So the guy who sold me a car battery today was seeing the face of nonchalance. Like, whatever. No big. People lose limbs. But in my head it sounded like this:
I am looking at a person with half of a left arm.
I'm not being a dick by not looking at the remains of his left arm.
I'm using my eyes in exactly the same way I would use them if he had an entire left arm, a hand, and five full-length fingers at the end of it.
I wonder if he notices that I'm treating him exactly the same way I would treat someone with two arms?
Is this the best show of ambivalence this man has ever encountered?
Or by keeping my mouth a straight line and my eyes moving, does my ambivalence seem like a put-on?
If you think about it, it is surprising that more people don't lose more body parts more often. Think of all the things that spin quickly, have sharp edges, or are heavy enough to pin you into a position where it comes down to you or the limb. Not to mention the limb-leaching diseases and the amputee hobbyists.
Obviously, by the time I got to this guy today he was over it. If this topic was still raw, he probably would be weird about it. Challenge me. Follow my eyes. Sneer and say "What? You never seen a one-armed man before?" He used what appeared to be a glorified thumb to carry the battery to my car, despite my assurance that I could take it from here.
"I can carry it," I said, not wanting him to think that I thought he couldn't carry it. To know that I'd say this to anyone at the store.
He flipped it onto his right hand, balanced the left bit against it.
"It has acid in it," he said.
"Ah. Then by all means," I said.
I was sent to a garage down the street to have the battery connected. A sort of back-alley place I'd never have found without directions. A garage-man's garage that smelled of cold and oil and metal with an AC/DC soundtrack. I love these kind of places where people are spending a Saturday doing what they dig: fixing stuff. Getting dirty. Listening to music.
And the conversations are interesting:
"My girlfriend got real weird on tequila last night."
"The pop machine is around the corner, but we're out of Sunkist."
The guys were funny and helpful and they fixed up my car and one of them was missing his two front teeth. But unlike the guy without the arm, he addressed it immediately, like within the first five minutes -- which I appreciate. He'd knocked a wrench against them, killing the teeth, he said with a big old smile.