I stayed in my van for a while, thinking these two looked as if they were confused. Had they taken a wrong turn? Did they have dementia? Were they just making their mental shopping lists while gazing into the thin air? Were they plotting against me? Did I need to call 911 for a medical emergency?
Finally I stepped outside. The woman looked my way. "Excuse me, we wanted to tell you something. Your brake light is out."
"The driver's side," the man said. I thanked them and told them I had no idea.
"Of course not," the woman said. "You couldn't see it."
They were lovely people and I was relieved they hadn't attempted to kidnap me. I was also sad that I had judged them based on what I considered to be their unusual behavior. They probably wondered why I was sitting in my van for several minutes, doing nothing but watching them out of the corner of my eye.
I saw them meandering around Target and later noticed them leaving the store without buying a thing. I've never done that at Target. Even so, my trip entailed returning some socks and buying waxed paper and gallon storage bags. I used a $5 gift card and had to pay 22 cents out of pocket, which was a Christmas miracle. Even the cashier said, "I've never spent that little here."
I left Target and drove to a shop where I could get my light fixed. I didn't want to do it myself, nor did I think Chris wanted to deal with it. The guy typed my last name into the computer.
"You haven't been here since 2013. What happened? We're under new management now."
I said we hadn't been back because we found another business that regularly services our vehicles. I explained that our old van constantly had work done there, but it was never fixed permanently. Finally we sold it.
"You did?" He sounded a little defensive.
I told him I was there to give them another try because I needed a new brake light. I didn't need someone to overhaul the engine.
"Before the new management came in, this place was in a bad spot for a few years. It wasn't good. One of the guys who used to work here is in jail now," he said. "All the guys are new here now except for one."
Gee, that made me feel better.
"We're working really hard to regain our reputation in the community," he said.
"If you can get my van done in the next fifteen minutes or so, I'll stay," I said. "Otherwise I'll come back tomorrow or go somewhere else. I have a long list of things to do today."
I sat down next to a woman who was eating a meal from Burger King. Her young daughter was wearing an owl hat and screaming every so often. Whenever she screamed, the mom said the child's full name, and the kid stopped screaming. It didn't bother me at all. The guy behind the counter was trying to talk the woman into getting new rotors, but she said she wasn't sinking money into the car for rotors right now. She had driven that car to Canada and if she had troubles with the rotors, she'd just steer towards the ditch to avoid an accident.
The conversation didn't make sense to me. He was putting pressure on her, which I didn't appreciate. If he was trying to restore the reputation of the place, I'm not sure that helped.
She told the story about getting hit on her way home from work by an old woman who ran a red light. She told the old woman that she was coming home from work, and next time if she was going to hit her, she should at least do it while she was on her way to work. Then she could have had some time off.
The bulb change was a quick fix. I had just enough time to drink two glasses of water from the Culligan water dispenser and check my email on my phone.
The guy behind the counter said he hoped I'd be back. I must not have looked impressed. He turned around, reached into a drawer, and handed me a coupon for a free oil change and tire rotation.
"Happy holidays," he said.
I paid, thanked him, and turned around to find my van running, parked directly outside the front door. It was parked as closely as one could get to the front door without actually being inside the waiting area. It was positioned so I could drive out of there without having to back out. I climbed into the van, which now smelled of gasoline and oil and toxic fumes. I put my foot on the brake, crossed my fingers that my brake light was now working, shifted it into drive, and got out of there.