Yesterday I had a very odd experience.
The lawn guy was here, and my husband had requested that the next time he showed up, could I please ask him a couple of questions. So I went outside to do just that.
At first the lawn guy seemed genuinely happy to see me. He turned off the leaf blower, took out his earplugs, and greeted me warmly. Then I began to ask him my questions.
I have experienced a lot of different people having a lot of different reactions to me as a person. There has been enjoyment, inspiration, laughter, confusion, repulsion, condescension, and lo, so very many different things. But this is the first time that the person to whom I was speaking reacted as if they were enduring some kind of excruciating psychic pain caused by my mere presence.
Here’s how our conversation went.
Me: “So, we were wondering if from now on you could trim those bushes so that they are the same height all the way across.”
The lawn guy: (Nervous, uncomfortable laughter, grimacing at me all the while as if to say, “Each one of your words has become a tiny, poisoned dagger that pierces through my flesh every time you speak to me.” I truly thought he might start to cry.)
Me: “Also, how much would you charge us to take away our bags of lawn trash?”
The lawn guy: “Um, well, that depends.” (Now the grimace is pleading, “Dear God, please let this torture end!”)
So apparently there was something in that interchange that transformed me from Holly Hobbie Homeowner (a 1970’s icon that I totally resembled yesterday, clad as I was entirely in denim, and missing only the kicky braids) into Hellacious Helga, Purveyor Of Psychic Pain.
I have absolutely no idea what that something might be, or where it was during the three years I was a classroom teacher and really could have used that ability. But clearly it is time to investigate this further.