Paint me ungrouchy

I was on the last day of a 13-day work week, tired, grouchy and woeful; basically a zombie in uniform.  I stopped at the convenience store on my lunch break, silently praying that no one would try to engage in conversation or thank me for my service.  As I came out, I noticed a guy sitting on an overturned bucket  in the handicapped parking space with his back to the store.  My first thought was, “Why’s this dude chillin’ on a bucket in the parking lot?”  It doesn’t take much to catch  my interest, especially when I’m in zombie mode. I tend to find curiosity in things that most consider mundane.  So me and my nosy self couldn’t resist walking over to check it out, forgetting my former plan for avoidance of human interaction.  Bucket man appeared to be painting  the lines of the parking space.  Upon closer inspection, however, I saw he wasn’t painting the line, but the handicapped symbol. He didn’t hear  me walk up and was cursing under his breath.

“Oh, sorry,”  he said, looking up.  Dressed in a white t-shirt and khaki work pants, he was youngish, maybe in his 20s just a few years older than my own son, with a few days worth of scruff, a shaved head and small gold stud in his left ear.  He looked aggravated.

“Wow, is that how those symbols are done?” I asked in amazement, leaning over, all in his work space.

“Yeah, there’s usually a stencil we use but they didn’t have one.”  He swatted at a pair of love bugs as he studied me, probably wondering what my deal was.

“Sooo you’re doing it all by  hand?” I asked increduously.

“Yeah,” he shrugged as it to suggest it was no big deal, but he also smiled, squinting against the sun.  He shifted on his bucket seat and became more animated. “The lines were already there; I’m just going over them.”  He was part of creating  a universally known symbol.  How could he downplay such a role?  I immediately recalled a quote that I had seen some time ago that stuck with me:  “Be nice to everyone, for you do not know what battles they are facing.”     Maybe he wanted to be somewhere else on a Sunday.  Maybe he hated this job, couldn’t stand his boss or didn’t have the qualifications to do anything else and had a family to support. Or maybe he was just aggravated about the lack of stencil.

“That is amazing! I have new respect for those parking symbols now!” I exclaimed.  He seemed embarrassed and just laughed, then swatted at another pair of mating insects.

“At least the weather’s nice and you get to be out in it. I’ve gotta go back to my job inside.”

He looked around, nodded and smiled. “Yeah, that’s true. I’m grateful for the nice weather.”

“Well have a great day,” I offered up, walking back to my car.

“Thanks, you too.”

Funny, but I entered my vehicle in  much better spirits than I had exited it.  As I drove away, I peeked in the rear view mirror.  Bucket man was still smiling, back at his painting with no stencil. I hoped my interest had given him a reprieve from whatever battle he was facing, even if only in the smallest way. He sure gave this Soldier zombie a bit of unexpected cheer for the battle of my own.


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