I retained very little of what I was taught in college but I do recall learning that the main character in Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King wanted to be remembered for something, for anything, by posterity. Truthfully, I’m not sure that he ever actually stated or implied that wish, but that’s what I took from the book. Or some other book. Regardless, I associate the desire to be remembered with the main character, Eugene Henderson.
We’ve all been told that we were born with certain talents and if those talents are not apparent at first, then our job is to figure out what they are and to then put them to good use. I’ve been soul searching for decades and all I can come up with is an organizational knack. I’m good at prioritizing and filing things, if I’m paid to do it. So, don’t look around my house for evidence of my skill unless you sent me a check in advance of your visit. But even if I were the best organizer in the history of organization, no great-great-great relatives are ever going to mention this about me at a future holiday gathering. And that bothers me. Like Henderson, I want to do something that people will talk about for centuries. I don’t, however, want to be recalled in a negative light, so I’m not anxious to become notorious. In fact, I work hard to keep any previous behavior that could be considered scandalous under wraps. That’s why Oprah Winfrey and I will never run for public office. We don’t want anyone digging into our pasts. Oprah doesn’t have to worry about being remembered by posterity; she has helped so many people and she’s so famous that she’ll never be forgotten. That’s where the similarity between me and Oprah ends. I guess I could help more people, but I don’t have to become famous to attain my goal of immortality. I’d be happy if great-great-nephew Anthony, while passing the turkey, says, “Remember when Aunt Patsy …?” I’m still trying to figure out the end of his question, but as long as there’s life in me, I’ll be trying.
Which brings me to tonight. I was in a neighborhood pharmacy and the cashier happened to mention that by the end of next summer, Connecticut pharmacies would probably be selling beer and wine. This was a mind-blowing announcement in my opinion, but she didn’t seem pleased. I asked her what she thought of this and she said that drugstores couldn’t discount alcoholic beverages so they wouldn’t be able to compete with the larger liquor stores, so what was the point of trying? She lamented that the only development would be a negative one: attracting a rowdy clientele. I tried to comfort her by saying that the chain liquor stores probably already had plans in place to retain their business, but then she said that they probably didn’t even know about the new development yet; she had only just heard about it through interoffice communications. After hearing this, I could barely contain myself. I had to get her to stop talking so that she would finish ringing up my purchases so that I could get out of there and spread the news. On some level, I knew that I was giving in to my baser instincts if I repeated a story that could have been totally false. I inhaled a deep breath and resolved to at least do an Internet search on potential new Connecticut liquor laws before relating this information. Upon exhaling, I ran at breakneck speed over to the wine store in the same strip mall. I wasn’t even intending to go there, but in my mind, they just had to know about this, and it was my duty to tell them. I rushed in, grabbed a six pack of beer and hurried to the checkout counter. The manager of the store was there, but he was talking to someone, so I bided my time. Just when the cashier handed me my bag, the manager walked to the back of the store. Time for Plan B. Well, time to to formulate Plan B. I started toward the door and then nonchalantly turned to the two people working the registers. “Oh,” I said casually, “What do you think will happen to your business next summer when the pharmacy a few doors down starts selling beer and wine?” They reacted just like I hoped they would; they were speechless. Then I waved and walked out. As I passed the plate-glass window in the front of the store, I stopped and looked inside. One of the cashiers had made a beeline toward the back of the store to find the manager. My job was done. I later told my husband about my adventure and he said they’ll probably be having an emergency meeting tomorrow at 8 a.m. with the owners and managers from all of their wine stores. I should feel badly about this since I had absolutely no proof that the rumor I had spread had any basis whatsoever in fact. But I just couldn’t muster any remorse. I hadn’t broken a commandment. I hadn’t spread malicious gossip about a person. I had just, as my husband says, “stirred the pot.” He says that I’m really good at this and that I sometimes act like a bad kid. Well, it’s not up there with saving the world, but maybe if I keep at it, great-great nephew Anthony will someday be able to finish his question. But for now, I’d better find a new liquor store to patronize.