FRIENDS IN FAR OFF PLACES,
ALL OVER -- AND GONE

by Liselotte Erlanger Glozer


(Published in the Mendocino, California, "Mendonesian," 1997)

I was feeling sorry for myself. I felt no one, absolutely no one cared for me. But then I learned that not only had I friends in far off places, but friends all over.

How did I find out? I had bought a new switch for my electrical clock. Opening it, I found a packing slip which carried a message. "Hi, I am Ken. I picked and packed this merchandise for you with care." Ken, thanks a million. I appreciate your concern! And you certainly made my day!

Shortly after I got to know Ken, Gloria entered my life. She was less chummy and more businesslike, as befitted the merchandise she had wrapped: a package of heavy manila envelopes. But nevertheless she was caring. She stated on a packing slip she hoped I was satisfied with the way she had packed for me and asked me to store the envelopes in a dry place.

It was, however, Brenda who went all out in the interpersonal relationship department: "Hi, I am Brenda and I bagged your groceries for you." She continued to tell me that she had bagged refrigerated items together and would I let her know my order was bagged correctly, because, she added: "I care and I work for you." And all that time I thought she worked for Safeway!

A few months later I bought a washable cloth coffee filter, an ecological gesture to make me feel good. When I unwrapped it, I was facing an additional bonus: a message from -- you won't believe it -- Snoopy. He wrote that he hoped everything was well with me and he told me that I would benefit from using the filter as long as I kept it washed and dried after use. His instructions were valuable and concise. Snoopy himself, his little paws lifted, his lack of an opposable thumb no hindrance, had packed my filter and sent me instructions for its use! It took me a while to realize that he might not be THE Snoopy of the comic strip but a human who, for reasons unknown to me, had assumed this moniker, either as an alias or a nome de plume. But whoever he was, he had gone out of his way to greet me and wish me well.

But then I made a friend whom I won't be able to forget.

An acquaintance sent me, as a Christmas gift in exchange for a minor favor, a tray of dried California fruit -- sort of an institutional present. I unpacked it, but before I could remove the last of its many wrappers, I found a slip of paper on which was printed a poignant message. Its warmhearted, informal tone made me realise that it was definitely addressed to me personally.

"Packed with pride.
I handpacked this fruit with special care.
Myrtle. Packer 24 years."

This message brought up a vivid picture of Myrtle, a role model among packers of a mere ten or fifteen years experience. In a white full length smock, her hair in a green net (or maybe a surgeon's cap) she stands, has been standing for 24 years. With pride. She is in her late forties, her bosom is falling, so are her arches, the latter an occupational hazard. She smiles at me. I would have liked her to go a bit heavier on the apricots, but I can't complain: she has laid out a beautiful arrangement of dried fruit in concentric circles, fruit overlapping, glazed with California sunshine and Myrtle's pride. If I knew where she holds forth I would ask her out for a cup of coffee on her next break and thank her, not only for her precise workmanship, but above all, for her message.

Just as I was beginning to rely on my friends in far off places they disappeared from my life as rapidly as they had entered it. Some higher (corporate?) power was terminating them and supplanting them with numbers. "This merchandise packed by No. 375." "These parts assembled by No l28." So what? Who cares? An Orwelllian terseness is creeping in and all I can do is plead: Please, oh, please take me off the bridge to the 2lth century and return me to Mayberry, U.S.A. and my Norman Rockwellian illusions.


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  • copyright © 1997 Liselotte Erlanger Glozer. All rights reserved.
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