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Shopping at my local health food store yesterday, I was in fine chit-chatting form. I bantered with a woman in the coffee section while she finished grinding her beans, bid her adieu, then stepped up to pour mine into the chute. Against all that I feel is right in the world, there were some whole beans left over from the woman’s batch poised to mix with mine.
“Hey!” I called out to the woman, who had taken a few steps toward the organic egg section. “You left some beans in here!”
This sweetly aging Dorothy Hamill of a woman twirled around and looked at me as if I’d caught her accidentally shoplifting. “I did!? I never even thought to look in there! I would have ground them if I’d known! But isn’t it unsanitary to stick your hand in there? Won’t you grind your fingers?”
I slipped into the policewoman outfit I always carry in my purse and said, “What kind of beans were you grinding, ma’am?”
“Flavored?” I suggested, trying to lure her towards a confession regarding the contamination of my own beans.
“No, just plain!”
I released my grip on her collar and set her gently back down on the hardwood floor. “I’ll let you off this time. But in the future you should always check the bean chute to make sure it’s empty for the next person.” I gave Dorothy my best good-cop grin. “Okay?”
“I didn’t even know you should check it!” she said, backing away. “Thank you so much for telling me!”
Having done my good deed for the day, I moved on to the produce section, where strawberries were on special. As usual, I gave them the sniff test: If they smelled like strawberries, I’d buy them, but if not, they weren’t ripe enough. I learned this trick from my old friend Flossie, who of course is no longer with me. I remember bringing her a big carton of strawberries one time: she thanked me, set them aside, and told me two weeks later not to bring her any more raw strawberries. I brought her a huge bag of Craisins one time: she thanked me, set them aside, and told me two weeks later to check with her first before bringing any more Craisins, because she already had enough.
On what was to become her deathbed, she thanked me again for the Christmas brunch I’d made for her at my house two weeks earlier, but said, “The egg burritos were too soggy. Next time, leave out the salsa.”
As I wandered around the health food store, Flossie came with me: There were the pork chops she was going to make for me but never did, there was the wine she drank two glasses of every night. There was that Dorothy lady again who I’d given a hard time, just like Flossie gave me as she raised me up.
Hard friends are good to find. Sometimes, the very best kind.