For two months I sold my jewelry and shiny rocks (and my book and the hats I made and my Rubber Tramp Artist stickers) at a farmers market in a small southern Arizona town. The market was held on Saturday mornings, from 9 am until noon. Minimal produce was sold there, but vendors offered bread and sweets made from scratch; jellies and jams produced locally and in small batches; hand-made soaps, lotions, and balms; and more craft items than you could shake a stick at.
Most of the people who visited the market wear elderly, although plenty of those folks were healthy and in good shape. A few children came through with their parents and grandparents, and teenagers were seldom sighted.
There wasn’t much money in the town, and many days I earned my dollars one bracelet at a time. I was grateful for every little sale that helped me get by, and I often looked at my sales in terms of $2 sacks of ice.
I saw many of the same people several times over the two months I sold there. I think some people saw the market as their weekly social event. Some folks stopped and looked at my wares every time they were there (perhaps wondering if I’d gotten anything new) and others bypassed me after the first time they determined I had nothing of interest to them.
I saw one man a handful of times at the market during those two months. He was an older man with grizzled stubble on his unshaven face. He wore a ball cap advertising his status as a Vietnam era veteran and worn work clothes. What made me remember him wasn’t how he looked. What made me remember him was the same joke he told me every time I saw him.
Good morning, I”d say when he walked up to my tables. How are you today?
I’m good, he’d say enthusiastically. I woke up breathing this morning! At my age, that’s a good thing!
At that point I’d say something positive like Oh! That’s great!
I tell my wife, he’d always continued, “Honey, no matter how much I love you, if I wake up and I’m not breathing, get as far away from me as possible.” That would be enough to put anyone in a bad mood. Then he’d laugh at his own joke, and I’d laugh too, mostly just to be polite.
I never saw him with a woman, and I never asked him where his wife was on any given morning. If she was dead and he wanted to pretend she was still alive, that was ok with me. I wasn’t going to force him to admit anything to me.
I wonder if he made the same joke to every vendor or if from one visit to the next he forgot he had used it on me already. He never bought anything from me. After he made his joke, he moved on.
He seemed like a nice man. I was always glad to see he was still breathing.