I met Neil Diamond last night. I sure did. In my parents local neighborhood grocery store. I walked in to buy some chips and salsa to enjoy while watching the Jazz game last night (dang it all, they lost) and little did I know that I would have an encounter with one of the greatest singers of all time (of course, that is highly debatable if you ask my sister Allison or my sister-in-law Hilary).
As I was walking up to the checkout stand with my arms full of chips and bottles of salsa, I began to hear somebody sing – quite loudly, I might add – over in the vicinity of the produce section. At first I couldn’t make out the words, they were coming in spurts: “…coming to…gotta…take us there…America!” Slowly the sound began to grow as the individual making the noise came closer and closer to the counter. I looked up and there he was, Neil, in all his pantsuit glory singing “America” with gusto.
Well, okay, it wasn’t really Neil Diamond. But it was one very excitable and very gregarious bag boy singing his heart out – and his lungs – to the classic patriotic song we all know and love so well. I started to wonder if he might be a little “special” because people were turning their heads all over the place to get a glimpse at this ND-wannabe who was letting loose and not shutting down the vocals. I’ve never been serenaded before while having my groceries bagged. Hmm – it was quite the experience. And it required audience participation.
“Hey, Jerry, can you help bag this nice lady’s groceries?” asks the checkout girl, slightly rolling her eyes at him as if to say, “Look, weirdo – stop the vocal antics and just shut up and do your job.” Jerry (not his real name, I’m protecting his identity just in case he is a superhero or something) only proceeds to sing louder. He leans in toward me and sings, “On the boat and on the —, On the boat and on the —-” I looked at him blankly for half a second before I realized that he was intentionally leaving that word blank because clearly it was my turn to join in.
“On the boat and on the ___??” he sang and looked at me with eyes brimful of anticipation.
“Plane!” I weakly sang, smiling and simultaneously embarrassed out of my mind. His eyes lit up and he smacked his hands together and sang exhuberantly, “They’re coming to America! Do-do-do-do-di-do-do”
At this point, Jerry began to merge “America” with another song that he must love, “The Impossible Dream”. Yes, it was quite the musical arrangement, I must say. “Because dreams, no matter how far, you’ll reach the impossible star, by coming to America!” (air guitar here)
“Jerry! Bag the lady’s groceries, please!” pleaded the checkout girl, now so thoroughly annoyed with the scenario that she almost started throwing the bottles of salsa at him. By this time, I was digging Jerry’s beat, nodding my head and smiling at him. A few stray onlookers were trying to politely stare without being noticed themselves.
“Nuh-naaah, na-na-na-na-naaaah!” Jerry sang, bagging my groceries and clearly enjoying the beat he was hearing in his own head. Within thirty seconds, I had my bags and was headed out the door. I didn’t know that yesterday I would have my musical debut in a Winegars grocery store or that I would be so serenaded with classic Neil…and a little Broadway thrown in for good measure. But Jerry’s attitude was infectious and I found myself having a better evening last night, thinking about how carefree and just completely satisfied with himself Jerry was. Thanks, Jerry, for making me smile. And for not crushing my chips with the bottles of salsa.