Friday, September 29, 2006

Sundays with Joe

As always, I find myself fascinated by how life’s seemingly inconsequential threads silently weave themselves together to bestow a sense of meaning to those willing to seek it. While I was writing about my love for the movie 84 Charing Cross Road and bemoaning my neurotic perfectionism, a new piece of cloth was being woven in the background. It’s a bright, crazy explosion of color– orange and purple I think – one of those open weave sort of things where the threads run downhill and end up with a crooked fringe on all four sides. Every time I think about it it makes me laugh, primarily because it’s bright enough to send distress signals to the moon yet I only now realized it for what it is.

What it is is this – an unexpected blessing and proof positive that God has a sense of humor. The British bookseller on Charing Cross Road had his eccentric customer, Helen Hanff, and Mitch Albom had his Tuesdays With Morrie, but neither one of them had anything on me. Lucky me, I’m a bookseller who has Sundays With Joe.

Joe is a customer who came into my life via Alibris, which is joke in itself since at the time Alibris was the one online book service that worked the hardest to keep the gap between customer and bookseller wider than the Mississippi River after a monsoon. But none of their technological tomfoolery stopped Joe -- he plowed right in and found me anyhow. The big question is why he hung around. I mean all I ever did was sell him a book -- a nice book and wrapped rather prettily too -- but, even so, it’s hardly enough to make me worthy of my own private brass band. And yet a brass band is what I got. Joe laughs at my jokes, talks me out of the trees when I get hysterical, teaches me things I don’t know, and reassures me that he never says anything bad about me. It doesn’t get much better than that, especially considering the fact that he was building radios back when the only thing I was building involved alphabet blocks.

Currently he’s instructing me in the intricacies of the Fibonacci sequence. Laugh, but this is much harder than it seems, as I am profoundly mathematically challenged, though Joe won’t brook that excuse for a nanosecond.

“Come on Tess, you have to do this! I know it's hard, but the more you look, the easier it gets. Look again! It builds CHARACTER.”

This came after I whined about last week’s lesson which required the transmission of a large color photo of the heart of a flower in which all the tight little yellow seed pod things swirled in two different directions. My assignment was to count the rows of seed pod things going each way. Think it’s easy? Well, think again, as the heart of a flower truly examined not only crosses your eyes, but sends them, boinging ( yes, boinging) out of their sockets. My answer was twelve each way, but I doubt I’m right, and even if I am, I haven’t a clue what it has to do with adding sequential numbers together to arrive at the next number in the sequence. I’m sure I’ll find out come Sunday morning though

Which brings me to the cool part of the story. All this fun stuff is conducted in its near entirety on Sunday mornings, usually before the sun crawls across the horizon. Before most people are even up, much less caffeinated, heavy discussions are being conducted across cyberspace about such things as loons, the game 25 Words Or Less, the benefits of walking, basketball versus football, perfectionism, nuns, movie dialogue and, of course, the Fibonacci sequence.

Why this cloth is being woven in the background of my life I don’t know, but I suspect it’s a spiritual enterprise. (I can already hear Joe laughing at that one, but never mind.) Every Sunday morning my friend Nancy and I walk five miles, an endeavor I know for a fact is a spiritual enterprise. Since this discourse has become its prelude, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the cloth turns into a coat of many colors. It’s already orange and purple and bright enough to send distress signals to the moon. And Joseph, let us not forget, was the guy with the amazing technicolor dreamcoat.

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