Friday, April 15, 2016

End of the line

I hurtled into Anchorage. I checked the clock and knew that I should stop and get rid of a cup of coffee before I showed up at the tire place to avoid dancing an uncomfortable jig while waiting in line. Alaska’s largest city is no metropolis so I wasn’t surprised to find a friend in the public restroom of the furthest south grocery store.

We shook hands, his damp from a fresh washing, and agreed to get together once more to play cards before the summer swallowed us up in its manic-ness.

I pulled into the tire changeover place fifteen minutes prior to opening. The necessary pit stop put twenty-five people in front of me. I walked past a smattering of people that make up this city on the edge of the wilderness. I few had heads down engrossed, or pretending to be, in their screens. The man at the front of the line, (when had he arrived?) leaned on his diamond willow walking stick. I noticed that it had one of those flip down ice cleats at the tip. Sweet aftermarket alteration.

I rounded the corner walking past a man wearing ear buds and talking on the phone. During our time in line he ended and started several conversations. Through body language (non-verbal communication is the college class that I use most often in the real world, or the real world in this dimension, anyway) I knew that the woman in front of him grew increasingly annoyed. Later they would approach the counter together. Was it the phone calls or an off-hand remark over breakfast that bothered her?

I took my place at the end of the line and a well-dressed young man greeted me. We chatted for a bit about how nice a day it was to wait in line. Then he leaned in and whispered, “What’s going on, is there a big sale today or something?” I smiled and welcomed him to the state. He knew nothing of studded tires and procrastination in the 49th state.

It’s wonderful how you can show up at the tire shop and see the full spectrum of Alaskans from the crusty Sourdough, who could give a brown bear a run for its money with his studded walking stick, to the fresh-faced newbie from Pennsyltucky who hasn’t slid sideways yet cursing to himself that it’s time to dig the winter tires out of the shed.