We were clipping along around twenty miles an hour, heading south on PCH, on our bicycles, almost rubbing shoulders with pedestrians on one side and cars on the other.

Some of the people swarming the sidewalks between us and the ocean I couldn’t see, but I could smell. The perfume of the woman in the tiny red economy car was so strong it almost knocked me over after she passed.

The guy with no shirt and hairy armpits wasn’t smoking a cigarette by the time we whizzed past him, but the stench of body odor mixed with stale cigarette smoke made my eyes burn. It’s tough to share air and rub elbows with some folks.

A few days later, back at home, my mind still pondering the subject of rubbing elbows and sharing air with others in our paths, I took the dreaded trip to the grocery store.

I’ve come to realize I pick lanes at the grocery store about as well as I do the ones while I’m driving…

Rubbing Shoulders

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I used my God given reason and sense. The express lane only had two people in it. The senior man with the black glasses and over exposed bald head in the front of the line was almost done checking out… or so I thought.

The old fella was asking about his coupons clearly unaware or uncaring that he’d log jammed the express lane.

I spotted a middle aged gal a couple lanes down, that had moved from behind me, bagging her groceries… and I’m still one person back.

The closer I got to the automatic doors and freedom the final hurdle dawned on me; the checkout lady. She was in her sixties, bleached golden and bobbed hair, round cheeks. She sounded like she was trying to talk with her tongue sticking out.

When I finally got to the front of the line that would have tested a turtle’s patience, I realized that the checkout lady did have tongue issues. She had one, it just didn’t work. She’d had a stroke.

“Hhhhh – uuuu – ooo – ta – deh?” she asked in a friendly tone. My mind raced to catch up.

“Uh – Good. I”m good. How are you?” I asked.

“Guhh,” she smiled.

My anxiousness from being in the express line traffic jam quickly faded.

Mid check out, the cashier stopped, stuck her tongue out, and clumsily pinched around the edges of her tongue with her thumb and forefinger, searching for what I assume was a hair.

I didn’t say anything, but my eyebrows almost touched my receding hairline.

The cashier didn’t even wipe her fingers off. She grabbed my groceries with the same fingers and started pulling them across the scanner… That’s hard for a germaphobe to take…

A lot of us go out of our way to keep our world as germ free and medicinal as possible – I’m no exception.

The truth is we share this beautiful but fallen world with all kinds of folks. We worry about germs sometimes without a thought to the souls of the other we’re rubbing shoulders with.