“I can go seven days without showering and I won’t stink at all,” said the woman standing next to me inside the gas station outside of Clarksville, Tennessee. She was addressing her comments to the young girl behind the cash register. “That’s one advantage of being Native American.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I love learning new factoids, especially when they are so totally unexpected. So I paid for my bottle of Starbucks Frappacino, my blueberry donut, and asked her, “Really? Why is it that Native Americans are different?”
With one hand, she flipped back the curly black hair that spilled over her shoulder. The color, I noted, was blue-black. A deeper black than I’ve ever seen. She grinned at me, “Something about our glands. We have the fewest, you know. Fewer than whites, Asians, and African Americans.”
“Is it true that Native American men don’t have beards? Don’t have any facial hair?” I leaned against the counter. The clerk had taken my money, given me change, and now she seemed curious as well. It was midnight, and we were the only three people in the convenience store/gas station. My husband was outside refilling the car for the third time. We were on our last leg of the drive from Florida to Missouri, a trip which took us 18 hours.
Maybe if I hadn’t been locked up in a car on Highway 24 for the better part of a day, I wouldn’t have been so chatty. On the other hand, this was good stuff. The kind of scoop you add to a book to give it veracity. It was also the sort of conversation you probably couldn’t have tried in a formal setting. No sir. It needed the right ambiance: flickering flourescent lights, the sound of cars on the highway whizzing by, and a stacking tray of No-Doz.
“Yes, that’s true. None on their chests either.” The speaker cocked her head. “Well, my brother does get one or two little hairs right here,” and she pointed to a spot between her breasts, “but his wife plucks them out.”
“Joanna?” My husband stuck his head in the door. No telling how long he’d been listening. “Um, ladies? I need to grab my wife and get going.” And then to me he gestured, “Come on. Time to hit the road.”
Rats. And I had all sorts of other questions to ask.