Sir? Sir? !!!! Many years ago I wrote about being “ma’amed”. You know the first time a woman is referred to as “Ma’am”. (butterflysand.com/2013/11/10/it-happened-to-me/ ) Well I can now report to my faithful followers that I have been “Sirred”! Please allow me to explain.
I was working around the apartment when it suddenly dawned on me that I needed something immediately. I quickly picked up my wallet and nipped out to the pharmacy. I didn’t stop to brush my hair or put on lipstick or the ubiquitous mascara. I simply left my apartment. There’s a red light where I needed to cross the street and I was forced to stop for a few moments to allow traffic to pass by. Seconds later a very nice car with two gentlemen in it made a right hand turn in front of me. (perfectly legal) Through the open window I heard one gent say to the other: “It’s Open, it’s open!” I wasn’t eavesdropping, I was less than 4 feet away. They pulled around the corner and stopped at the curb.
To put things into context: the car was behind me and off to my right. Directly behind me was the liquor store. One man got out of the car and raced the five or six feet to the building. At which point I heard a rattling and a question: “Excuse me sir? Do you have the time?”
I was the only other person around. Now I have never considered myself a mean person. I try not to make fun of people because they don’t understand something. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I am definitely a woman. And in all my 58 years I have never, ever been confused for a man. Never! Until today.
The truth is I had just had my hair cut very short. Fewer trips to the hair salon as my hair grows rather quickly. This man also appeared to be in some distress. So I guess I shouldn’t judge. But seriously, sir? He did see me from behind. My hair is short. I am sitting in a wheelchair so it does hide some pretty apparent female attributes when seen from the back. I did correct him as I turned around. And then I gave him the time as requested. But it rankled!
This happened several days ago but still I can’t stop thinking about it. I fantasized that he was a raging alcoholic and was so hung over that he could barely make out the fact that I was human. He wasn’t stumbling so that might be out. Then there’s a thought that he was blind but knew there was someone there as I do have a deep voice…… nope. I didn’t speak until spoken to and he didn’t have a white cane so that probably isn’t it. Then I hypothesized he was an alien from Alpha Centuari and didn’t understand the sexes. Ha ha ha!
What this incident really did was show me how sensitive I am about things that have no real importance in my life. He was a stranger who misspoke. He didn’t mean any harm. He did not mean to disrespect me. He was in a hurry. He should not be judged negatively for something as inconsequential as a pronoun.
When did I become so vain? Yes, yes I would admit to a certain amount of vanity. I think we all have to admit to that. But it isn’t the end of the world, yet. And something wonderful did come out of this: my Sunday post!
Andrew heaved a sigh of relief. It had been a busy night but now the bar was empty and he was looking forward to cashing out and going home. Not bad for a summer gig but it was exhausting work. As he turned around to polish down the bar one more time he noticed a man sitting at the end.
“Hey man I didn’t see you sitting there, sorry about that. What can I get you?” Andrew looked expectantly at the man and wondered if he’d seen him somewhere before. He looked familiar.
The party in question raised his head slightly and quietly said “beer, whatever you got on tap”.
Andrew hurried to comply. The sooner this guy drank up his beer the sooner Andrew could get out of here. As the bartender turned back to his patron he noticed the man looking at the five shots of rum that were always kept at the end of the bar.
Ever a friendly sort Andrew proceeded to explain. “There’s a cool story about those shots of rum. The original owner of the bar and his four shipmates went down at sea in a storm. These are to honour them. Cool story don’t you think?” Andrew expected this patron to react the way everyone else did: to smile and then to go on to talk about something else. No one likes to talk about death too often it’s, well, depressing.
“It was’na cool, it was cold. Bitterly cold. You have’na got the story right.” The person speaking barely raised his head and he spoke so quietly that Andrew had to stop what he was doing and pay attention.
“Only four died that night. Tonight. 100 years ago tonight there was a storm. They thought they were safe. They anchored in a small bay and left one on watch to make sure everything was okay. Everything wasn’t okay. It was cold. Just one quick little sip of gin would warm you up. Problem is one little sip ended up becoming a whole bottle. It was a bugger of storm. But sailors are used to sleeping when the boat rolls. They count on their shipmate on watch to let them know if there’s any danger. But he fell asleep. Too much grog. When the big wave hit he got tossed into the drink. Saved his life. Shipmates were asleep below deck. The sea took ‘em. The sea doesn’t give back what she takes. She’s a jealous mistress.”
Andrew was stunned. “How do you know this? How do you know what happened? And what happened to the fifth guy that went overboard?”
The man looked up and Andrew could see his face and realized that he was an old man. He looked broken and sad. Andrew looked a little more closely and realized where he’d seen his face before. He took a step back and watched.
“Insurance money paid for this bar and its name tells the story of what happened that night: The Broken Anchor. One man survived and lived with the guilt of what he had done. He lived and for the next 40 years made a toast to his four shipmates every night with four tots of rum. Their ghosts can’t drink them but everybody should know how they died.”
“Cecil. His name was Cecil. I remember now. He was buried at sea. When he died he asked that the name of the bar never be changed and a measure of rum be added to the others so that there are now five. I love the history of the area and that one is definitely one for the books. Man that is so cool! You must be a relative, you look just like the picture in the office. ” Andrew was excited and turned away to grab a pen and a piece paper to write down this newfound knowledge. When he turned back the party he had been speaking to was gone. There was water pooling on the stool and the floor. There was another damp spot on the bar along with a piece of seaweed and an empty shot glass.
At first he was confused thinking he’d imagined all of this but when he looked to the end of the bar the remaining four shots of rum were also gone, emptied. A chill went up Andrew’s back and for the first time in a very long time he grew afraid of the dark.
At that precise moment he heard the local church bell ring 2 o’clock in the morning. Gusts of wind rattled the panes of glass in the front window and Andrew for just a moment was sure he heard several men singing. He couldn’t quite make out the words but was pretty sure he heard the name Cecil B. That was the name of the boat!