WHAT I HEARD

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Wendy Hodge

By WENDY HODGE

This morning, before I opened my eyes, I heard thunder. I love that sound, especially when I am safe in bed and so comfortable that I never want to move. That deep rumble that reminds me there is a wild, wide world out there. It never fails to make me want to open the door and step out into that noise and air.

Of course, that sound was followed closely by a whine from the dog who was done with patiently waiting to head out into that noise to do his morning business. There are other morning noises, too –– the coffee pot hissing to life, the air conditioner’s low hum, and the neighbor starting his truck in the driveway as he heads out for work. They’re all a sweet routine, and I love hearing them.

And then there are the bizarre, everyday, incredible noises –– like what you hear in Walmart.

As a general rule, when shopping in Walmart, I make a concerted effort to look straight ahead and avoid letting my eyes wander because, let’s face it, there are things that we’ve all seen in our local Walmart that just can’t be erased from the memory … no matter how hard you scrub your mind’s eye. If they handed out blinders like the horses in the Kentucky Derby wear as often as they hand out face masks, I’d gladly put mine on every time I walked in the door. It’s no accident that there’s an entire website dedicated to the people of Walmart. It’s a circus, and it’s open 24 hours a day.

But the sounds of Walmart –– the interchanges between strangers and friends, family and co-workers –– are a feast for someone like me who loves to hear other people’s stories. For the most part, they are crazy stories. They’re shameless and brazen, often comical and occasionally downright gross. But I am an addict. When I enter Walmart, my ears go into hyperdrive, and I become an eavesdropper with no remorse.

Just a few days ago, as I was perusing the hair dye aisle trying to determine whether I wanted to cover my gray myself or leave it in the hands of a professional, I overheard this conversation:

Woman #1: “Judy, do I have brown or black hair?”

Woman #2: “Don’t you know what color your hair is?”

Woman #1: “I can’t see my head from here … so NO, Judy, I do NOT know what color my hair is.”

Woman #2: “You don’t look at yourself in the mirror?”

Woman #1: “Not since 2004.”

Woman #2: “Oh. Well. It’s red.”

Woman #1: “I thought so.”

And a few weeks ago, there was this gem:

Man, walking, head down and staring at the floor, said to himself in a loud voice: “Someday, Joe, you’re gonna run this whole store. Cain’t nobody stop that!”

God bless him.

Of course, not everything I hear is funny or even kind. There are words I wish I could erase from my memory –– words spoken in anger or out of fear. I’ve heard parents speak to children with disgust, using words I wouldn’t throw at a rabid raccoon. And I’ve heard children speak to parents with a lack of respect that proves they haven’t been sent to pick their own switch for their grandma to use on their backside.

Sometimes those ugly noises get too loud, and I have to escape to the lake. The water has a sound all its own –– herons trumpeting as they sail across the surface, tree frogs and bullfrogs yapping back and forth to each other and the hum of a motor on a flat-bottom metal boat. And if I’m lucky, I get to hear my favorite lake dog, Camo, bark a greeting and sigh as I rub his beautiful neck.

I live for those sounds.

Just a moment ago, my best friend called. The sound of his voice is the best sound of all. He’s out of town for work but called to say he’s coming home. When I hear that word “home,” he is what I think of. And when he says, “Be careful driving to work. I can’t wait to see you,” what I really hear is “I love you.” There is no better sound on this planet.

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