My column on gypsies came about because my wife and I have talked at some length abut holding a tag sale in our barn but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of a bunch of strangers prowling aroud looking at my stuff, taking note of my lawnmower, my air compressor, our freezer full of blackberries, my stack of New Yorker magazines; all things that are valuable to someone. I am putting it in here as it appeared in the newspaper but there were several earlier drafts that I was afraid would not get by my editors. I’m not sticking any of them in here although I suppose a blog is the best place to say what you mean within limits. Anyway, have at it.
GYPSIES AND THE LIKE.
Some years ago, our neighbors down the road brought in a company from the city to pave their gravel driveway. Their crew arrived early in the morning as I was leaving for work and when I arrived home that evening, they were gone and our neighbors, Earl and Earlene, had a beautiful new driveway. I thought nothing of it until a few days later, Earl’s storage barn was broken into during the day when everyone was at work and the thieves made off with everything in it.
Even though there was no evidence, I quickly became convinced that the burglars had come from the strangers on the paving crew, guessing that, in addition to paving Earl’s driveway, they had also spent the day casing the neighborhood. From the days when I was growing up in a small town where the car keys were always in the ignition and none of the doors in our house had locks (Note 1), I have never been comfortable with strangers in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, much of this attitude can be laid at the feet of my sainted mother who, with one exception, was the most trusting soul in the world.
That one exception had to do with strangers. Whenever the Carnival came to town, my mom went on a Stage Four Red Alert, beginning with an alteration of our bed time routine. Because there was no lock on the door, she would stick the dull blade of a table knife in the space between the front door trim and the plaster allowing the protruding knife handle to fortify the door against unlawful entry.
When the gypsies set up camp in the town park in preparation for peddling their patent medicine, she became even more vigilant, securing the back door with the same table knife arrangement. I am guessing, from this activity, that she was more leery of the gypsies than she was of the carnival workers. To be fair, there were never any incidents of an unlawful nature when these folks came around but you have to understand that my mother, bless her little heart, grew up in an earlier, bucolic era where any strangers in town were looked at with an air of askance.
My mom passed away many years ago but I believe her fear of strangers lives on in a warped sort of way. Besides the mountains of privacy forms we receive almost daily from our doctors and our banks, there are more and more signs of her influence every day.
This morning, I went to my computer to check out the daily glut of important e-mails. The first missive was a notice from the library that a book I had requested was now available and would be on the hold shelf for me to pick up. The e-mail also carried this warning:
“Please note – To protect your privacy your name will not be found on materials being held for pick up. The hold shelf will be organized by Hold ID. Your Hold ID is xxx3740.”
I had to smile. The library’s note is not exactly a table knife securing the door but I can still rest easy. Even if there were a dozen carnivals in the area, I know my library book is safe from the medicine hawking gypsies, the Ferris wheel operator and the tattooed guy on the midway imploring me to ‘knock down the milk bottles and win your sweetheart a kewpie doll’. (Note 2).
My mom would be proud. (Note 3)
Note 1: I suppose if you wanted to get technical, the outhouse had a rotating wooden lever that was used to secure the door but that was about it for locks in our neighborhood.
Note 2: I don’t mean to denigrate carnival workers . I could have ended up being a carnival worker myself, having fallen in love at 12 years old with the 20 something girl who operated the tilt-a-whirl. I was fascinated by the tattoo on her arm. If it will make any offended carnival workers feel better, I can tell you that one of my better friends is a carnival worker. She mans the elephant ear booth in the midway’s food tent. I don’t know that she has a tattoo but if she does, it’s not readily apparent.
Note 3: I consider my job here is to entertain so you will seldom find anything in this space that is controversial but I have something I have to say on a subject that is bothering me. My mother would not be proud of the U. S. Olympic athlete uniforms being made in China. As far as that goes, I cannot imagine any member of the previous generation allowing something like that to happen. Surely to God this country has the wherewithal to manufacture 596 American made uniforms without severe damage to their clothing budget. I am not one of the news media’s enlightened individuals who understands the workings of the world economy but I can say that this action makes me sick to my stomach. Shame on the person or persons who did this. It may be too late for this year’s event but if it happens again, our leaders should be called to task.