separating the plastic to open the bag, it has never occurred to me that there may be a solution, which obviously Central Market has found! I could only hope that no one would respond with the question, "What do you mean?"
I had craved normality, and I had received it, "Austin fashion".
"Ladies. Would you like to join us for lunch?" was the next day's adventure. Join whom? The chef and the other shoppers, of course! When asked if we would like to join a bunch of strangers for lunch, all of whom had been pushing trolleys, (not necessarily minding their own business,) and contemplating whether to go up and down the aisles first, or along the fresh produce section, it would be impolite to refuse. When asked if we would like to join a bunch of strangers for lunch, we understand that it is not going to be a conventional 'sit down and eat' type of experience. Instead, in the middle of the back section of the store, is a portable kitchen, where the 'chef of the day', prepares the 'meal of the day', using the items which are 'specials of the day', and offers a plate to all whom are passing. Usually consisting of two meat options, and a vegetable, (or one meat, one fish) a sample (Texas style, and of course everything is bigger in Texas) is loaded on to the plate and handed to you and your dining partners. Although not enough to satisfy a starving man, the portions given are substantial enough to take care of lunch! Together with the chips and different varieties of salsa, laid out for consumption, it would be possible to 'lunch like a prince' most days! The option for the day was steak in the featured sauce, and Dover sole! "Dover sole? That is something that you do not often see here!" I said, attempting to sound as if I was a culinary expert! The crowd did not make a sound, but the chef leaned forward and whispered that it was not actually from 'the Channel', but was a fish they caught in the Atlantic Ocean that was similar. As an Englishwoman, which she knew I was, as she could detect it from the accent, (and at this point, I gave her a very knowing look which indicated that I was very impressed,) I would be able to tell the difference. I felt it inappropriate to tell her that the best Dover sole was not actually caught in that particular strait considering her pride in knowing that Dover was the port on the English Channel! Lunch was very pleasant, although the company did not stay to chat, and wandered around with plates of food as if they were at a 'progressive supper'.
I had craved normality, and I had received it, "Austin fashion".
Normality did not confine itself to Austin. I had occasion to call the post office. I required the address of a particular unit in Iowa, and on the website, there were two options for one zip code. Although this is not altogether unusual, for my purposes, I needed to know which one to send my request for a verification of an address. I called, and was answered by the usual recorded operator. We went through the routing of "How can I help you today?", and I gave her the one word answers to get me to the 'Local post office information' section. "Please state the town and state you are calling about", said the polite recording. I did. "Did you say, Lalalalaohwa". Attempting to suppress my laughter, as any sound is accepted and answered with, "I am sorry. I did not get that", I repeated that I wished to find the address of the post office in Waterloo, Iowa. Again, she repeated, "Lalalalaohwa. Is this the place you are looking for?" I remembered the words of the actor Michael Caine, when given the part of a Texan in a particular film. "Speak in English and then slant the words to one side". (Or words to that effect) I did. "Wahderlou Iohwah" I slurred, hopefully. "Waterloo, Iowa. Is that correct?" Eureka!
I had craved normality, and I had received it.
Normality is that nothing is normal. Who could ask for more! The only 'normal' thing in my life is that each day, I get older. I do not feel older, nor do I act (apparently) older, but it is the only constant! Life goes on! My lifetime friend Ian, has just become a grandad! (Congratulations to him and his family). My lifetime friend, Lesley, is celebrating her son's 30th birthday. (Congratulations to Bradley.) My lifetime friend, Lynda, is about to see her son walk down the aisle. (Congratulations Kyle!) This kind of normal is what makes the world go round! Austin normal, well that is what makes my world go round, and as each day goes by, all around me can see that my world is ................. another story!