Friday, May 10, 2019

The One-Eyed Salesman

I think I was five years old on this particular errand day. I rode in the back seat of my family's Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe. I hated sitting in the back seat, because I got carsick. Society at large wasn't nearly so safety-conscious back then. Letting children sit in the front seat sans car safety seat was legal at that time. And I loved riding in the front. The car had black leatherette seats that got far too hot during summers in the southeast.

My dad drove us to the airport to pick up someone, which was why I had to sit in the back. Dad parked briefly in the loading zone scanning the people standing at the curb. A stranger wearing dark sunglasses waved at my dad, and walked over to the car. My dad looked over his shoulder at me and said, "Stay quiet. This will just take a few minutes." I nodded obediently.

The stranger got into our car. He and my dad introduced themselves to each other. The man asked my dad to drive around to an unsecured parking lot on the edge of the airport land. The man and my dad made some boring adult chit-chat. My dad parked where the stranger instructed. The stranger removed his sunglasses. Despite my tender, young age of approximately five years, I was a precocious and observant kid. I saw that something surprised my dad. I leaned up between the two front seats for a better look at this stranger in our car. The man only had one eye. The eyelid over his missing eye stayed shut and the skin appeared scarred.

The man said, "Yeah, I lost that eye in a gun accident. Don't worry, it wasn't this gun." The stranger opened a small duffel bag on his lap. He took a handgun out of the bag, and handed it to my dad. My dad inspected the gun. I sat in stunned silence staring at the stranger with only one eye. I don't remember anything that my dad or the stranger said after that. I only remember that my dad gave the stranger a wad of cash. The stranger counted the cash. My dad dropped off the stranger back at the airport pickup area, because the stranger worked at the airport. Then I got to sit in the front seat, which made me very happy.

This is a true story from my childhood. I keep flashing back to this incident. I wonder what on earth my dad was thinking to take me on that particular errand. Of course this happened pre-9/11, but I still wonder why the stranger, an airport employee, brought a gun to work to sell. I wonder how my dad and the stranger arranged the sale. My dad died over twelve years ago, so these things will remain a mystery.