Andre LaSalle

So the other day I call my wife while I’m snarled in traffic in the heart of Saint Paul. I’m driving my big truck, pulling an awkward, bouncing grain wagon–just purchased an hour earlier in Cannon Falls–in tow. While I circle around the Xcel Energy Center trying to find a parking spot near a bank I need to visit, I quickly realize that metropolitan parking spots aren’t even close to being the size needed to park my hillbilly caravan.

“I need to find a bank with big parking spots,” I say to my wife. She doesn’t hear me to well, given my low quality Bluetooth earpiece, so I reposition it and try and speak more clearly. “My phone’s GPS don’t work, and the bank I was going to go to is smack dab in the middle of compact car land. I need to find a bank close to my next stop so I can withdraw some cash.”

So for nearly thirty minutes she patiently guides me through side streets and highways and eventually lands me at a bank near the final stop of my trip–an ice cream distributor who will only accept cash for the used freezer I’m about to purchase. The ice cream distributor, and the bank she found for me, is in a rough part of town.

Because I fatigue easily when driving long distances (and I consider Cannon Falls to be a long distance drive), I drink coffee like the dickens.

So I scurry up into the bank as quickly as I can, with my bladder brimming, and kindly ask the teller to direct me to the absolutely nearest restroom.

My suspicions of this being a rough part of town are confirmed when she has to escort me to the restroom and open its locked door with a key. She walks fairly slow, and the trek to the far side of the bank is excruciating.

Inside the now unlocked restroom, I find sweet relief, wash my hands and start making my way back to the teller’s window. Because she walks remarkably slow, I get back to the window at basically the exact moment she pops back into her chair.

She looks at me surprised and then seems disgusted. I’m confused at first.

She grabs something from the counter and holds it out through the bulletproof glass for me. For a short woman with short arms, she does a remarkable job of keeping her outreached hand as far away from her body as possible. She’s holding a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Now I understand her misconception.

I let out a self-conscious chuckle. “No, no, no,” I say, “I washed my hands, really!”

Her facial expression doesn’t change.

Thinking I’ll prove my innocence by showing her my still wet hands, I hold them up to her–palms out– o she can see. But like OJ’s hands being too big for the gloves, my plan backfires.

Her facial expression worsens, and I can see that showing her my farm hands hasn’t helped my case. And that’s when I remember the permadirt.

Y’all know what permadirt is, right? Anyone who works with their hands has it. It’s the grime that works its way into the creases of your calluses that won’t wash out with Dawn dish soap or mechanic’s pumice scrub. On the hands of folks who work real hard, the permadirt extends from the bases of their palms to the tips of their fingers. On my hands, which I can only say work kind of hard, the permadirt extends from the base of my fingers out to the second knuckles (right where 5-gallon bucket handles rest when you’re carrying them out to pasture).

“That’s just permadirt,” I say to her. Now one of her eyebrows cocks up in the air, confused-like. “It’s permadirt, you know, the dirt that you can’t scrub out?” No response.

Because I know my hands are clean and don’t want to give in, I don’t take her up on the offer for hand sanitizer. The transaction is somewhat of a stand-off, in it’s own way.

As I’m about to exit the bank, with my envelope of cash in-hand, I think about pleading my case again and start to turn back toward her. But her back is turned now, and faintly I can hear her pumping hand sanitizer into her own hands, trying to wash away any trace of me as best she can.

I slump a little and continue back to my truck. “It’s just permadirt,” I say under my breath. “I swear.”

Andre LaSalle is a Messenger contributer.

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