(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is the next part of what will be a continuing series: “Life After Work(ing).”)
I’m a people watcher, always have been, always will be. Maybe it’s from the days of my childhood when I was the youngest of six children and I always got stuck at the end of the table or at the end of the row. Or, worse yet, I was the one straddling the leg of that big old wooden picnic table. Yeah, you can relate.
As my wife about this. No longer do I have to remind her that when we got to a restaurant or the club that I have to be facing the door so I can see who’s coming and going. I don’t know why. Very seldom do we see people we know unless we’re show minimal creativity and go to Mc … no, Wendy’s or a local favorite, Russ’.
That’s why, after volunteering five or six times as a Wayfinder for the annual late-summer show in Grand Rapids called “ArtPrize,” I signed up again. But I’m not just going to be wearing that “Ask Me” vest that Wayfinders wear. One day I’m going to do hospitality at The Hub so I can ask people how they are doing and engage in conversation, and another day I’ve signed up for “Access Art.” THAT I’m going to have to look up so I don’t go in blind. For more information, go to artprize.org because I’m too lazy to try to explain it.
All this is leading to an experience I had on Thursday when I was asked to help out a guy named Tim in the Information Booth on one of the bridges in downtown Grand Rapids.
It all began rather harmlessly when this elderly woman with a walker asked: “You guys answer questions, right?” Of course, we answered “yes.” So she said, “Where can I get a wheelchair? I’m tired of walking.” Our booth was maybe a hundred yards from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, so we suggested they might be able to help. Then she said something about not feeling like walking that far. Then she said something about “have you ever met someone who saw an alien?” Then I said something stupid like “no, but I saw a UFO once.” I heard Tim gasp. Then I saw this little lady lock the brakes on her walker, flop the seat down and say, “Let’s talk.”
She said her name was Mack. Or Mac. Not really sure, but I remember she was wearing a denim jacket, a funky hat (something like I’ve seen on Tim Conway during a Carol Burnett Show sketch), and she talked a lot. She told me how these aliens were floating just outside her third-floor apartment balcony, how they arrived their after floating out of the mist that surrounded a grove of pine trees nearby, how they stared at her for a couple of minutes, then slowy turned away and zipped back into the mist. There were three of them, Mack (or Mac) said. One appeared taller and she viewed him as “the leader.” One was a little shorter than the leader (the “follower?” I thought) and another was much shorter, perhaps an offspring. Mac (or Mack) and the aliens stared at each other for most of the time they hovered there. She said she didn’t dare make any sudden moves, like reaching for a camera (duh) for fear that they would either disappear forever (which they apparently have) or else they would shoot her in fear.
Mack (or Mac) pulled a postcard-sized piece of paper out of her purse, conveniently remembering that she drew a smaller scale image of the poster she drew of the aliens that is at her different apartment. Apparently she moved because she had issues with the landlord at the aliens’ apartment. I almost laughed out loud when Tim, the other guy who was with me in the information booth, let loose with a quiet, but audible snort. Mac (or Mack) described the photo to me, though I was quite capable myself of seeing what was on it. The background was a deep blue, “a blue I had never before seen,” my guest explained, and there appeared to be a sort of archway over the scene … like a rainbow, but without the colors. Then there were some shadowy figures in the foreground, dark, like silhouettes on a shade (I almost started humming a Herman’s Hermits tune here). She described their appearance to me, which was good because I really could not see on her picture what she was describing to me in her mind.
Then Mac (or Mack) realized it was getting close to 6 p.m. and she wanted to head over to Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids because one of the local TV stations is broadcasting all of its news and local shows from there during our annual festival called ArtPrize. (Look it up, I’m still too lazy to describe it.) Seems Mack (Mac?) has the hots for Kyle Underwood, one of our local meterologists. When my new friend (Tim’s words, not mine) left, I quickly texted one of the female meterologists there that I know, telling her that if Kyle was on the set to “run fast and run far.” When I explained why, Ellen Bacca said, “Oh, if someone is going to bug Kyle, we’ll be happy to watch.”
Anyway, the rest of my ArtPrize day was uneventful — hell, what could top THAT? — and when my shift was over, I headed back to the volunteer lounge. Apparently, Tim was still entertained by what he had seen as he shared our story with everyone who was up there. Yes, there was comments and jokes about Mack/Mac and aliens; luckily, I’m easy to get along with.
Unfortunately, Mack stole 30 minutes of my time when I could have been helping people find their bearings in downtown Grand Rapids. Maybe on my death bed, the doctors will find an extra 30 minutes of oxygen for me before I die.
Oh, by the way, I told Mack if she DID enter her aliens’ poster in ArtPrize next year, I would vote for her. I said nothing about finding her and looking at it, but I did promise her a vote.
Now, if only I could find out what she had been smoking ………