I am cutting and pasting my column from last week for anyone who missed it in the newspaper. This was the original version which was about 400 words too many so what you’re seeeing here is not the same as the story that ran in the paper. Have at it.
Over the years, I have finally figured out that, like a woman’s work, a journalist’s work is never done. Therefore, I find myself constantly looking for interesting topics to feature in these pages so recently, when a Florist friend of a friend needed help delivering Mother’s Day flowers, I jumped at the chance. Right up my alley, I thought. I might meet some interesting people and an added bonus was the prospect of earning a few dollars.
The morning that I reported for work promised to be a beautiful day, good news since I had wondered how it would be to deliver flowers in the rain. It took me a while to find the shop, located on the northwest side of Indianapolis, both because of failing eyesight and because of my preternatural inclination to jump to conclusions. The machinations my mind goes through are strange. The shop’s address was on West 30th street which I read as 38th street. I never questioned it because 38th street is a much more commercial area than 30th and I assumed it would be there anyway. When I finally did find the shop, I was perturbed that it was where it was. It belonged on 38th street.
Controlled Chaos are the best words I can find to describe the activity going on when I arrived at 8:00 to begin my day. There were several ladies running to and fro clutching either flowers, cellophane, spray paint or fistfuls of flower orders. I never got an exact number of people because they wouldn’t hold still long enough to count them. It didn’t take long for one of the ladies to recognize that I wasn’t part of the floral arrangement process so she handed me a batch of order tickets and a printout from Yahoo maps.
My first delivery was a half dozen identical arrangements that I took to a pre-school on the far north side of Indianapolis. I supposed the flowers were for the teachers although the young lady at the front desk gave no indication as she silently signed the delivery ticket.
The next address took me into a neighborhood where the homes were literally as big as public libraries. There was no answer at the door of one of these palaces but the ticket indicated leaving the flowers on the back porch if no one was at home. My shoes sank into the plush, manicured lawn, leaving imprints in the dew laden grass as I walked around to the back; all the while figuring one of the neighbors was dialing 911. I made it without incident.
The next address was a few miles away in a neighborhood that was more in my comfort zone. Two middle age ladies walked out from behind the house, one carrying a rake with the other balancing a still potted tomato plant.
“Can we help you? The lady with the rake asked.
“Yes, Ma’am.” I said as congenially as possible. I didn’t want either of them thinking I was some sort of axe murderer. I’m not comfortable anymore walking into someone else’s space, especially with the way the world is today. “I have a flower delivery for Pearlene Jones.” I pulled an arrangement of red roses out of the truck.
The lady with the rake, I assumed she was Pearlene, cried out as she laid the rake down. “Oh my God. Flowers.” The genuine surprise and delight in her voice was infectious. She obviously had not been expecting this.
“Secret admirer?” I said, completing forgetting these were Mother’s day flowers.
“No.” She laughed. I know who he is. I just didn’t think… “ her voice tailed off. She hesitated for a moment before reaching for the flowers.
“Ohhh, I could just kiss you.” She said, taking the roses from my hand.
“Hold on, I didn’t buy them. I’m just the delivery man.”
Her face turned red. “I know. I’m just so pleased that he remembered. I can’t believe it.”
“Happy Mother’s Day” I said, backing away towards the open door of the truck.
Boy, there’s a story there, I thought and what with me being an observer of the Human condition, it frustrated me no end to realize I’d never know what it was. I almost climbed out of the truck to see if the lady might want to tell me the story but a couple of things stopped me. First, she didn’t know me from Adam so why would she be volunteering any personal information to me??? A good question, I thought, but then again, I see people post things on Facebook that I wouldn’t even tell in the confessional. The second thing was that I had already wasted enough time. I wasn’t collecting stories. I was delivering flowers. I checked the next ticket and loaded the address into the GPS.
Sheila, my GPS, took me to a place that turned out to be a very nice, with the emphasis on ‘very nice’, retirement community. I stopped at the desk where a lady sat, phone up to her ear, tapping the desk with a pencil. Someone obviously had her on hold. I showed her the ticket with a lady’s name on it and she turned to the computer monitor on her left where she fooled with the keyboard for a few seconds.
“You’ll find her on F wing. Apartment 414. Go down that hallway to the elevator.” She gestured in the general area of the lobby where 3 hallways met. “Fourth floor.”
The door marked 414 was covered with postcard-like pictures of vacation destinations.
“Who is it?” A tiny, female voice came from behind the door as I knocked.
“Flower delivery.” I said, as gently as possible. I didn’t want to scare her.
A small, slightly stooped lady opened the door just enough to look out and I held the flowers up for her to see.
She took the flowers without much enthusiasm. “My son,” she said. “Actually, He’s not really my son, you know, but I always considered him to be.He was my son-in-law for a very long time but he lives in Arizona now.”
I nodded my head as she went on, pointing to a picture of Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee. “He used to take me there once in a while.”
“Yes, but it’s been some time. I’m glad he sent the flowers. I know he’s still alright when he does that.“
She began to tell me about being from New York, pointing to pictures as she talked. She wanted to talk and I wanted to listen but I had to get going; fresh flowers in a hot truck is not a good thing so I excused myself.
Three stops later, the delivery went to an assisted living facility in another upscale neighborhood. I walked up to the door toting a large floral arrangement tucked into the curve of my left arm. ‘This thing must have cost a hundred dollars,’ I thought, even though I really had no idea. ‘Whatever you do, don’t drop it.’
Three elderly gentlemen sat on a park bench by the front door, an assortment of canes and a walker in front of them.
“Just push that button right there.” One of the neatly dressed men said. “The door will open right up.”
“Well, thanks.” I said. “Maybe you folks ought to ride along and help me deliver these things.”
“You don’t know how much we’d like too.” He told me. “You just don’t know.”
No, I didn’t and I hope I don’t ever have to find out.
It was late when I got back to the flower shop. I don’t yet know yet how much money I made. The florist was much too busy on Saturday evening to take time to pay me. We’re going to ‘settle up’ tomorrow afternoon but whatever it is, the lessons I learned on that job will make it enough.