Sunday, January 30, 2011

Out a limb ...

The first thing I do when I see someone who is missing at least part of a limb is park my face in neutral. Unchecked, I'd go bug-eyed and blurt out "Whoa! How the heck did you do that!" Because a) I would want to know so I don't make the same mistake; b) I bet it is a pretty good story. Dare I say, the person's best story?

So the guy who sold me a car battery today was seeing the face of nonchalance. Like, whatever. No big. People lose limbs. But in my head it sounded like this:

I am looking at a person with half of a left arm.
I'm not being a dick by not looking at the remains of his left arm.
I'm using my eyes in exactly the same way I would use them if he had an entire left arm, a hand, and five full-length fingers at the end of it.
I wonder if he notices that I'm treating him exactly the same way I would treat someone with two arms?
Is this the best show of ambivalence this man has ever encountered?
Or by keeping my mouth a straight line and my eyes moving, does my ambivalence seem like a put-on?

If you think about it, it is surprising that more people don't lose more body parts more often. Think of all the things that spin quickly, have sharp edges, or are heavy enough to pin you into a position where it comes down to you or the limb. Not to mention the limb-leaching diseases and the amputee hobbyists.

Obviously, by the time I got to this guy today he was over it. If this topic was still raw, he probably would be weird about it. Challenge me. Follow my eyes. Sneer and say "What? You never seen a one-armed man before?" He used what appeared to be a glorified thumb to carry the battery to my car, despite my assurance that I could take it from here.

"I can carry it," I said, not wanting him to think that I thought he couldn't carry it. To know that I'd say this to anyone at the store.

He flipped it onto his right hand, balanced the left bit against it.

"It has acid in it," he said.

"Ah. Then by all means," I said.

I was sent to a garage down the street to have the battery connected. A sort of back-alley place I'd never have found without directions. A garage-man's garage that smelled of cold and oil and metal with an AC/DC soundtrack. I love these kind of places where people are spending a Saturday doing what they dig: fixing stuff. Getting dirty. Listening to music.

And the conversations are interesting:

"My girlfriend got real weird on tequila last night."
"The pop machine is around the corner, but we're out of Sunkist."

The guys were funny and helpful and they fixed up my car and one of them was missing his two front teeth. But unlike the guy without the arm, he addressed it immediately, like within the first five minutes -- which I appreciate. He'd knocked a wrench against them, killing the teeth, he said with a big old smile.


Abby - Bright Yellow World said...

I do the same thing.

A while ago, my cat went missing in my neighborhood, and we met almost all of our neighbors in the process of looking for him. One of our neighbors is this slightly "off" dude who has a million plants outside his apartment, on the sidewalk. I'd never really paid attention to him - he just seemed sort of weird, and I didn't want to engage in awkward conversation. As we were out calling for the cat, however, he came out and started chatting... and I realized that he had only one eye. I was keeping a happy, neutral, "nothing to write home about" face, and as we parted ways, the dude called out,

"Well, I'll keep my... er... EYE open for the cat."

It. Was. Awesome.

Also, my Captcha is "buttho."

Christa said...

Ha! Funny stuff. If only the guy yesterday had said "Let me give you a hand." Regret.