Friday, December 6, 2013

Ringing Bells


In a series of cold days, this was probably a warm spell. I didn’t have to wear a hat. 

My father had volunteered himself and a random family member to ring the bell for the Salvation Army outside the local Wal-Mart, a small kindness -- if you could even call it that; perhaps more along the lines of “not too much of an inconvenience”. I was the random family member.

When we started ringing the bells -- terrible, annoying things, really -- it was sunny and fairly warm for late November. Two years prior, my father and I were ringing in the dark, stamping our feet and breathing condensation into wool scarves. The Penn State game against Wisconsin had been on the radio and we listened as Bill Bradley limped the team to the end. Some people like to act like work is some sort of immortal creation, both to yourself and the communities you work in. That season for the local area had been a testament to that fallacy. 

Anyway, the community had moved on and the sun was shining and a girls softball team from the neighboring town was attempting to raise funds a few meters away from our red bucket. They weren’t very successful as town rivalries run deep, something fathers and mothers with ‘just the most special children’ tend to forget. They were selling Krispy Kremes, which are fuckin’ gross. A father of a team member was heckling the locals, trying to get them to buy some donuts. There’s something about overweight men in sweats, heckling shoppers, that makes people not want to buy donuts. I’m not sure if I can put my finger on it.


Sometime in between where I could no longer hear myself think and when the fat, donut selling, man became demoralized, a black Chevy Astro van, circa ’95 so you’re probably familiar with the model, pulled up in the yellow warning paint of the Wal-Mart and was put into park. The paint on the hood was corroded as well as around the tires, so it sort of looked like the sort of vehicle that would appear in The Expendables other than the handicapped tag above the dash. A slight, orange camo-wearing guy, graying and sprite with a pornstar mustache(?), popped out of the drivers side of the car and busily hurried inside. A minute later and half-a-dozen, “Have a Merry Christmas” calls to donors from my father and I, he came back out riding a motorized scooter designated for handicaps. He did so nonchalantly; he had done it a thousand times. He parked it just outside of the passenger door of the Astro van. The passenger door opened and a feminine blob slid off the passenger seat, took two dainty steps, and slid its way onto the motorized scooter. The scooter, not aware of it’s passenger, zipped off into the store. The man got back into the vehicle and pulled into a handicapped spot where he sat and silently waited.


Sometime later and after a few breaks to read the instructions on the back of the sign such as:




The van moved.

It turned on, backed up, and returned to it’s spot in the yellow paint. The sprite, camouflaged man hopped out and opened his phone. I was bit busy at this point, ringing the bell and telling, “Merry Christmas,” to donors, to discern what he was doing or saying. But in less than a minute, the blob glided out of the automatic doors on her scooter, with the basket on the scooter filled above the brim, and towing, with one arm,  a cart full of frozen pizza, tomatoes, salad, milk, cereal, bread, bananas, Diet Coke, jelly, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, and who knows what else -- maybe there were some Christmas presents hidden in there. A caravan, in a modern sense. The cart zipped around to the back of the van and the couple(?) began to load the groceries into the vehicle. The feminine blob hacked and coughed as the cold had begun to set in as the sun retreated behind a cloud and the air was dry. The scooter drove around to the passenger side after the loaded had ended, and the woman loaded herself into the passenger side, with a hephephuuuuuuurrrrrruuuuuuuupppppp and she was in. The man got into the drivers side and drove off. 

The scooter sat abandoned. 

The lousy donut salesman, with nothing better to do, walked over to the scooter, hopped on and drove it inside. 

We finished up our shift by taking off the aprons and handing the bells to the new ringers. My father bought a dozen donuts from the girls softball team because he felt bad. 

Hard work doesn’t always create great things. Often it creates very normal things, like having a bit of food for the coming week.

Sometimes people like to act like their hard work sets them apart but, since a lot of people work very hard, it’s much more likely that ideas and ideals do that.

And ideas and ideals are bullshit. 

You are perhaps set apart by bullshit.

You should be proud.