Looking for some kindness while out of town

We walked in the front door of the little shop. A guy in a giant pickup truck had just honked his horn and flipped us the bird. We looked around. We weren’t blocking traffic or impeding his way at all, but he had deliberately slowed down before honking and flipping.

We looked around the little shop. There was a woman in a puffy jacket and beanie emblazoned with a 1776 patch rummaging through some of the items.

“I am fine, thanks for asking,” she said to someone, somewhere.

Only a moment later did it occur to us that she was speaking to us. The shopkeeper eventually appeared.

“Hi there, how are you guys?”

“We are fine, thank you. And you?” I responded.

The woman rummaging looked up at that, shook her head and kept right on rummaging.

“Something weird just happened,” said my companion. “Some guy just honked his horn and flipped us off out front.”

“Are you from California?” she asked.

“I am,” I said.

“But he lives right down the road,” I added, gesturing at my companion.

The rummaging woman stopped rummaging, guffawed and walked out the door. I am not sure she slammed it, but it certainly seemed that way.

“Do you have California plates on the car?”

I nodded.

“That happens sometimes.”


“Yep. I live just over the state line. I have lived here all my life. I run a business here that employs a dozen local people, but because of my license plate, someone does the same thing almost every other day,” she said.

I didn’t know what to say, although it shouldn’t have surprised me. On a recent trip to Europe, any American I ran into, who found out that I lived in the Bay Area, asked me if I was leaving.

“It’s such a disaster there,” they all said.

I told them all that California is an enormous state with an enormous population. To say it’s a disaster because some areas are struggling is quite an overstatement.

“We see it on the news,” they would say.

“But I actually live there,” I would respond.

Then, they would shake their heads as if I were delusional.

We wandered down the one street of the town and decided to get something to eat. It was bitterly cold, so cold that my Bay Area winter jacket (a fleece) wasn’t really cutting it.

We stopped into one of the few open shops that had a sign that read “Hot fudge and deli.” We looked first at the hot fudge lining the cases.

“Can we get a sandwich? And then get some fudge?” asked my companion.

“The deli is closed today,” the young woman behind the counter replied.

“Is there a place to get a sandwich around here? Most of the shops are closed.”

She pointed down the way we had come. “There’s a place there that serves pizza by the slice.”

“We will be back,” I said.

The girl just nodded. As we were walking out the door, my companion had a realization.

“Just out of curiosity,” he said. “What time do you close?”

“Five o’clock,” she said.

We both looked at our phones — 3:30 p.m. We easily had time to walk the one block, get a piece of pizza, and then come back for dessert.

“Do you think you guys will be closing early?” my alert companion asked.


“OK, we will be back after we eat.”

We walked down the street to the pizza place she had suggested. It was closed. We walked across the street to a saloon. They were open, but all they had were hotdogs on a heated roller machine. I hadn’t had one of those in about 10 years. We got two, and two beers. The bartender had smiled at us, but that is not to say he was pleasant, perfunctory at best, and we were the only two people in the saloon, which strongly touted a Mark Twain connection.

Ten minutes later, we headed back for the fudge. We walked up to the door and pulled on the door handle. It was locked. We looked at our watches — 4:15 p.m. We looked at the hours of operation sign — 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We looked in the window at the young woman we had just talked to behind the counter.

“What’s up?” We both raised our hands.

She looked at us, shrugged and just walked away.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• We are still all Americans, aren’t we? Asking for a friend.

• Borders are made by people, and by governments, not by nature. And if you aren’t careful, you might just take those borders with you wherever you go.

• “’Bridgeport?’ said I. ‘Camelot,’ said he,” Mark Twain from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”

• Five hours later, I remembered exactly why I had stopped eating roller machine hotdogs in the first place.