Sunday, January 13, 2019.
Ten-Tom Waterway, Tombigbee River, mile 287.6. Gainesville, AL.
I don’t like words that are hard to spell. That probably dates back to elementary school where I would typically be one of the first to take a seat during spelling bees. Doubly embarrassing because the pretty girls who I was just starting to take an interest in were usually the winners. But sometimes I look one up because it's the perfect word.
“You’re walking?” he asked incredulously.
It was painfully obviously that I was, as I contemplated what the blister forming on the second in from my little toe on my left foot might look like by the time I returned to the boat. No car, no public transportation in sight and no bike – I had muddy knees from climbing up the slick bank, much less trying to drag my bike up too. And I hadn’t quite worked up the nerve to stick my thumb out.
I had pinky measured the distance to be a little over a mile to the Gainesville Kitchen on Goggle Maps. It was enticing: ‘Awesome Fish and wonderful people’ ‘God bless your business’ reviews with a picture of a small red house that looked like it could be blown over by a good wind, much less a hurricane. My type of place.
What Goggle failed to mention was that it was only open Wednesday through Saturday.
My incredulous friend was sitting across the street from the Kitchen in front of his Thrift Store which I thought better of going into. I don’t have anywhere to put things in the boat, but more significant, it was two stories and looked more likely to collapse than the Gainesville Kitchen.
He said business had been good today. “A lot of folks from Mississippi had stopped to pick up something. Besides, I didn’t have anything better to do today… or any day for that matter.” I’m not making this up.
We talked a bit and he was polite enough not to let on what he thought about my walking. When I mentioned I was going to walk a bit further to explore the town he pointed out that his store and the Kitchen were the extent of the commercial district. He asked where I came from, a question I’ve yet to develop a quick answer for, so I simply said that I was tied up along the bank at the boat ramp and had walked up hoping to get a bite to eat at the Kitchen. I told him how disappointed my toe was that they were closed.
He offered to heat up a Hot Pocket for me.
I was dumbfounded, chastened and embarrassed all at once. I declined. Politely, I hope. I hadn’t even asked his name or introduced myself. He and his store had screamed indifference and I had made the age old mistake of prejudging somebody.
Not for the first time this trip, I was reminded how good most people are if you can just step out of your own small world. I regret not going in to buy something.