I have "the face." That's what my mom called it when random strangers would tell you their life story. She had "the face," too. She told me she realized it one night when she and my father had gone out to a local bar in Norfolk, VA to play pool. This was before any of us were born. She went into the ladies room, exchanged pleasantries with a woman at the sink, and was then trapped in the bathroom while said woman proceeded to tell my mother her life story. She told me that after 10 minutes she was finally able to break away.
In a life spent working in customer service, I can't even begin to tell you the number of people who've told me things that I was surprised they would share with me ... personal facts, private thoughts, intimate details, etc. Almost all of the time, the sharing of these facts hasn't been necessary to complete whatever we were doing together. I've been told about all manor of diseases and ailments - from the terminal to the inconvenient. People have shared their birth stories, abuse stories, mental health struggles, fears and dreams. Most of the time though, they tell me the dark stories, things I shouldn't know. It's like something in my eyes tells them I'm the customer service mother confessor.
Yesterday, I sat with a lovely woman with a fantastic sense of humor and unfortunately, a silver/grey hairstyle that was quite similar to the way my mother wore her hair. While she was talking, I was trying to think about baseball or social injustice - anything to not focus on her hair. The longer she spoke to me, the more she talked about her marriage and her husband ... how he spends their money on whatever he pleases, but tells her to restrain herself ... how he retired 20 years ago, deciding to stay home and take care of the house while she continued to work, yet still expected her to do all the housework ... that after 50 years she couldn't divorce him, what would be the point ... that she used to imagine he would die first and she would be free, but now that she was on an oxygen tank, she was afraid it would be the other way around.
She told me that in her generation the sentiment was "you made your bed, now lie in it." I despise that phrase. When my mother decided to marry my father, she told me that some of her family expressed displeasure in the union. Only my great grandmother told her to do what she wanted to do. Before the first year was done, he had already started to show himself for the horror he would become. Seeking support, some of the original dissenters told her, "you made your bed, now lie in it." From that breach, she suffered, and then we suffered, for another 15 years before she finally got enough help to leave him.
My customer shared other thoughts that bordered on incriminating. I think I should leave those inside my office.