Gloom Master Maintenance
But the timing was perfect. As I dropped Mary off I decided to visit the florist and select some flowers for the Gloom Master. There were plenty of choices and I really struggled in imagining what flower would discretely say ‘you’re a miserable old git and it’s got to change now!’
I went for the daffodils. Some were still closed tight and I figured that once they relaxed and opened, they’d turn into a thing of beauty. I wasn’t certain that Gloom Master would be able to interpret the subtle nuances behind the gesture, but it was the best my half-functioning brain could rustle up before 9am on a Saturday morning.
Men are useless at things like choosing flowers. Most of us end up making our selections at the checkout counters of the local 7-11 or at a petrol station. And we’re probably hopeless at conveying messages that possess any sense of depth. Worse yet, when a woman receives flowers from a guy, it can more often than not mean the guy is guilty of something, or the relationship is just too new and he’s still chasing her. Oh, I hope I've never been that way! (Okay...perhaps once, maybe...)
My early morning attire was perfect for the position of a flower delivery person. I had on torn jeans, a flannel shirt, and a jacket that had seen better days - long before the chap who passed away left it to me. And my hair looked like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
I took one of those blank cards that florists always have available and pondered over what I should write. I settled for ‘Alice, thank you for being so nice.’ I’m sure God was raising His eyebrows over that one! But I muttered to myself, ‘ just give me a second, you’ll see what I’m up to.’ The extremely patient florist kindly placed a ribbon around the flowers and wrapped them in paper. They were three bunches for £1.50. Fantastic value I thought. I bought nine bunches.
Daffodils have always been one of my favourites. As a small child I remember my grandmother helping me plant several in her garden. Whenever I came to visit her she would point out that the flowers in her garden were a result of my hands. It’s one of those childhood snapshots that remain in your heart throughout your life.
I pulled up to the entrance of the supermarket and did exactly what I hate seeing anyone else do. I stopped the car, turned on the emergency blinkers, and ran in to the service counter. I told the surprised clerk that they were for one of the till clerks named Alice. (I probably could have said 'Gloom Master' and they would have known who I was speaking about). The clerk was busy but she said she’d give them to her. I ran back out to the car and headed for the laundry.
After dropping off our linens I returned to the supermarket to do my shopping. As I entered the store I could see the back of Gloom Master at her till. Her flowers had been placed in a vase and were beside her register. There was already a steady queue of people paying for their weekend shopping.
When I queued up with the other poor souls who were waiting their turn for a dose of Miss Congeniality, I immediately noticed something. The woman was actually smiling! I won’t go so far as to say I heard her entering into any meaningful conversation with the two people ahead of me, but it was very clear that the woman wasn’t being the inveterate grump that she always was.
As she began to scan my items I said my usual ‘Good morning.’ She looked at me and smiled, but she didn’t’ respond. And then I said ‘those are lovely flowers you have there.’ The woman glanced at them, as she continued scanning my groceries. She said ‘ yes, they are lovely. I haven’t received flowers since my husband died. He always brought me flowers. We were married forty-four years’
The total appeared on the display and the woman, as true to form, didn’t tell me what the total was. But as I handed her the money, I noticed that she didn’t have the rock hardened face that she usually held.
This time I saw a sad, lonely, elderly lady who was adrift over the loss of someone she loved. I saw a lost and lonely woman who probably had nothing left to return to at home.
Perhaps the flowers did more for me than they did for her. Perhaps they served to remind me that anyone’s demeanour has an origin. Perhaps her behaviour was the only mechanism she could find as protection.
Next week, when I queue up at her till, perhaps I’ll see less of Gloom Master and more of Alice, the lonely woman who no longer has anyone to bring her flowers.
And that is what I should have seen in the first place.