Dudes

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It was a hot day, and I was alone in the mercantile when the dudes walked in.

There were eight or nine of them, all probably in their mid to late 30s. The oldest guy had a craggy face and was either bald or had very short hair under his ball cap. As soon as he walked in, he said, I heard you give away really cool stickers here.

I wanted to say, We don’t give away anything cool here, but I held my tongue.

Instead I said, We’re out of stickers because I thought we were, but then I remembered the generic design we still had. Well, we do have these, I said while walking over to a display in the back of the yurt. The man followed me, but barely looked at the stickers. I don’t think he had any interest in stickers he had to pay for, and I don’t think he really believed there were free stickers for the taking.

The dudes milled around for a few minutes, then filed out of the yurt. One more came in to pay for his access pass. When he left the mercantile, he hollered at the other dudes to pay for parking, so they all filed back in.

One guy put a pint glass on the counter so he could pay for it along with his day pass.

The older guy said, I heard you get a free beer when you buy one of these pint glasses.

The mercantile doesn’t sell beer, but even if it did, I doubt people would get a free one with pint glass purchase. The dude many have thought he was just being funny, but it felt more like he was fucking with the sales clerk to me.

Yeah, I said with an absolutely straight face. Bring it to the bar down the road and let them know you’re there for your free beer.

The man smirked, and one of his dude friends still standing in line said, Really? I think he was about to snatch up a pint glass of his own.

I guess I’d sounded even more serious than I thought I had.

No, I said sadly, not really.

Love that deadpan humor, the dude paying for the pint glass said about me.

Two more dudes paid for access passes, then they all went away.

In Praise of Dry Shampoo

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I was between house sitting jobs, spending my days working on my blog at Panera and my nights sleeping in my van at a truck stop. It had been a few days since my last shower, and while I didn’t think I smelled bad, (thanks to vigorous wet wiping), my hair was flat and looked rather greasy. My next house sitting gig was in a gated community, and I wanted to make a good first impression on the homeowners. What to do with my hair?

When I was a teenager, I remember my mom telling me that when she was a teenager, she’d use baby powder to soak up the excess oil in her hair between shampoos. The problem, she said, was the white baby powder left her dark hair looking grey.

Although I already had plenty of grey in my hair, I didn’t want to trade limp hair for powdery, weirdly gray hair. I rejected my mother’s baby powder solution.

One evening, I decided to spend the night in the local Wal-Mart parking lot. I went into the store to utilize the restroom before bed and ended up aimlessly walking the aisles. Eventually, I found myself in front of the dry shampoo.

Does this stuff really work? I wondered.

Would it lift my flat hair? Would it leave a powdery residue? Would it leave my hair sticky? Would it be a waste of money? I was skeptical and ended up not buying any dry shampoo.

I met my house sitting clients a few days later, and they seemed to like me despite my flat hair. Thank goodness they were more interested in my substance than my style.

I told The Lady of the House all about my limp locks and my dry shampoo temptation. She’d never used dry shampoo and didn’t know much about it either. She had no advice to give.

Fast forward to Christmas. The Lady had a seasonal job at a large department store, and she’d bought me presents from the health and beauty department. In addition to a giant bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, she gave me a can of Suave dry shampoo.

Suave Professionals Refresh & Revive Dry Shampoo, 4.3 Oz

She said one night she’d been restocking in the hair care aisle while two young women were browsing there. The two young women stood in front of the dry shampoo. One sighed, pointed to the dry shampoo, and said to her companion, This stuff changed my life.

Very interesting… The Lady thought, and decided to see if the stuff would change my life too.

As soon as I’d unwrapped my gifts, I was ready to test the dry shampoo.

First, I read the directions, which were pretty simple. Shake the can vigorously before and during use. Lift a section of hair and spray. Massage the dry shampoo into hair. Shake the can; lift another section of hair; spray; massage. Repeat. Repeat. The instructions on the can also said to brush hair after spraying and massaging, but I’d never do that because I don’t brush my hair; brushing destroys curls, and I want all the curls I can get.

The Lady and I went into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror over the sink. I shook the can of dry shampoo, lifted a section of hair, and sprayed the product on the roots. I immediately rubbed that area of hair with my fingertips. When I took my hand away, both The Lady and I could see it really worked. The area of hair I’d sprayed looked fluffier!

Now for the ultimate test.

I sprayed and scrunched sections of hair on the same side of my head. I left the other side of my head alone. Then I went into the living room where The Man of the House and The Boy (now nearly 19 years old) were watching TV. Believe me, these two have no knowledge of or interest in ladies’ hairstyles, so I knew they would not pretend to know what was going on in order to spare my feelings. Both easily identified the side of my head I had sprayed

It really works, the four of us told each other in amazement.

I was pleased to see the dry shampoo left no powder or other residue in my hair. Unlike with my mother’s baby powder solution, I did not have to trade flat hair for weirdly grey hair.  My hair didn’t feel sticky either.  All the dry shampoo left behind was fluff.

Dove Detox and Purify Dry Shampoo, 5 oz
After going through the can of Suave dry shampoo gifted to me and purchasing a can of Dove brand, I’ve learned a thing or two about dry shampoo.

First, while the Dove dry shampoo was cheaper at Wal-Mart (and cheaper is why I bought it) and it certainly works, I like what Suave has to offer better. I like the smell of Suave more, and I think it gives more fluff.

Secondly, the dry shampoo does not work like hairspray. It lifts and fluffs, but doesn’t hold my hair high. I’m a gal of the 80s, and I like big hair, but dry shampoo is not going to keep my hair poufy for hours. The dry shampoo does eliminate the greasies and makes my hair look better between shampoos.

Finally, neither the Suave nor the Dove dry shampoo has left my hair feeling sticky or gummy. Neither has left any residue that I can see or feel. When I use dry shampoo, my hair does not scream “product.”

I’m a pretty low maintenance gal, but I’d rather vain about my hair. Sometimes (often times) van dwelling means not being about to wash my hair when I want to. Dry shampoo allows me to fluff up and make a first impression that doesn’t include limp, greasy hair.

Dog Water

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One of my coworkers at the mercantile is exceedingly nice. She answers every question in great detail and baby talks to every infant who enters the store. She also really loves dogs.

On one of the first days the mercantile was open, a tourist came in with a little pug dog on a leash. The little dog had just walked the trail with the tourist and was obviously hot and tired. My uber-nice coworker began exclaiming over the cuteness of the little dog and sweet talking to it. She somehow determined the dog was thirsty, which was maybe obvious by the way he was panting and dragging his tired little doggie ass.

I don’t know if the tourist said he didn’t have a bowl and/or water to give the doggie a drink, or if my coworker thought the dog needed water right now, but watering the dog became a situation. The coworker pulled a blue enamel mixing bowl from the camping supplies shelf and filled it with water from the gallon jug we workers had been using to fill our bottles.

The dog lapped up the water greedily, and the tourist seemed appreciative, but as far as I was concerned, the coworker had gone above and beyond her line of duty. It was nice of her to help a person unprepared to provide water for his dog, but I‘m sure it was the thirsty little critter she cared most about.

The coworker paid for the blue enamel mixing bowl, ant it became the official dog water bowl. Every day she comes into the mercantile, the coworker fills the bowl with water she brings from home. She even made a sign that says “Water for your dog.” The sign has a picture of her own dog on it. She sets the sign on a small easel and places it near the bowl.

It was hot one afternoon when a tourist came into the mercantile asking about water. One of us explained we hadn’t yet received the permit to sell food and beverages, so we had no water for purchase.

Where do you get the water for the dog bowl? the tourist demanded.

I fill it from my own personal bottle, the coworker told him while holding up her water jug.

Do you have any that’s cooler? the tourist asked. The water out there is really hot, and my dog’s spoiled. He wants cooler water.

I thought surely the man was joking, but the coworker dutifully trotted outside with her jug so she could put cooler water in the bowl. Presumably there was a pampered poach out there who appreciated her dedication to dogs while lapping up the cooler water.

I was surprised by the man’s nerve (although by now, nothing should surprise me). I believe if someone does a kindness—like putting water out for dogs—people should appreciate what’s offered, not ask for an upgrade. Also, if I had a prissy dog who wouldn’t drink warm water, I’d have enough water in the cooler to take care of all humans in my party and the prissy dog too. Mostly, I’m of the mind that any creature thirsty enough will drink the water provided, even if it’s warm.

Accusations

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The group of vendors I sometimes sell with on the side of the highway is a varied bunch. Some are serious business people with huge selections of merchandise displayed on multiple tables. Others are just passing through, trying to sell a few things in hopes of earning enough gas money or beer money to make it down the road. Some vendors hand-make everything they sell, while others buy mass produced items and sell them at a big markup. Some vendors are honest about their products and others, not so much. Common lies involve saying a stone is turquoise when it isn’t and telling a potential customer an item was made by the vendor (or a member of the vendor’s family) when the item was actually imported from a developing country.

I don’t believe in lying to customers, but I don’t narc out other vendors when I hear them doing it. Do I think lying to customers is wrong? Yes. Do I think it’s my place to police other? No.

Loyalties are ever-changing among vendors. Two people may be friends today and enemies next week. Folks get mad at each other over parking and (real or imagined) lying and taking up too much space.

I try to stay on friendly terms with everyone, although there are certainly some vendors I don’t like much. I have no use for bossy or nosey behavior, and many vendors act in those ways. The most common nosey question is How are you doing?/How did you do today? What people really mean is, Are you making/did you make any money? When I’m asked how I’m doing or how I did, I start rambling about the beautiful weather or seeing my friends or meeting nice people. Only the boldest of people (or those with no capacity to pick up on my social cues) go on to actually verbalize the word money. (The last time another vendor actually asked me if I was making money, customers approached my table in the nick of time, and I was able to ignore Nosey Nelly until she got bored and wandered away.)

Some of the vendor grudges are old. One woman has been despised for years, long before I crawled out of the sage and joined the community. Part of the reason she’s despised is because she makes a lot of money. She’s a good business woman who knows what merchandise is going to sell and how to talk to customers to get them to buy. She also exhibits unpredictable behavior. One day she’ll be someone’s bosom buddy and the next she’ll scream curses at the same person. The only thing she loves more than being the bearer of bad news is getting other vendors all riled up with negativity and too upset to sell.

This woman has gotten a little nicer since her husband died and she’s all alone in the world, but we’ve all seen her turn against a friend with little provocation. Anyone with any sense treads lightly around her.

The funniest altercation I’ve seen her involved in happened a few summers ago. I don’t remember why people were mad at each other or who was taking what side. I do remember the despised woman was pissed at one of the vendors who drives in from out of state.

This guy allegedly sells pain pills along with his glass pipes, chile powder, osha root, and the baskets and purses he says his wife makes (despite the “Made in Mexico” tags still attached to them). I’ve never bought pain pills from him. (For the record, I’ve never bought pain pills from anyone, even a pharmacist.) I’ve never caught him in the middle of a pain pill transaction. I’ve never heard him offer to sell anyone pain pills, but I’ve heard the word on the street, and the word is he sells pain pills.

It was a hot summer day, and there weren’t many customers. Trouble tends to start when there aren’t many customers. Customers keep vendors busy, and when there aren’t enough of them, some vendors get bored and start picking fights.

The despised woman looked over at the out-of-state vendor and out of nowhere started yelling, Drug dealer! Drug dealer!

Without missing a beat, the out-of-state vendor yelled right back at her with his gravely, Spanish accented voice, Weetch! Weetch!

She had no response, just sat back down behind her table and waited for a potential customer to come along.

Unprepared

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A Boy Scout walked into the mercantile.

I know it sounds like a joke, but that’s how it happened. It was a busy Saturday at the trail, complete with Boy Scout troops who’d just finished a week at t their nearby camp and were stopping to see the giant sequoias on their way home. Young men between the ages of 12 and 15, most wearing their uniforms in sloppy, disheveled ways, had been in and out of the mercantile all day. None of them had made a purchase.

The Boy Scout in question burst through the screen door and demanded, Do you have any water? Where’s the water?

Scouting clip artHe was 12 or 13 and had hair made greasy by heat and hormones. He wore glasses and had not taken great care when he put on his uniform. He looked rumpled and agitated.

I’m sorry. We don’t have any water, I told him

I told him the truth. The store had only been open for two weeks and the company hadn’t yet been issued the proper permits to allow us to sell food and beverages. The twelve baskets for snacks and the two coolers for beverages were empty.

You don’t have water? he said with rising concern as he ventured further into the store and checked out the coolers for himself.

I’m dying of thirst! he said with teenage theatrics.

You’re a Boy Scout, I said. Aren’t you supposed to always be prepared?

Obviously, I didn’t think this kid was literally dying of thirst.

We’ve been at camp all week, he told me. We ran out of water.

Was it possible the adults in the group were letting the kids run around in the heat with no water to drink? Did the boy mean his troop was out of cold water? No matter what was really going on, I had no water to offer him.

As the Scout walked toward the door to leave, The Man said to him, You could do what Bear Grylls does and drink your own urine.

I will never do that, the Boy Scout declared as he walked out the door.

I guess he wasn’t dying of thirst after all.

Image from http://www.picgifs.com/clip-art/scouting/clip-art-scouting-642687-690771/.

Service Dog Fail

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One of my first jobs as a college student was working in the dining hall of the dormitory where I lived. I worked the breakfast shift three days a week and had to report for duty at a morning hour ridiculous to my 18 year-old freshman self.

I had varied duties in the dining hall. I wiped down tables. If a diner failed to clean up after him/herself and left dirty dishes on the table instead of placing them on the conveyor belt that carried items to the bowels of the dish room, I had to clean the mess not of my making. (Such messes were primarily left behind in the smoking area, so I grew to harbor a hatred in my heart for these smokers, many of whom later became my friends when I no longer had a job requiring me to wear a hairnet and clean up their filth.) Other duties included filling straw, napkin, and cereal dispensers and adding orange juice to the machine when the beverage reached critically low levels. I stayed busy.

It was also in my (unwritten) job description to assist students with vision impairments as they went through the serving line. This duty didn’t bother me. I’d spent a summer working at a camp for kids with disabilities. I wasn’t freaked out by people who couldn’t see. I knew I shouldn’t grab the arm of those folks and propel them through the room, but instead let them take my elbow as we slowly walked to their destination.

One of the fellows I saw on my work days was a dapper young Southern student. He always greeted me politely and we chatted as we walked down the long corridor between the entrance and the serving line. He held my elbow while I carried his tray. When we faced the servers, I’d tell him about his breakfast options: grits or oatmeal, pancakes on a good day, greasy sausage or soggy bacon, eggs cooked to order every morning. It was a nice break for me from cleaning up after inconsiderate slobs. It was a nice human connection.

Service dog dog graphicsOne day the Southern gentleman student arrived holding the harness of a service dog. The dog was cute, but I knew I shouldn’t pet it or talk to it while it was working. The student told me I should walk him and the dog through the line so the dog could learn the routine. Once the dog knew where to go, he’d lead the student through the line, and I’d only have to carry the tray. While I didn’t mind the man taking my elbow, I was happy for the additional independence a service dog would bring him.

I began walking with the man and his dog down the corridor to the serving line. It quickly became apparent to me that this dog had not received adequate training. He pulled on the arm holding the harness as he tried to run ahead of us. When we got to the serving line, he dove under the counter after wayward French fries. He master had to keep a firm grip on the harness to keep the dog somewhat under control.

The student was not discouraged. When I saw him two mornings later, he had the harness in hand and the dog was behaving fairly well. I offered my elbow, but the man said the thought the dog could handle leading him. He told me said I only had to carry the tray.

The dog did ok until he got up to the serving line and was distracted by more fallen food. I wondered why a service dog still lunging for tasty ground scores had been turned over to a person who couldn’t see and why the closing dining hall crew wasn’t doing a better job cleaning under the serving line.

The student held onto the harness, and he and the dog and I headed into the large dining room. I followed along with the tray, prepared to carry it to whatever table the man chose. As I watched the human/dog duo navigate the room, I saw the dog run its master right into the empty salad bar. The man didn’t seem to be hurt, but I saw the surprise on his face. I offered my help again, but he said the dog would learn.

I mentally shook my head and thought if I had a service dog that ran me into a large, stationary object, I’d send its ass back wherever it had come from and take my chances on my own.

Image from http://www.picgifs.com/dog-graphics/service-dog/dog-graphics-service-dog-898713-727907/.

Intruder

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Someone tried to get into my van.

It was a night like any other in the Forest Service campground where The Man and I live while working at the mercantile. We’d had the day off, but we’d come back from Babylon early in the afternoon. I’d been cleaning the van all evening and was exhausted. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep and more free time the next day, which we also had off from our jobs.

It was nearly dark when I left The Man in his tent and went to the van for the night. I read for a while, but soon I could barely keep my eyes open, so I turned off my Luci light and promptly fell asleep.

I woke up…or was I already awake?

I heard someone try to open either the passenger door or the side door closest to my bed. I distinctly heard the soft rattle the door handles make when they’re locked and someone tries to use them to open the door.

I’m a door locker. That’s how I grew up. My family locked the doors to the outside world when we were in the house. The Man is not a door locker. He doesn’t believe in living in fear. Sometimes we have conflict because he wants something from inside the van but can’t get in because I’ve locked the doors and he’s left his key in the tent.

When he and the dog were sleeping in the van with me, I became more casual about locking the doors. Although there’s probably less of a chance of someone trying to steal something way up in our campground on the mountain, now that I’m sleeping alone, I’ve gotten back in the habit of locking my doors at night.

My first thought upon hearing the rattle of the door handle was that The Man had forgotten something in the van (his phone, his water bottle, his coat) and had come to get it. So I was surprised he didn’t say anything when he found the door locked. (He has no qualms about waking me if he wants to get into the van.) When there was no complaint in response to the locked door, I called out, Yes? or What? or something along those lines.

I took this photo of the campground restrooms. Of course, the campground looks quite different at night.

I received no answer, but I heard footsteps next to the van. When the person came around the back of the van (I thought maybe The Man, was going to ask me to hand him my keys through a back window), I called out again, but received no response. I heard the footsteps moved to the nearby pit toilet, then I heard the distinct rattle of the toilet paper roll being moved on its holder.

I never felt afraid. I thought The Man had gotten up to use the restroom, tried to get into the van and found the doors locked, then left, maybe in a snit or maybe because he was having a restroom emergency. I figured in the morning I’d find out it had been him I’d heard. I fell back to sleep right away.

I woke up again around ten minutes to five and started working on a hat I’d begun the day before. Not long after I awoke, The Man walked up to the van, and I let him in.

Di you try to get in the van last night? I asked him. He said he hadn’t.

I told him someone had tried to get in. He acted like he didn’t believe me at first, then said I’d probably just been dreaming. I’d said, I don’t think I was dreaming, and he used that as evidence that I had been dreaming. He said he’d know if someone had tried to get into his van. He said he would have flown out of bed and kicked the door open…

I chalked it up to him not taking me seriously, but while we were getting ready to head out to the post office and he asked if I really thought someone had tried to get into the van. I said yes, I really thought someone had tried to get in the van.

Then I remembered something else: there had been no flashlight. The Man never leaves his tent at night without his headlamp. The moon can be full and I’ve got plenty of light to find my way from his tent to my van, but he uses his headlamp. If The Man had tried to get into the van during the night, he would have shined his light through the uncovered side windows.

I think whoever tried to get in assumed there was no one in the van. Most people with a tent set up on a campsite would be sleeping in the tent, not in the vehicle. The intruder must have been quite surprised to hear me start talking from inside the van.

There were campers on only two other sites that night, and the camp host was sleeping elsewhere on his night off.

The Man went up to the fellow on a site on the other side of the campground. The guy tried to ignore him when The Man said good morning. The guy seemed nervous when The Man told him someone had tried to get into our vehicle the night before. The Man advised him to be careful about leaving his belongings out.

Later, when the campers on our side of the campground emerged from their tent, The Man talked to them too. The fellow on that site said, Good morning! How ya doin’? and shook The Man’s hand. The Man told him the same thing about someone trying to get into our vehicle and being careful about his belongings. That fellow said he’d heard footsteps near his tent during the night.

Who tried to get inside my van? I can’t say with certainty, but whoever it was got the message that we knew what s/he had been up to.

I stayed behind to guard camp while The Man went to the post office, but no one came around our site. I’ve been making sure to lock my doors when I go to bed at night, and The Man has stopped giving me a hard time when the locked doors keep him out of the van.