Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chicago I love

Another reason to go to resale shops, besides the great price on lousy books and interesting odors, is the people. Mostly they keep to themselves, busy with their wayward children and balancing an armful of questionable clothing. But last night I met a good old-fashioned nutjob.

He starts talking behind me, and though I am well aware that he is talking to himself, or to anyone willing to listen, I ignore him. Then he calls me a shoplifter.

“These people have nothing and you’re taking their stuff for nothing. They’re giving it away.”

He was referring to the shop owners. Perhaps he assumed I had more money in the bank than I do because I was the only person in the store not dressed like the step-above homeless. Perhaps my youthful good looks have weathered time’s cruelties a touch better than the average patron. Whatever the reason, he decided to make an assumption about me, that I had money, which happens often. Countless street beggars have asked for money and not believed me when I told them I had none. We all make assumptions about each other, alas.

After he had my attention, he started quoting form Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, neither of which I care about these days. He also claimed to have stormed the beaches of Normandy, though he was clearly in his twenties, and said that the man behind the counter saved my life. “I wouldn’t have,” he said with his best steely gaze.

I mouthed off some smart-ass comments that I could tell made my companions a bit uneasy. Leave the lunatic alone, they might say. You just never know about these people, what they’re hiding under their coats… a salient point, but I can’t help it. I hardly egged the guy on, but I couldn’t help say a few things that I suspect went over his head. I censored the worst of my potential responses. I’m not a completely rude person these days.

As I left with my friends, I did hear him ask one last question: “Do you think the demons in Hell pray to Jesus?”

I told him I did not.

“They do! They do!”

I left, happy that I had riled him.