Eric: And Why You Should Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover

It is fair to say that I was in a foul mood.  The combination of a sweltering hot day, an argument with Barry, the pressures of moving, unpacking and putting the finishing touches on our upcoming wedding had bubbled over, forcing me to calmly get into my car, cry a snotty cry and lose my shit just a little.

The trunk of the rental car that I was driving  – all thanks to whomever smashed in the right quarter panel of my car and thought taking off without leaving a note was the right thing to do – was filled with clothing and home goods that I had been driving around with for days, repeatedly forgetting to drop off for donation.  I drove to the closest Savers knowing that the folks there will unload your things, hand you a receipt and a coupon to use in the store: win win.  It was 8:59 p.m. and they didn’t close until 10 p.m. so, I (incorrectly, as it turned out) thought it would be an uneventful interaction.

“Sorry, ma’am, we are no longer taking donations today” they told me as I began to unload.  Don’t cry, don’t cry, and don’t cry I told myself.  Yes, it had been that kind of a day.  “Really?!?!” I inquired, perhaps a bit too aggressively.  As they began to firmly stand their ground, a U-Haul box truck sidled up next to me.  The driver, a burly guy who appeared way more biker-dude than philosopher (and by way more, I mean there was not a single thing about him that bespoke anything other than biker-with-tats-and-maybe-even-a-former-football-career).

“I’ll take it for you and bring it back here tomorrow” he said, with a far gentler tone than I expected.  With tears threatening to erupt at any moment, I asked if he was serious and knew he was as he got out, opened the back of the truck and offered to help with the unload.  Upon seeing this happen, the Savers guys re-thought their earlier refusal and told me that they would, indeed, take my donation. A change of heart or a macho competition, perhaps?

As a team, he and I removed bag after bag after bag of items, my frustration at the day far from exhausted.  And then we started talking.  But I didn’t want to talk; I didn’t want to be friendly.  I was in a bitchy mood and I was going to stay in a bitchy mood, damnit.  But Eric, my truck driver in shining armor, as it turns out, is quite a guy.  He makes a living finding and re-selling stuff.  More precisely: cool stuff.  He has a store within a mall that houses antiques, collectibles and furniture services.  He pulled from his pocket two Pandora bracelets which, he explained,  he had picked up for a few bucks late in the day (when all the good stuff is gone) at a yard sale.  (If you don’t understand how impressive that is, Google “Pandora”.  And, after you pick your chin up off the floor at the prices, you will get it.)  But that was just the beginning.

He spent 12 years as part of a travelling magic show. He told me about the power of guilt and the greater power, and actual ease of learning how to let it go.  He referenced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  No, he didn’t reference it; he had studied it to the point of being something of an expert.  His heart, it was clear, was huge, his breadth of knowledge impressive.  Yes, I am still talking about the big guy who looks like he belongs on a Harley heading for a saloon in a honky-tonk town.

I asked him if we could take a selfie as I am a writer and I love to tell the stories of random people I meet.  He asked me who I write for, and I told him I have a blog (aside: my offer still stands…if anyone wants to hire me to write for them…).  I knew what the next question was going to be.  As he asked what my blog is about, I had to make a quick assessment and decision.  “Well,” I began, “it started off as a blog about my daughter…who used to be my son…but has morphed over the years.”  Without skipping a beat, he told me a story.

In his line of work, he often rents trucks.  (One of these days he will go buy his own box truck, he shared.) He noticed that the guy working at the U-Haul that he uses was changing over the course of the past few months: hair was getting longer, nails were manicured, and clothing was more feminine.  Eventually, he initiated a conversation around it and the two began talking regularly about the social transition that was unfolding before his eyes.  After a few months, he told his new friend that he had acquired some nice dresses at yard sales and offered to bring them to her.  She reluctantly agreed.  When Eric brought her the dresses, she nearly wept; they were high quality, beautiful dresses which, it is worth noting, he picked up for a song.  And they were now hers.  Impressed with his patent acceptance, I told him how I often tell Jess that I don’t care if she is a boy, a girl or a Martian, straight, gay or somewhere in between…as long as she isn’t an asshole.  He laughed and told me I am a good mom.



We stood in the hot, humid night air for a solid 45 minutes.  My frustrations and anger were gone, and the layer of perspiration creating a tacky stickiness on my skin didn’t even bother me.  I got his email and his blessing to share our chance encounter and headed home, amazed at the depth and thoughtfulness of a guy named Eric who was not at all what I thought he would be.

p.s. For you lovely single ladies: he is on Plenty of Fish.  And I happen to have his email.

Oh, The People I Meet

I didn’t catch his name.  Our encounter was as pleasant as it was brief.  With four miles under my belt, a cloudless sky and soaring heat, even at 7:00 a.m., my pace was quick.  None of my walking buddies were able to join me, so I was alone with my iced coffee, iHeart radio and the rhythm of the ocean.  I have a fairly hysterical internal conversation these days, and the banality of morning radio was precisely what I needed.

There was a steady crowd of walkers, from the very old to the brand-new-to-this-world being pushed by the young (to me, anyway) mothers creating an almost crowded sidewalk overlooking the beach.  I uttered and received back innumerable “good mornings” and yes, I saw “my friend, the man whose name I do not know.”  I arrived at a decision spot: keep walking straight or take the loop, adding probably a quarter of a mile to my stroll, when I saw another man whose name I do not know.  It was just the two of us and we caught eyes.  I removed one of my earphones, breaking my stride, making me aware of just how damn hot it was, and asked him about the feature you could not miss…his very long, very white beard.  “How long have you been growing it?” I asked.  Without so much as a beat, he responded, “Oh, this? (now two beats, three strokes of the beard) it’s been three or four days.”  I smiled. He smiled. Clearly, I was not the first person to ask.

We chatted briefly, including my telling him that his beard was a great conversation starter.  His reply: “Gee, most women wouldn’t agree” with a smile and more than a hint of loneliness.  I told him he has great eyes, which he does.  I did not tell him that he would be downright cute if he shaved it off.  Feeling brave, I told him that I am a writer (aside: I kind of feel like a fraud when I say that, if you want the truth) and that I love to write about people I meet along the beach, or, for that matter, anywhere else, and would he mind if we took a selfie.  His eyes and smiled widened as he agreed without hesitation.  As we snapped the photo, he told me that he is actually a really shy guy.  I would amend that: a shy guy with a sweet personality and, um, sweeter eyes.

We parted ways, and that was that.

I continued to walk, managing another three miles, congratulating myself on doing so in the blazing heat and got in my car where I guzzled the water that I had put over ice before I left the house (it was now just water) and checked my phone, having not looked at the picture.  I was not disappointed.


I pulled away from the beach and asked myself if I wanted to go home and shower, or just head directly to the supermarket.  I opted for the latter and, as I knew would happen, I felt the layer of sweat on my skin turn to a chill as I traveled the aisles of the store, trying like hell to remember if we needed milk, or if I had an ample supply of sea salt Melba Crackers.  (Try them.  You’re welcome.)  Wondering why there were so many damn people there in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, I took my place in what looked to be the least long register line.

As I educated myself on the escalating battle between Angelina and Jennifer, and the surefire way to rock a bikini (yeah, no) I heard the chatter of a toddler and his mom in the line at the register next to mine.  The mom, a pony tailed and adorably gap-toothed woman somewhere between mid 20s and early 30s held in her hand a box of animal crackers which had just been cracked open as, I would imagine, a reward to her son for not knocking over a display or running wild through the aisle or doing any of the myriad things that our children do to horrify, anger and embarrass us.  My mother did it.  I did it.  I highly recommend it.

And then, without warning, the store fills with the earth shattering cries of a certain little boy in a shopping cart.  His mother had done a horrible thing.  What was she thinking?  Yes, she ate one of the cookies.  Oh, wait, to be clear: it wasn’t just any cookie…it was the one, the only one, that he wanted.  And he was ripshit.  No, another cookie, molded into precisely the same animal as the one she had munched would definitely not suffice. Nor, she learned, would a different animal all together.  Or a cheese stick.  It was a rookie mistake that we have all made.  Never mess with a toddler and his snack.  Like never ever.

So, the remarkable part of this encounter was this: the mom, who I have personally deemed mom of the year, never lost her cool.  She was able, even in the throes of a real tantrum with real tears and real stares, appreciate how ridiculous and funny it was.  She didn’t get flustered or frustrated or impatient.  Her laugh was so honest and respectful of his upset.  We caught eyes.  She asked me if it gets better.  I was the old lady now, the one with experience with this kind of thing so I told her what I tell every new parent: the days last for-fucking-ever, but the years fly by.  We shared a smile.

I returned to my order, paid and looked back to see if she was still there.  I saw mom and kid walking out of the store in the direction opposite of the way I should go to pack up my car.  I paused briefly, considered the ice cream which I was sure was already melting,  turned my own cart around and chased (in the least creepy way possible) after her.  I caught up with them in the parking lot, the sun beating down on my sweaty body (remember those seven miles from earlier in the morning?) and said to her what I had said to my bearded buddy: “I am a writer and I love to write about people I meet” (this time the words slid out a little more naturally) and asked, for the second time this morning, if I could take a selfie of us.  She, too, was quick to agree.  We all smiled for the camera and off we went, but not before I got her email address so I could send her the link once I acted like a writer and wrote.


I finally made it home, assessed my sea glass haul for the day and showered.  I now smell way better, have food in the house and am smiling at today’s chance encounters.  This is fun…


p.s. In search of a clever artist who can make something out of all this damn sea glass.  I simply cannot stop collecting it.

Badassery, Sand and Sea Glass

It was my “after-walk”.

I’d met up with my friend, a contemporary with a lot on her plate, at 7:15 a.m., where, with iced coffees in hand, we briskly walked back and forth on the sidewalk spanning the length of the beach, a nice six-mile trek. Having burned some decent calories, we then went to the diner near where our cars were parked, and indulged in a King’s breakfast of omelets, toast, hash browns and more coffee.  With nearly two hours of chatting about our children, our parents, our past, current and future partners and even a little sex, drugs and rock, we parted ways with a sweaty hug and kiss.  We’ve done this walk many, many times, making for easy, honest and raw conversation.  Nothing is off limits and we never run out of things to discuss.  (aside: love you, Becky)

As I neared my car, I turned my gaze to the beach below where the tide had just gone out, leaving behind a treasure-trove of rocks, shells and sea glass.  I took the dozen or so stairs down to the sand, an empty coffee cup in hand, and began to walk off some of the calories I had just joyfully ingested. Alone on the beach, my pace was slow, my head was down and I was pushing away that pesky little voice reminding me of the long list of things I needed to accomplish in the day ahead.

“I’m right behind you”, I heard.

Realizing that she might startle me, an 80-year-old woman in brand new walking shoes approached with a tentative smile.  I was still raptly scanning the ground below when she made a comment as to how little sea glass there was this year.  I rattled and extended my cup, now nearly half full, and told her that she wasn’t finding any because I had it all.  Her face softened and she smiled more warmly.

We began to walk side by side, chatting intermittently and lightly, both of us paying attention to the artifacts littering the sand.  As if having been planted for just such an occasion, we each began to spot piece after piece after piece, each one leaving sand under our fingernails and little sparks of joy at having spotted them.

Not far down the beach was a tide pool, long and wide enough to preclude us from crossing over, forcing us to re-walk the ground we’d already covered.  I lost count as to how many times we retraced the same patch of sand, but it was many.  We paced back and forth, conversation never waning as we collected sea glass and sisterhood, despite our thirty-year age difference.

In those nearly 75 minutes of walking, talking and collecting, we learned a lot about one another. We talked about our children, and she, her grandchildren of which she has four.  We shared joys and challenges we’ve faced: marriages, divorces (mine – she’s been married for nearly 60 years), deaths, professional successes and disappointments, life events we’ve cherished and those that broke our hearts.  We laughed with the shared experiences of all mothers and wives and had tears come to our eyes while recounting sadnesses we’d endured.  While certainly a less saucy conversation than earlier in the morning, it was no less raw.

When it came time for me to part ways with this, the second badass woman of the morning, we, too, shared a sweaty hug and kiss, but not before I told her that I am a writer and would love to write about our time together.  Even better…can we take a selfie?  She happily obliged.


We spoke about a lot of private, personal and even scary things, the details of which are not my story to tell; the beach is kind of like Vegas – what happens there stays there.  However, I was touched by her honesty and honored to have earned her trust..

Thank you, lovely lady.  I know you appreciated my attentiveness.  What you might not know is how much I appreciated yours.  I’ll be looking for you on the beach…and will be sure to leave some sea glass for you.