A lot of time people tell me that I should write a book. It is, in fact, one of my life dreams to be published and I oft consider what sort of literature I would want to pen. I ponder writing the Great American novel and imagine my name being held in the same esteem as Fitzgerald, Vonnegut and Seuss. However, anytime I try to write a novel, I struggle for characters, plots and story lines. I consider why I have no problem writing a voyeuristic view of my life to the online unknowns but cannot create an original idea. This past week, a chance encounter with a Salvation Army bell ringer at the grocery store gave me my answer: Life is better than fiction.
The following encounter is 100% true without any exaggeration. Folks, I can't make this stuff up.
Last Thursday I hit up my neighborhood grocery store for a few essentials to cook a delicious meal on my night off. As I was leaving, the Salvation Army bell ringer asked me to donate some change. I politely declined, and as I walked out my grocery pull cart got caught in a rail and dumped over. I took this as a sign of karma, and deposited a dollar in the swinging red bucket. The bell ringer noticed the purple ribbon that I wear on my jacket lapel and told me that she appreciated it as she recently beat breast cancer. I am not sure how she missed the memo that pink is the color for breast cancer awareness given that the city is lit up like Miss Piggy for the entire month of October, but I digress. Note: The purple ribbon I wear is for Domestic Abuse Awareness.
Anyway, this is the conversation that transpired. Again, I could not make this up if I tried.
Bell Ringer: "I appreciate that you wearing that ribbon to support breast cancer, I just had a cancer tumor removed in September."
Cari: "Congratulations on beating cancer, Kudos to you! I hope you are feeling better and recovering well."
BR: Picks up left bosom, swings it around slightly, "Oh yeah, it's better but still a little tender."
C: "Well, it sure beats the alternative. Congratulations, have a nice night."
BR: "Yah, I sure did better than my daughter, who had cervical cancer."
C: "I'm so sorry to hear that! I hope she is fighting it and healing well."
BR: "No, she died in August. She got it from that papillomavirus. Doctor said she got it from being promiscuous."
C: "The doctor said that to you?! That's terrible!"
BR: "Yeah, while she was on her deathbed, doctor said her cancer came from being promiscuous."
C: "Ma'am, I am so sorry that the doctor said that to you. But HPV is not something you get from being promiscuous. 80% of Americans have some strand of HPV. That was a horrible thing for the doctor to say to you, I'm so sorry she said that."
BR: "So you mean I can sue the hospital because she said that?"
C: "No.....No, that's not what I am saying. I am just saying that your daughter did not necessarily get the virus from being promiscuous. Perhaps she had a boyfriend that had it and they engaged in unprotected sex."
BR: "No, she was a ho and ran around with all sorts of guys. She really liked those brand name designer jeans, so she slept with all sorts of men to get them to buy them for her."
C: "Oh......Well, regular Pap tests can detect changes in the cervix before it becomes full-blown cancer, so perhaps as a way to honor your daughter you can encourage your friends and friends' daughters to get their annual exams. Planned Parenthood performs them, and Illinois offers coverage for the services if you don't have insurance."
BR: "Oh I know! That doctor told us that she could get treatment for it, but she did not want to have that because all of her hair would all fall out. But then I said, 'Latoya, what do you care, you be wearing a weave anyway.' But by that time, it was too late and had spread to the lung."
C: Still speechless.
C: "Well ma'am, it sounds like you have had quite the year, I hope that 2012 brings you more brightness. And I will be keeping your daughter in my heart.
BR: "Thank you sweetie, I be seein ya."
I do feel it is important to note that while this conversation is happening outside of the grocery story, people are coming and going, and the bell ringer is still ringing her bell and pausing to call out for donations. It was one of the strangest interactions that I have ever had.
I still don't know what I am going to take away from it, but I do know that I will be chatting up a lot more bell ringers this season.