Yesterday at church I had one of those occasional odd but memorable experiences with someone that happens from time to time in the Portland area and (truth be told) outside of it as well. As a writer, one of my favorite sort of experiences is to come across someone who is sufficiently odd and quirky that even a brief and ephemeral action is well worth writing about and such is the case here, at least for me. Yet although this interaction brought me a great deal of amusement as a writer, it also brought more than that, a sense of caution as well as a human being. Even brief interactions are capable of being complex, after all.
After fellowshipping for around an hour and a half or so after services ended, it was time for us to disperse and to seek meals or a return home, and so it was that the last of us who were socializing were heading out to our cars. In the parking lot coming towards me was a somewhat rough-looking person who appeared as if he had not washed his hair all summer, walking a dog and muttering under his breath about the pastor of such a rude congregation. When he talked with me I found that he had been looking for a lost ferret, which he called the love of his life, and I commented that I had not seen it scampering around. He seemed unsure that people would know what a ferret looked like, but as someone who is fond of watching cute YouTube videos of exotic pets–my favorite animal is the skunk after all–I let him know that I did know what a ferret looked like but that I had not seen one walking on the hot pavement of the church parking lot where we were. I also let him know gently but firmly that I was not the pastor of the congregation and was not responsible for the rude reception he had gotten from the previous people he had been talking to.
I don’t know if the man found his ferret. In thinking later, trying to imagine what I would do on a hot day if I was an escape prone member of the weasel family running away from my apartment home, I would go to some place that had shade and water and perhaps a bit of excitement, so a creek bed or pond or something of that nature would be the most obvious place to go. I would not go to a hot parking lot in direct sunlight, because ferrets and other animals like them tend to be somewhat delicate and fragile animals when it comes to direct sunlight and dehydration. Being somewhat sensitive to both of those things myself I was trying to get out of the same parking lot and the same conditions as quickly as possible myself, to the greatest degree possible commensurate with being polite to a stranger in obvious need to find his beloved but wayward ferret.
I do not know if the gentleman has found his lost ferret. I did not see any rustling in the leaves in the trees and bushes where it would be most likely for a ferret to go, and it might be hard given the brown nature of so much vegetation thanks to our hot summer to find an animal with a light brown hair that would serve as effective camouflage in such a situation either. What is clear, though, is that it was far too easy for people to judge a man in need as being somewhat scary and dangerous simply because of his external appearance. He ended up being quite friendly if you gave him a chance to explain his situation and what he was looking for. Presumably his ferret is a beloved one on a part of being friendly and fun and affectionate without being judgmental in the way that so many human beings are. It is easy to criticize the judgmental tendencies of others–there are many ways we can all be judged and weighed in the balance and founding wanting–but hard to avoid being so ourselves when we are making snap judgments of people we do not know or barely know based merely on the surface appearance of things. Let us hope, for his sake, that both he and his ferret are trying to stay cool in their apartment and that all is well for both of them.