Sunday, May 14, 2006

Night of the Iguana

It’s telling that, in certain moods, I forget to tell you the really interesting things that happen. Instead, I caterwaul on about the vicissitudes of shopping.

As it happens, Friday night after making purchases I’d be doomed to return on Saturday, I am toting fat enough bundles I need to cab it home. I watch the Yellow Cab navigate through the gauntlet of dazed shoppers emerging from the store. He pulls to a stop in front of me. The driver flings himself across the front seat to reach and open the passenger door for me. Before I’ve loaded cushions and tablecloths into the car, he starts to chat. “Whoa! Looks like you’re doing some decorating are you?”

“Yep. Kitchen chairs cushions.” I’m willing to be friendly with anyone on earth who is getting me away from Wal-Mart.

“Do most of my shopping at Value-Village,” he informs me, “Got myself two beautiful throw cushions – velvet with tigers on them – for two dollars, can you believe that? And they’re right comfy, too.”

Right comfy. He’s a down-home Maritime boy, this one. Could be in his late twenties, maybe his thirties, but has what I suspect will be life-long boyish looks. He’s wearing a baseball cap and denim jacket. He continues to expound on the virtues of shopping at Value Village and the Salvation Army store.

“I pick up bags of old clothes,” he says, “for my Iguana.” Oh? He continues: “Iggy-Lulu, I call her. They make quite a mess when they dirty the cage, so I put the old clothes in the bottom and that makes it easy to clean. Got it fixed up real nice. She loves it. Got her mirror hooked up and she thinks it’s another Iggy. And I got her a Teddy Bear.” He glances at me in the mirror with a conspiratorial grin. “I sneak up and move the Teddy Bear’s ears and she watches it like a hawk when I do that.”

“How big is she?”

“Ohhh…she’s about three and a half feet. Cage takes up the whole dresser top. I put a chair in front of the dresser and she climbs down and wanders around the house. When she gets tired of it, she climbs back up into her cage.”

“You’re really fond of her, aren’t you.” I see a happy grin reflected in the mirror.

“Yeah. I don’t know what I’ll do if she ever dies. I sing to her, you know? I sing to her when I get in at night. She loves that.” And he belts out his homemade original, the “Iggy-Lulu-How-Are-You” song without a trace of self-consciousness. I sit there with my mouth open, the rigors of my trek through darkest Wal-Mart completely forgotten for the moment. This is, I’m thinking, one of bravest things I’ve ever seen (or heard) anyone do.

When we arrive, I over-tip him. Hell, it wasn’t just a drive home. There was original music.