Busy season is getting busier, so this weekend I found my way into the office for a half-day on Saturday and Sunday. I was the first one in, which was a joy, no interruptions to disrupt my flow for a few hours. When the boss arrived, I decided it was time for fresh air and it was a gorgeous spring day yesterday, so off I went to Barnes and Noble to see about getting a pocket calendar.
I walked with a bounce and breathed in the fresh air. I was dressed for the cold, down to a hat and scarf—I do tend to overdress for the weather—so I began getting warm quickly and wrapped my jacket around my waist. When I approached the intersection and waited for the light, I saw a man in a wheelchair selling soaps. I’ve seen him before and when a pack of people approached, me included, in a chipper tone he said, “Like to buy some homemade soap?” I briefly looked in his direction, smiled timidly, and shook my head no as a gesture of acknowledgment, but frankly, I was so meek, I don’t think he noticed. I felt really small inside.
As I waited for the light to turn, it seemed I waited there a long time. The man in the wheelchair, would ask new bodies approaching, if they’d like to buy some homemade soap. When he saw people walking toward the curb, he wheeled over and approached them almost directly and asked his question and I waited to hear some acknowledgement. Nothing. The couple continued in their own conversation. I did not hear anybody, say, “no thank you,” and it was hard to tell if anyone shook their head no, and I didn’t want to stare.
A part of me wanted to buy a soap, but I didn’t want any soap. A part of me felt pity, but I didn’t want to feel pity and I don’t think this man wanted pity either. It just made me very aware of my own awkwardness and of wanting to be helpful combined with my sometimes extreme shyness, and also of wanting to stay inside my world. As I was walked along, I thought, well, maybe on the way back I should buy a soap.
When I did walk back, I saw the man from behind, but he was in a different spot, as though he was taking a break or getting something out of his sack. I think next time I do see him, I’ll be sure to have cash on hand and hopefully I won’t be so timid.