You ever get that feeling in which you know that someone is about to engage you conversation? Kind of like a pregnant pause, like a should-I-shouldn't-I-type of internal decision? Bingo. I sighed and turned the page to the Op-Ed section. I was staring blankly at a cartoon of Toyota executives throwing around Ford catchphrases when the person came to the side of my van.
"Do you live here?" a voice asked at my shoulder. It was a man's voice, roughened with cigarettes, and it seemed somewhat-confrontational.
I folded the newspaper and set it in my lap and I turned to the window. A 30s-ish guy in a black T-shirt and reflective sunglasses, stood there, his shoulders kind of bunched in an aggressive manner. "Huh?" I asked.
"I said do you live here," he said. He backed away momentarily and studied the side of the van which read, in big green and blue letters (accompanied with a green-blue swoosh) CONSUMERS ENERGY. He walked back to the window. "I haven't seen you around here, before."
"Um, no," I said, mirroring his animosity. "I don't live here." I forced a slanted smile. "Just, you know, sitting in the shade and reading the paper. Why? Should I not be sitting here?"
He seemed puzzled. "I mean, the van looks like one that is around here all the time. I think they live here. Why don't you just go to a park to sit in the shade and read a newspaper?"
I sighed. I said, "If it's really that big of a problem, no big deal, I can push on."
He held his hands up. "Oh! No, don't worry about it. I guess I just thought that you might have lived here. A lot of kids hang out in the parking lot." He gestured over at his car, a late-model Buick Skylark, replete with quarter-panel rust and a Harley-Davidson sticker on the bumper. "I just don't want people messin' with my car."
"Go ahead and sit there," he said. "Take a break. Enjoy the paper."
Thank you, sir, I was thinking. 'Tis very gracious of you, sir, to allow me to relax for a minute or five in your parking lot, in the corner, under a tree, away from any and all cars--except for yours, which you chose to park two spaces away from my van. I am humbled by your magnanimity. You are a peach, a king, to grant me this special privilege of reading a newspaper in your apartment building parking lot.
"Just watch out for my hooptey," he said, gesturing towards the Skylark. He pasted a grin to his mug and ambled away.
"Oh," I said. "Don't worry about that, man."