Savannah Morning News Sunday column
Sun., Aug. 24, 2014
It was a classic Lois Battle moment. I had gone into a shoe store to return a pair of very expensive “sneakers,” or whatever they’re called these days. They squeaked when I walked. Very annoying. You walk into a room and as soon as you set your foot down, squeak. I tried wrapping duct tape, walking on the side of my shoe. Nothing.
The first time this happened – yes, this was my second go-around with this style – the shoe salesman listened to my lament and said, “Ah, it’s a flaw. You are not the first to complain. But the manufacturers have corrected the problem and we’d be happy to give you another pair.”
Great! The shoes were comfortable. I left happy.
That’s not what happened the second time.
“Can I help you?” another sales person said, his back to me.
“Um, shoes? I’d like to talk shoes?”
“What kind?” he said, his back still to me. He was counting his bank.
“I’d prefer to look at your face if you don’t mind,” I answered.
“Look, I’m trying to get out of here. I haven’t had anyone in here in two hours.”
And this is my fault? I thought.
I showed him the shoes, told him the story.
“Have you walked in water?”
“Not deliberately,” I answered. “I try not to walk in water if I can help it, but sometimes it rains.”
“I need the receipt.”
“I don’t have the receipt.”
“What day and month did you buy them?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
I told him my story, again, that I didn’t need the receipt the first time, that I try not to clutter up my life with paper, that it was probably in his computer.
I did not remember when I bought them. Time flies.
The shoes were on sale and he might, just might, be able to give me half price credit.
“You’re still selling those shoes?” I asked. “Like, I’m going to go down that road a third time?”
Eventually they allowed me to trade out the shoes. But it was this kind of inanity that set someone like writer Lois Battle’s teeth on edge. She did not suffer fools gladly. Lois and I were good friends. But, as happens, we lost touch. I got busy. She got busy. We drifted apart. Excerpt when you know someone as dynamic and strong as Lois you think you’ll always reunite somehow, somewhere. Then a friend sent me a newspaper story from the Beaufort Gazette, a paper that always landed on the steps of Lois’ Beaufort house on Euhaw, a home she was so proud to own. Lois had died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Reporter Laura Oberle spoke of Lois’ strong stances, her aversion to the Internet, to credit cards, to cell phones. She wrote of her disillusionment with writing, her well-known battle with alcoholism, her disdain for any formal obituary.
It was a sucker punch.
Lois did not have an easy go. She was demanding and exact. She had high expectations of the world and her own set of personal demons no one else could ever know.
But she was a hoot, the pee-in-your-pants kind of friend who could entertain for hours. She was a writer, a novelist. I met her at Rosemary Daniell’s friendly and inclusive Saturday morning writing group when I first got to town. We became friends. I met her mother. She met my mother. I heard about her sister, Colleen, her nieces, boyfriends and neighbors. I listened in on conversations with her New York editors who wanted to change passages in her novels. I read her books, “Storyville,” “Bed and Breakfast” and “The Florabama Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle.”
She was generous. When she’d return from New York City, it would be with packages from Dean & De Luca with the best cheese, the best coffee, the best bagels. To spend the night at her house would be to sleep on the best sheets with the highest thread count. For overnight guests she offered fluffy, thick terrycloth robes; she made the world’s best brisket.
I will remember her large oversize glasses – I think I have a pair – a cracked coffee cup with cats – I have that too – her railings against injustice and stupidity, her perspicacity. I will remember her high standards, her handwriting, her love of family, the way she would hug you so hard it almost hurt, as if she were trying to say something but couldn’t find the words. It’s tough to lose someone like that.