Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

I can't say I've ever depended on the kindness of strangers. Or really of anyone, actually. Have I mentioned I'm a pessimist at heart? (I have very low expectations and they are generally met but not exceeded. Looking on the bright side...I'm not usually disappointed! Hey, that's as bright and cheery as I get!) So I am marveling at a recent phenomenon... the kindness of strangers.

As you careful readers will recall, I've pretty much switched to wearing just scarves and no "hair." This is a look that apparently, however "nice" or "stylish" I and my friends might pretend it is, screams "CANCER PATIENT!!!!" I realized this after a few days of experiencing the rather baffling kindness of strangers. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like strangers are normally rude to me, or even oblivious to me, they're just strangers who sometimes are polite and sometimes not. No, I'm talking about strangers, or relative strangers, going out of their way to be really kind to me, or just very solicitous of anything I might need. For example, I went to Gottshalks going out of business sale (and man, what a sale!! 60% off of stuff I had no idea I needed until it was 60% off!!). This is a sale that has turned a decent department store into a Marshall's on a bad, bad day. There aren't many salespeople, the displays are a mess, the clothing is everywhere and no one is really concerned about customer service (they have the "what are they going to do, fire me?" attitude like I have the "what's it going to do, cause cancer??" attitude). Yet as I carried around my piles of things I didn't know I needed, two different salespeople came up to help me carry things and then the woman at the check-out counter told me how beautiful my scarf was and how "lovely" my look was. Okay, I realize I've joked that friends say that and it makes me laugh because it (along with "you're strong" and "you have a pretty face") is a comment without credibility (because a friend can't say anything else--"you're a basket case" and "you have really disturbing facial features" are comments that disqualify one from friend status.) But I'm going to admit it was rather heartwarming to have a stranger say that--because she didn't have to say anything at all (I mean after the " that will be $152.99" for the three bags of stuff I needed). When I mentioned the cancer and the chemo, she said "Oh, honey, I assumed that was the case. But you look beautiful." I'll admit it, I was kind of touched by her kindness.

Then, Saturday morning was the big moving day at my new office expansion. Chris, as I mentioned, was spectacular enough to take the morning shift and be at the office at 8a.m. to let in the guys doing my computer and phone network wiring, and the computer guys who do...whatever it is that computer guys do. Everybody had agreed to work a Saturday and everybody was on time. I arrived at 11a.m. with Seamus (that's him, chillin' in the office) and a dozen donuts. Chris eventually left and I was working in my conference room while they guys (4 of them) were doing their respective wiring/ networking/ technical/ guy stuff that makes my office run. They each kept stopping by to see how I was and if I needed anything else and promising to be done soon, and explaining things and asking exactly where I wanted my phone, my computer, the fax, the printers, offering to move things around, drill holes, change things out, get new parts...heck, the computer guy even ran to Home Depot to get an extra long phone cord so my phone could be on the side of the desk I wanted, and then apologized because the cord was white and not black. I kept thinking, man, these guys really like donuts! They were done, cleaned up (seriously, he asked me where the vacuum cleaner was!! Um....I don't even know what a vacuum cleaner is!) and gone by 12:30. And...wait for it...he discounted the bill from the original quote he gave me and I had agreed to already!! These were really good donuts, but eventually it did dawn on me...they were being nice to me...cancer patient me. Nobody said anything specific, and of course guys don't say "beautiful scarf" but I'm pretty sure that's what was happening--they were helping and solicitous of "cancer person." Which is very nice and very kind and considerate. I just tend to forget that I'm the "cancer person."

The whole experience is just a little funny to me now, because now is when I feel the least like "cancer person." Other than my little detour in the mornings (to flash the radiation therapists), I feel close to normal again. I've even gotten used to myself bald-ish. So I forget that others may perceive me as "sick." But I'm not going to object to the extra caring and thoughtfulness. I'm just going to say "thanks!" See, I might be learning from this experience after all.

And speaking of me baldish. I did forget the Sunday update on the hair growth. But we did take a picture. I definitely have a 5 o'clock+ shadow. And it's definitely darker hair. And that is definitely not a big 'ol glass of white zinfandel. Perish the thought. It's a big ol' glass of a beautiful Tavel rose' on a lovely June evening (note pretty sunset and ignore that smog causes all the pretty colors; come on people, work with me on the "glass half full" thing!!).


  1. I LOVE the baldilocks picture. The first time I saw it, I got tears in my eyes. It is the sweetest picture ever. It is even cuter than Seamus and Harold or baby puppies or seals or anything. If you liked or even tolerated Christmas, I would say that should be your Christmas card this year.

  2. Time off, check. Airline ticket, check. Waiting to visit, check.

    Did you know rose was first produced in Tavel? (so my wine geek friends tell me.)

  3. Uh...Seamus would disagree. And, I'm thinking that the lesbian population is waiting breathlessly for another 1/4 inch!!

  4. Holly--it would be the anti-Christmas card wouldn't it? So I like it! When I get all those "my family and life is so perfect" holiday letters I can respond with "yeah, this is how my year went" and the photo!! I like it.

    Michael--Woohoo!! Looking forward to see you.

    Stacey--so 1/4" = cancer patient, and 1/2" = lesbian chic? I wondered what the cutoff would be. So, will I at least be a hot lesbian?


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