I promised you tales of my adventures in Abbeville, Louisiana, the little village in Cajun Country I now call home, so here is the story of one of my first encounters of the Abbeville kind.
South Louisiana is Catholic...very Catholic. I am, technically, a Texas Protestant, who never really knew many Catholics until I moved to New Orleans in my late 20's. Intellectually, I understand the Catholic ideology, but I must admit, it still seems a little spooky. But, as I am naturally curious about other cultures and people, I try to never miss an opportunity to learn something, or even participate. This was one of those opportunities.
When I first moved here, a little over a year ago, I was living with my friend Shana, who had suffered a stroke and needed full time care. We rented a large apartment in an old house, in the heart of Abbeville, located just across the street from the small garage studio apartment I now occupy. The apartment was very nice except for the bathroom, which needed to be retrofitted to accommodate Shana's disability, a fresh coat of paint, and new vinyl flooring. It was a small bathroom, so I really only needed a 5' x 5' remnant to do the job. Our friend and neighbor, Juliette, suggested I go to the locally owned flooring store close to our house before making the trek to Loewes. I always try to patronize local merchants whenever possible, so this seemed like a good idea.
At the first opportunity, I headed to the flooring store, which was only a few blocks away. It was around 9:00 am on a weekday and there were no other cars parked in front, so I was pretty sure I was the only customer at the moment. Upon entering the store I immediately encountered four people, whom I surmised were employees, and a priest. I froze in my tracks. They froze and stared at me. I'm sure this stare down only lasted a couple of seconds, but it seemed much longer. My mind raced to figure out what was happening. Had I walked into an exorcism or was the priest just buying new flooring for the rectory? A woman among the employees broke the ice with a, "can we help you?" I apologized for interrupting...whatever this was. She then explained that the business had been having a hard time for several years, some bad "juju" (yup, she said "juju"), and the priest was there to bless the building and the business. I was still somewhat frozen, not sure what to do. I offered to come back later or sit in my car until they were done. That's when the priest spoke up and said, "This won't take but a minute if you would like to stay." Heck yeah, I was staying! I had never seen a business blessed before. I was not only curious, but a little hopeful some of that holy water might get splashed on me too! The priest was right, it only took a couple of minutes, then he headed to the warehouse in back to bless the linoleum. The woman who had greeted me initially turned out to be the owner. She told me her staff would show me the vinyl remnants, while she and the priest left to bless her house and her truck (more bad juju there also, I suspect).
I drive by that store almost everyday and often wonder if the priest's blessing lifted the bad juju from their business. I had left the store that morning exhilarated by my adventure and with a promise from the owner that she would call me later in the day with pricing quotes on the remnants I was interested in. She never called me back. So the question remains...was the problem bad juju, or just bad customer service?