Fear, Loathing, and Thanks in the Home Depot Parking Lot

Life is unfair as we know and sometimes we have to go to Home Depot on a weekend morning,  even a weekend morning during the Christmas season when every one is buying trees and tools (i.e. toys) for Dad, and what-have-you. 

I actually don’t mind the store, but the parking lot is a minefield of loose, lost, and dangerous nails, screws, and other tire-piercing pieces of metal, so I was proceding cautiously through the maze of  car lanes trying to select an area which most likely would have the least heavy metal and came upon an elderly gray-haired guy (well, lets say someone my age!) who was jaywalking down the middle of the car lane. I hit the brakes. He looked around angrily alarmed by my sudden arrival. I did the only sensible suburban thing I could think of: I smiled at him and passed by.

Well, when I parked safely (I hoped) and got out of the car, I saw him quickly striding down the  lane after me. I had a fleeting nervous thought, what now?

Well, first a back story so you’ll understand what’s coming next. Years ago, Marian Haley Beil, our site’s faithful and long suffering publisher, sent me as a gift  for my car a metal frame for my rear license plate that had PEACE CORPS spelled out across the top and ETHIOPIA 62-64 on the bottom.

So, as I stepped around my car and caught the eye of the hard-charging stranger, I was surpised to see him smile and gesture towards my license plate and say, “Peace Corps! Thank you for your service.”

I was, as they say, struck dumbfounded, but managed to thank him and smiled back.

In the nearly fifty year since I first went into the Peace Corps, he is the first ‘citizen’ ever to thank me for my Peace Corps service. So, it’s fear, loathing and (sometimes) thanks in the parking lot of Home Depot.

p.s. By the way, walking away from my car after this chance encounter, I spotted a four inch screw on the tarmac that I picked up and toss in the trash can….something never change.


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  • Great story. And funny you should mention that license plate frame. I have the same one–they’re sold by the NorCal RPVC group. North Carolina just made any license frame that covers the state’s name or the registration year decals illegal. The frame unfortunately does both, so I have to take mine off. Luckily NC only uses one plate, so I can put the frame around the decorative plate I have on the front, but it won’t be the same. It’s fun looking in the rear-view mirror to see if anybody notices the Peace Corps Ghana legend. (I might get a new frame, though, and change the years of service. Cosmetics at all costs!)

  • Great Story John!! I think people should have been THANKING you since 1964– so let me be the second person in your life to do so– thank you for your Peace Corps Service to the world! You have helped build cross-cultural understanding and hopefully world peace one day.

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