There is a small store in my neighborhood where the staff is friendly and they make an effort to get to know their customers. There is middle-aged woman named Elizabeth who is very helpful and likes to chat. One day I shocked her, but let me provide some background to the incident.
Elizabeth was so excited when her son got married. The family traveled overseas for the wedding, and she came back with many stories. There was one unpleasant thing to share, though. Apparently the bride’s mother’s house was a royal mess. It was so bad, she said, that there was hardly a place to walk in the house. Elizabeth went into much detail about how she was mortified by what she saw there.
Back to my side of the ocean. When I leave for work every morning, my car is fairly clean looking. By the end of the day, however, it is hard to say what its condition will be. Sometimes there isn’t much on the floor, but other days – oh, my – it is littered with all sorts of trash. Do I like this? No. But if I am having a cleaning crisis (let’s say I accidentally touched the outside of the car while trying to get in), the floor will be covered with used wet wipes, tissues, gloves, or plastic sandwich bags – or maybe all of them – depending on the severity of the incident. Rainy days are always bad if I have more than a stop or two to make since I can’t get into my car without using a plastic baggie to open the door.
So it was, not long ago, as I left the grocery store. Elizabeth, in her typical whirlwind of activity, was close on my heels out the door. She was gathering up carts as I was loading my bags into the car. My front door was wide open, floor in full view. Elizabeth suddenly remembered that she hadn’t shared the pictures of her new grandson with me. She walked over with her phone in hand and a big smile on her face, and then she caught sight of the inside of my car. Her mouth flew open and her eyes grew as big as saucers. The look of horror and disbelief! I am sure that I had appeared to be a clean person to her, and now her perception of me was shattered. I could hear her voice in her head comparing me to her son’s in-laws. She was probably thinking that I would be quite comfortable in their abominable house.
Elizabeth rather awkwardly proceeded to share the pictures while trying to disguise her glances at my pigsty of a vehicle. If only she knew that I am one of the most sanitary persons that she had ever met, but there is no way to explain to a non-germophobe that cleanliness takes precedence over neatness, and they cannot always be reconciled.
At any rate, after complimenting the pictures, I got in my car, closed the door, and drove off in humiliation. Elizabeth will always have this misunderstanding of me that I will never be able correct.