Number 88! The voice, booming and ominous, bounced around the crowded office space. My back against the wall, in more ways than one, and I stared at my little scrap of paper once again. As if by some miracle it had changed in the last five minutes:
Nope, still the same.
No one ever chooses to spend a day off at the motor vehicle office and certainly no one with any sense would choose to do this on that last working day of the month. It is a Purgatory, although something tells me Hell's foyer has shorter waiting times.
I had arrived at 9:23, armed with coffee and a newspaper. Both had been extinguished an hour and a half ago. And yet still I wait. Forced to stand out of both a fear of the personal hygiene of certain factory workers and respect for the elderly in the crowd. I listened to the anguished cry of numerous taxpayers who were turned away from the not exactly pearly gates because of insufficient paperwork and/or inadequate funds.
The older folks seated in front of me crumpled their papers in terror as another of their numbers left without their stickers-shoulder slumped in self defeat.
"There goes Fred, damn, second day in a row they tossed him out..."
Then, suddenly, there she was. Smart looking lady from the office supply store down the block. Short dark hair cut above her ears and wire rims around bright blue eyes. A business suit with a skirt too short for most-perfect for her. YOW . She squints a little in the subdued light then waves in my direction. She recognizes me from a few (unnecessary) visits to her shop, and I wave in return. Me, with no seat to offer her. Damn. She passes around the aimless in the front of the rows of chairs and heads over to the number machine. She pulls out her paper and looks up at the machine with the dreaded red numbers. I can almost hear the arrrggh! across the room. She closed her eyes and I can see her crumble the paper in her hand as she headed toward my wall.
Can you believe this? I have 30 minutes for lunch and I will never make this. I am such an idiot to put this off....My name is Lynn by the way. How long have you been waiting...
I just smile, gave her my name and asked her what her number is while putting out an open hand. She uncrumbled her paper- the number 22 is barely visible.
Wanna trade? I asked
I placed my scrap in her hand as the harpy with blue hair screamed out 99! in a voice that peeled still more paint off the wall.
Are you sure?
She asked me this, in a voice both plaintive and sweet. I know she was looking for sympathy. I also know she had found it. Her eyes sparkled in a manner not unlike fine jewelery. The whole time she was trying to talk me out of it I noticed that she didn't let go of my paper. No dummy this one.
"I'm sure," I said. "My day off"-pointing to my ratty Lions t shirt and jeans. "It's fine."
She handed me her number and I smiled to myself, knowing she owed me, at least briefly.
Maybe it's something. We'll find out soon. She wrote her phone number on the back of little number 22 before she left. I hid it from the counter lady when she finally called on me- at 12:36.
All good things come to he who waits