Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ode to The Produce Stand Man

Note: I lied. There is no ode anywhere in this post. I just like the way the title sounded, and I'm not really a poet. But if you happen to write one, please let me know.

Back in May, I noticed a new structure in the local mud-pit beside my favorite cheap gas station (descriptively named the "Alabama Pit Stop"). The gas station itself is a piece of wonder - it's built from wood that looks like it might have originally been planks of the Mayflower, the owner speaks English in a perfumed haze that drugs you enough to make you think you understand it, and his car is always parked RIGHT IN FRONT of the door, blocking the best spots. But he's got the cheapest gas. And more shiny knick-knacks than you want to look at, except that you can't help it because they're all piled up with the energy pills by the register. And for a while, he had a gambling operation going on inside. He had one of those machines that you drop coins into and hope they land just right on the shelf that goes back and forth so that money will fall off of it. I live in such a hotbed of excitement that I saw lines form for this machine at least twice. And the lines only had about 2 people in them. But still - that's half the population of this side of town. The machine disappeared about 8 months ago, and a new rack of Zippo lighters appeared.

Anyway, back in May, some elderly farmer-type rolled a produce stand into a corner of the parking-lot/mud-slide and opened for business. He had watermelons, tomatoes and apples in May. Which I didn't question, because they tasted awesome - and they were only a 1/2 mile from my house. At the time, the nearest farmer's market was about 40 minutes away. The best friend thought it a little odd, but I assured myself - and her - that he must have a greenhouse somewhere, because now! I had fresh produce on my way home from work! And I started to make plans. Apple pies! Tomato sauce! Watermelon pickles! There was just one problem...

Produce Stand Man was hardly ever open. I get home from work anywhere between 4 and 7 PM, and I only saw him at his stand about once every week. On Saturdays, he was there all day. Well, he was inside the stand. He was usually asleep. The very first time I visited was on a Saturday, around 2 PM. He was asleep. I stood and looked over everything for a minute, but all I really wanted was a basket of tomatoes. I cleared my throat, but the sound of his fan must have covered that. I didn't REALLY want to wake him. He's a farmer, so he must be up before dawn every day, busting his butt to get me the fresh stuff, right? After looking at The Professor waiting in the car a couple of times, I slipped the $2 for the basket of tomatoes underneath his arm so it wouldn't blow away and then hopped back in the car.

I happened to look out of our back window as we started to pull out of the parking lot. When I closed the car door, his internal alarm system must have translated the sound into a get-away car alarm, because he hopped out of the back of his stand, waving his arms around and yelling. And I immediately felt guilty for making this man think he was getting robbed. How do you say "look in the puddle of drool" under your chin before you jump to conclusions" nicely?

I showed him the money, he apologized for thinking a "lovely young thing" like me could be a criminal, and I went on my way. I would go back to visit every couple of weeks. Sometimes he was asleep. Sometimes the entire stand was full of produce with no farmer around to take the money, so I had to decide between not getting any, and trying to find somewhere to put the money for what I had taken without it getting blown across the road. Occasionally, he was actually in the stand AND awake. Sometimes he gave me a free bell pepper, or a couple of free tomatoes, or an apple.

And then all of a sudden, as I was driving home last week, I saw that his ENTIRE produce stand was gone. He took all those lovely vegetables away with him. I felt cheated. I mean, couldn't he at least have put up a "closing soon" sign so that I would now that our time together was almost over? Couldn't he have let me down easy? I'd have appreciated some semblance of an excuse. I bet he found a better mud-pit/parking-lot to deal from, and now he's selling to some other red-head. Typical man to get swayed be every redhead that crosses his path.

Or maybe he decided that being a senile narcoleptic wasn't conducive to making money from a fresh produce stand?


Ember Case said...

Is there a "Recently Deported" list posted anywhere?

Hey, I know where you can get some great produce!

anaj said...

Let's open a produce stand! I'm an excellent napper, you're not all there, and I have some shriveled eggplant that I'm willing to let go at a cut rate price!