What In Carnation!

We ain’t in River City and I certainly ain’t Harold, but we got trouble … right here. With a capital “T”. Granted, I don’t own the rights to the song or the musical itself (disclaimer out of the way), however, permission to use every synonym associated with the 18th century word tarnation is hereby assigned. Trouble, as well sung in the musical as it is, isn’t close to filling the lead role, although it is in the supporting cast of synonymous players.

Shall I begin with censure, criticism, or denunciation? Perhaps castigation is best? Maybe bewilderment or anger best describes your mood when tarnating someone – if that’s even a thing. Two centuries ago, damnation – the origin of this word under examination – meant an eternity of fire and misery. Today? Just two weeks in isolation with someone who won’t shut up about their position opposite yours on masking, politics, or salt on fruit.

I settled on “Oh, pfft … what the … dagnabit … What in carnation!” when I spied what I spied.

Walking out of a big box store the other morning, what do I see? …

One solitary stem-a-sight-a-licious on the hot pavement. Who in tarnation leaves one beautiful red flower behind and drives off? “Who?” I write. WHO? What in carnation is this world coming to?

Certainly … hopefully … this act of abandoning wasn’t intentional (for to leave such a beauty behind on purpose would be upsetting to even the least of the forbearing, floral gods). Imagined said customer in all likelihood possessed a bouquet of bounteous beauties and was in too much of a hurry to arrive at his/her next port of call. Out of hands this one dropped gently to the ground.

Perhaps even more romantic is the notion of one noticing my slightly greasy, flavorful white Ford van with cart in tow exhaustively exhaling next to gravel-stricken yellow painted lines on over-heated pavement. I being not the only one exiting my vehicle overheated at the notion of masking once again to enter another store once again … this time to momentarily pass an underpaid nice young security lady at the door handing out single-use masks and sanitizer wipes to those so inclined to receive these gifts of Covid-19 invisibility. I declined with whispers behind my cute cloth Dalmatian mask. Back to my fantasy…

One saw this scent-of-a-van and, upon my absence, placed one fine flower next to it as one would gently settle a rose on the casket of a lost loved lover. Thinking, “Oh, I must meet this person to whom this vehicle belongs. I see a sign on the cart, ‘Doug’s Dawgs’ … He must, must be inside. I shall not wait because I am in a hurry. Maybe some day … someday…”, my imaginary friend walked away leaving only a lonely stemmed memory behind.

There was space in my life for a 10 inches long gift to present itself at my feet. Where it came from is known: a big box store full of masked, slightly confused, doing the best-we-can, cart pushing, life-getting through extended neighbors of mine. How it arrived? This is a mystery I am entirely comfortable not knowing. For someone like me who needs to ask why? and have an answer all the freakin’ time, this is off my-OCD game a bit … however, knowing I’ll never be close to the truth, I can let it go.

We still have trouble my friends. Right here in (any) city, don’t we! Ugh. That very day, I ambled out of the store with a cart full of goods not knowing – until hours later – that the very item I went in to buy was missing. I simply forgot to buy it … and needed it for my business. The day before some of my product spoiled without any chance of replacing … and had a large order including that product I couldn’t fulfill. I’ve dropped customers orders on the ground this week, handed out wrong change/under-charged folks, made wrong sandwiches with incorrect toppings, and … my back hurts more than normal. It’s been a week.

What in Carnation is happening! We’ve been asking this since Mid-March, right? All of us.

This flower is currently on the dashboard of my overcrowded van. It rests in an overworked, reliable, friendly automobile as a reminder to those – including me – who don’t take enough time to do the same during these troubling times. At some settled time, this flower will fade out and lose color, but not its significance. The consequence of seeing it lay at my feet that day does not dim with the passage of time, however, as each opportunity to be happy in the midst of trouble is a flower in and of itself.

We’re going to be at this virus-thing for a while, it seems. I’m no doctor, although I could be, in some imaginary t.v. afternoon soap opera universe, be ascribed the moniker “Dr. Doug” (but, I digress …), so, try to find a small flower at your feet that a stranger leaves for you. A smile. Spare change for a free cup of coffee. A $5 lottery ticket. Time away for a few minutes you wouldn’t normally get. I don’t know what it’ll be. Only the perky little parking lots in life will be able to provide the answers for you. There’s something out there that will make perfect scents for you, I’m sure.

I am willing to keep looking myself. On stage with Harold Hill I’m not. Just a simple guy with simple ideas tripping over little flowers left behind by who-knows bodies. I am aware that I must continue forward living life the best I know how in the midst of this goofy time – as all of us must. Covid be damned … err … Darnation, anyway!

Specifically, I am looking forward to change – especially the correct amount in return to my customers as I hand over the proper sandwiches with the exact toppings ordered, not dropped on the ground (which I wouldn’t serve anyway, just to clarify), and all without grimacing and moaning quietly behind my face covering due to my achy-breaky back. That is, if I remembered to pick up what I needed in the first place.

Back to the store again sometime soon. Say, “Hi!” if you see me there. I’ll be the one handing out invisible carnations disguised as a smile behind my mask. We’re all on stage together. It certainly isn’t River City, but it’s home.

Find your flowers.

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