People are strange
Local writer considers difference between normal and not
Heartthrob Johnny Depp once said that people think he makes strange choices, but they’re not strange for him.
I thought of Johnny last week in downtown Sacramento. It was still dark on a cold morning. The cement shimmered under streetlights from a short rain. As I approached Starbucks, my heel wobbled over a small mound. Just then a voice rang out: “That may be yours.” It was the homeless man who hangs around outside the coffee shop.
Upon inspection, the article I trampled appeared to be a damp sock turned inside out. Not wishing to linger and unable to imagine it might be mine, I ignored it and entered Starbucks.
Inside, my standard ritual ensued: get coffee, stuff the change in my side cords pocket, settle into a chair, scour the headlines, gather my totes. The usual people were present, the woman reading, the man who seldom speaks and one or two others.
Outside I dashed to the other street side to avoid the weird homeless guy. As naturalist Loren Eiseley once observed, “Like the herd animals we are, we sniff warily at the strange one among us.” I gave my departure no more thought, and as always, marched to the office compiling a mental checklist of the tasks that awaited me at work.
When I entered my building, half-dozen security guards huddled as they reported for duty. One called across the floor, “Ma’am, you have something hanging from the bottom of your pants.”
At first it looked like a sock, but as I pulled, more of it spilled down my pant, until the leg of a pantyhose dangled exposed. I yanked, but the far end seemed trapped under my clothes. After ducking into the restroom, I realized that the other foot of the panty hose, with a sock jammed inside, lay wedged in my crotch.
This discovery brought back the sighting on the sidewalk. Perhaps the sock on the cement was the mate to the hostage in my pants. Could I have been so careless when dressing this morning that I failed to notice a pair of pantyhose, socks still attached, lodged inside my cords from the last time I wore them?
I raced outside, traversing all roads to Starbucks. Would the odd man still be present? I comforted myself with author Dave Eggers’ statement: “People are strange, but more than that, they’re good. They’re good first, then strange.”
As I approached, the streetlight cast a glow on the man. Nearby lay the sock. At least he would be the only witness to this peculiar reclamation. I swooped down and upon rescuing the article muttered, “It’s mine, after all.” He roared and I too laughed, darting into the crosswalk.
As the shared chuckle echoed in my head, it struck me that perhaps he was more normal that I had thought. Maybe I was the curious one for returning to scavenge a wet sock after passing earlier, towing a flopping pair of pantyhose.
Social commentator Warren Ellis once proclaimed, “It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way.” Yes, and let’s just not look too closely at who’s strange and who isn’t, for we may be surprised.