I was walking back to the bookstore from the sandwich shop when I heard a voice call my name enthusiastically, "Elizabeth!" I turned about and there was Jane. Jane was an older lady in her 60s. She looked like an enormous apple on stilts with a small equally round head, iron gray hair, large blue eyes, and large teeth just like a horse.
Jane was delighted to see me, but I, in contrast, felt a pang of dread at her delighted approach. You see, last month Jane was barred from a book store because of bad behavior. I'd promised to speak to the manager, "Chester", to see what I could do, but so far I'd been avoiding the unpleasant task.
Just to give you some context, I go to this bookstore every day to do my writing. Also, there are a bunch of us, either writers, self-employed people, or retirees and misfits who come to the bookstore every day as well. Jane was one of them.
I recalled when Chester informed me that he had barred Jane from the store. He said, "I've thrown out your friend from the store permanently." with a self-satisfied chortle. I did my best to hide my instant reaction of regret.
It was hard for me to be known as Jane's best friend. She is a fairly loud talking, unruly old lady, who pretty much tells anyone who gets to know her that she has paranoid schizophrenia and is taking major medication for it. The other day, she came to the bookstore with a large red cross drawn on her forehead. "I drew it for protection from all the evil forces that are trying to attack me." she said.
There was a good side to Jane, and also, apparently, a bad side. Whenever I saw Jane she was deeply immersed in large paperback books she got from the religion section about Christian new age mysticism.
If it hadn't been for Jane, I wouldn't have known anything about the "chem-trail conspiracy". This is a theory that the white lines in the sky left by aircraft aren't just exhaust, but instead are chemical agents the government in spraying on people for some evil purpose. Don't laugh--this might actually be true--check it out!
Among regulars, Jane was an interesting and unique character. We enjoyed her off beat theories and her inventive commentary. Of course, she had days when she was grouchy and thought everyone was looking at her cross eyed, but in general she was just one of our bunch.
On the other hand, she had a bad side. According to reports, if the staff didn't get her order right, she'd swear at them and call them "a**holes." In the incident that got her thrown out, she got into a political argument with a fellow customer and began to swear at him too.
That guy--not a regular--also spoke to me to say, "I got into an argument with your friend and had Chester bar her permanently from the store." He was also just as triumphant about what he had done as was Chester.
Once Jane was barred from the store, people felt badly about it. They knew her as a bit of a character, but also as a harmless one. Since people identified me as Jane's "friend" they came to me and asked me to find Jane and see what could be done. They felt fond of her and they wanted to be sure she knew that they didn't agree with how she was treated.
I had no idea how to begin finding her. I couldn't even recall her name. However, one bookstore regular, a local bus driver, reminded me that Jane had talked about her cat who was in ill health. Based upon that, I went to the local veterinarian in town and described Jane to them.
Immediately, the staff responded with, "Oh, that's Jane." I could tell from their reaction that they felt, as did our little group, that Jane was a fairly eccentric, but warm hearted character who added a little color to their lives. Jane had been going to their clinic for a couple of decades and I had the feeling she hadn't called them a**holes.
Eventually, we worked out a way for me to contact Jane while still protecting her privacy and I told Jane that I would try to speak Chester again to see if he would lift the ban on her. "Thank you." she said, "Although I have been kicked out of stores before."