I love office supply stores. So many accessories for making work life so much more fun. Notebooks and calendars, a zillion kinds of markers, paper in enough colors to make a Crayola box jealous, folders and binders and flash drives, oh my. But today’s trip to the office supply mecca was only for the basics — yellow legal pads (did you know that Woody Allen reportedly hand writes all his screenplays on pads?) and a couple of boxes of B.’s felt-tip pens for grading exams. Of course, that didn’t stop me from browsing through all the fun stuff. And that is where today’s tale begins.
As I was wandering down the paper aisle, I became aware of an elderly lady a few steps behind me. Dressed in jeans and a pint-sized safari jacket, and wearing a bucket hat over snow-white curls, she caught up to me and asked if I knew where to find copy paper. Her eyes were bright, her smile was contagious, and there was something mischievous about her. Actually, she kind of reminded me of Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life.
Me: “This whole aisle has copier paper.”
She: “No, not copier paper. Copy paper.”
Me: (Puzzled) “Oh … you mean carbon paper?”
She: “That’s right. Carbon paper. For making copies.”
Me: “Wow, I haven’t thought about carbon paper in years.” (Not as many years as when she probably used it typing up memos for Louis B. Mayer at MGM, I guessed.) “Let me see if I can find it.”
She: “Good. You look like someone who could help me.”
I searched all over, but only found stacks of purchase-order and receipt books with carbon paper between the sheets.
Me: “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to find plain carbon paper. Why don’t you ask one of the sales people?”
She: (Giving me a playful little swat on the arm) “But you were supposed to find it for me!” (Laughs)
I was … what?
As I paid for my purchases, I asked the cashier where to find the elusive item. Aisle 2, on the left. I tracked down Ms. Carbon Paper, who was checking out a rainbow of Sharpies and didn’t seem at all surprised to see me again, and off we went.
By now, the cashier had joined us in the search. Finally, on the very bottom shelf, we located a single facing of carbon paper (who knew they even made that anymore?).
At this point, my new friend wanted to adopt me. She told the cashier all about our adventure and how nice I’d been to her.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” she said. “You’ve been so wonderful. Just what I thought by looking at you.”
I couldn’t resist. I leaned in to give her a hug. “You’ve very welcome, ma’am.”
All the way to my car, it teased at me. Something about this woman had seemed so familiar, and I believed that the feeling was mutual. It was almost as if we had met before. But where or when? (Cue the music.)
And then I got a tingle up my spine — you know, the kind you get when it feels like time folds over onto itself for a nanosecond or two (or is that just me?). Because it dawned on me that Ms. Carbon Paper — this impish, confident, 90-ish woman — and I did know each other. Sort of. She was me in another 35 years or so. Walking through the office supply store. Checking out the cool stuff. Asking that nice young sales man to reach for something off the top shelf. Whoa.
Carbon copy that.
© 2017 Claudia Grossman