I heard the crazy woman’s loud voice coming up behind me as I stood in line while waiting for the library to open so I could donate a pint to the blood drive.
“I thought that was a new style of jeans,” she said, just a little too loudly. “No,” the man’s voice said, with slight irritation. I sensed his reluctance to talk to this woman, and turned to catch their reflection in the glass front of the building. The man was wearing some kind of bandage or knee brace on the outside of his pants and walking as fast as his injury would allow, so he could move away from this crazy woman who was trying to talk to him.
The crazy woman was wearing an electric blue wool coat and she was well groomed. Not your typical looking crazy woman. She walked up to the end of the two parallel lines that had formed at the library door and belted out a greeting to all who stood on the pavement.
“Good morning, everyone!” she exclaimed, like she was some kind of teacher or maybe a cheerleader. “How are you on this beautiful day before Thanksgiving?” She said this to nobody in particular, much to the relief of my fellow line standers. If she wasn’t speaking directly to one of them, none had to answer her.
I wasn’t doing anything but waiting, so I decided to do the interesting thing and reply to the crazy woman. What harm could come from giving her the standard polite reply?
“Fine, thank you,” I said, “How are you?”
“Very fine, thank you!” the crazy woman said, still a little too loudly, with a little too much enthusiasm. She went on, too.
“When the holidays come, you know that the year is almost at end,” she said. “Last night when I went to close my blinds, I bent down and saw a six foot Christmas tree, all lit up and decorated!” My fellow line standers were studiously ignoring this crazy woman.
“Wow,” I said, as a way to be polite and respond. I was also buying some time to make sense of what she said, of what she was trying to say, and to think of another reply. The weather is usually a safe subject, so I brought up that topic.
“This weather is a sign, too, ” I said. “Yesterday was so lovely, and today is so cold in comparison,” I asserted. The crazy woman didn’t buy it, though.
“Next month I’m going to be fifty-one,” she said. “And I’m thankful for every day that I can get up without having to throw back the covers of the grave. This is a beautiful day,” she said. Although I was struck by her peculiarity, her words had caused me to notice the clear brilliant blue of the sky. In my shuttling from home to dentist to blood drive I hadn’t paid much attention to the day, aside from the mild discomfort brought by its coldness. The crazy woman didn’t stop.
“One day I was standing in line at the library, talking to an old man. I asked him how he was and he said, ‘I’m ninety-six years old and I didn’t have to throw back the covers of the grave, so it’s a good day.’ I remembered that, and now I also say it’s a good day when I don’t have to throw back the covers of the grave,” the crazy woman said.
“I hope I can say the same one day,” I replied.
“So do I,” she said.
“We are at an unprecedented advantage,” I said, “when we not only live longer, but we can enjoy it.” The crazy woman latched on to that.
“Say that again,” she said. I hesitated, not sure why she was asking me to do this. “Enjoy it!” she exclaimed. The library doors opened and the lines of people started to move into the building.
“You have a nice day,” I said to her as I started to turn toward the door.
“You have an even a better one,” she urged. “What an unusual response,” I thought.
The person who had opened the library door clearly recognized the crazy woman, greeting her with a very enthusiastic, “Good morning! How are you?!” She sounded a lot like the crazy woman. At that moment, I realized that the crazy woman worked at the library, and that her enthusiasm for life and her gratitude for living was infectious.
As I sat in the chair to have my finger jabbed for the blood iron test, I faced a glass wall looking out into the library courtyard. Noticing the bare black walnut tree branches against a crisp blue sky on a clear and bright morning, I thought, “Yes, it is a beautiful day.”