We are a one-car family. Any time work calls me to destinations within a drivable distance, I just walk over to Congress Street and down towards Deering Oaks Park, past the imposing main post office to the Enterprise rental car office.
I was doing this yesterday in preparation for my annual trek to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival at Rhinebeck. This year’s car rental was a little more tricky because I needed a vehicle big enough to accommodate a rowing machine.
No, I’m not such an exercise fanatic that I have to bring my equipment with me — I was bringing it to give to my friend Jennifer Heverly, the eyes and hands behind Spirit-Trail Fiberworks.
What you need to know about Jennifer is that she is very good at multitasking. Not only does she provide a solid anchor of parenting to her two teenage kids (i.e. she resists the urge to throttle them on a daily basis), but she also does the books for her husband’s landscape business while expertly running a very successful hand-dyed yarn business nearly single-handedly.
Jen’s secret gift is that she can run on a treadmill while reading a book and spinning yarn. I’m serious. She runs on the treadmill, reads a book, and spins yarn (on an electric miniSpinner).
All at the same time.
Now you may understand why I was immediately intrigued when she expressed an interest in my once-loved and now-languishing Concept 2 rowing machine. I needed to see just how many other things she’d be able to accomplish while rowing across her imaginary ocean.
I was walking down the hill toward the car rental place when I spotted a young woman up ahead. She was crouched low to the ground, holding something in her hand. The knees to her jeans were torn. This particular street isn’t that super, so I immediately wondered if I was witnessing some new kind of drug-taking posture. Was the body language furtive enough? Was she hiding something? Do people crouch in order to shoot up? Then I realized she was just holding an iPhone and framing a picture of the small patch of dirt surrounding a spindly sidewalk tree.
She glanced at me, quickly stood up, gave a nod — was it annoyance or embarrassment? — and walked away.
I was intrigued by the thought of her applying her filters and hitting the “share” button, causing ripples of smiles and likes and comments from a whole virtual community I couldn’t see. All I saw was a person, a stranger, who made brief eye contact before disappearing. Was she friendlier online? Who did they perceive her to be? And who do people perceive me to be online? Am I that person? Am I being genuine?
Further down the hill, I spotted another woman. She was cruising toward me in a zippy motorized wheelchair. She was smiling, basking in the sun, clearly enjoying the ease of the still-iceless, snowless sidewalks of October Maine. From a distance, our eyes locked in a smile that became words of greeting as we got closer. She was present, and I was present. I no longer felt quite so confused or alone or doubtful of myself.
At the car rental place, two well-dressed couples with heavy southern drawls were just returning their car and discussing their return to the cruise ship they had taken into town. “Kennebunkport was so naaaaas,” said one woman to the other.
My customer service guy asked if a Jeep something-or-other would be big enough for me. “I don’t know,” I replied, “it needs to hold a rowing machine…” He knew I was on a business trip to New York, and this threw him for a loop. Spotting his confusion, I said, “No, I’m not in the rowing-machine business, I’m going to sheep and wool festival. The machine is a gift for a friend.” He nodded, and we completed our inspection of the car.
And the rowing machine, it did fit.