Country Creek is a fairly typical town house community a block from the Vienna Metro station. But there was nothing typical about the life or death of its unofficial mayor.
He was a cat.
Lindsay Dilks was the mistress of the orange tabby she called Bubba. But he was an outdoor cat, and he wandered the neighborhood at will.
Bubba died on July 3, in Lindsay's arms, of a blood clot that formed in his aorta. Two weeks later, neighbors came to a wake that Lindsay threw in Bubba's honor.
"People brought flowers; they told stories. Total strangers showed up," Lindsay said.
She had advertised the wake around Country Creek, wondering if anyone would bother to come. About 30 people did. All had long-standing, independent relationships with a cat that Lindsay loved "with all my heart."
One neighbor said that on the day she arrived at Country Creek, Bubba "supervised the movers." Another neighbor said it seemed that whenever she had a really bad day, Bubba was there to make her smile. Another resident, who had grown up in India, went for a walk with Bubba every day, she said.
But none of these people knew Bubba by the name Lindsay gave him: Benjamin Buford `Bubba' Dilks, in honor of a character in the movie "Forrest Gump."
He "could never keep a collar," Lindsay said, so he never wore a name tag. At his wake, neighbors swapped names they had given him over the two-plus years he had lived at Country Creek -- "Tigger," "Pumpkin," "Marmalade," "Snaggle Tooth," "Orange Juice" and several more.
Bubba had an adventurous life even before he became a Virginian. Lindsay adopted him from an animal shelter in Galesburg, Ill., while she was a student at Knox College there. Bubba spent the first three years of his life bumming around campus and surviving on typical college fare like pizza and beer, Lindsay said.
"One of the reasons he was so lovable was that he had a beer belly," Lindsay said. But he wasn't always a laugh-a-minute fellow.
"He had a little bit of Archie Bunker in him," Lindsay said. "He could be gruff and grumpy. Yet he would always seek people out.
"He just seemed to have that swagger. He was a citizen of the world."
During scraps on the street, Bubba lost a fang and an ear. But according to Lindsay, he never recoiled from people, as cats often do, and as damaged cats do even more often.
"He really brought a lot of people together," she said. In death as well as in life.
Why did some genius invent cash registers that don't display a total after a clerk has rung one up? I can't imagine a reason.
But as shoppers well know, about half the registers one encounters in the world of retail either don't show a total or show one only to the clerk. So we poor slobbering customers don't know how much we owe.
Dana King figures (accurately) that this should be an easy problem to solve. Clerks should "stop chewing their gum long enough" to tell customers what the bottom line says, he recommends.
Yet Dana says he seldom gets such service. "You're just supposed to know," he says.
I duck this issue by almost always paying for small retail purchases with a $10 or $20 bill. It's a surefire way to assemble enough singles for taxis and enough change for pay phones.
But Dana has provided me with another reason. It's a way not to have to guess what I owe. I just cover whatever the total might be.
Yes, I have to trust the clerk to make change accurately. But that happens close to 100 percent of the time. And if I don't think I've gotten enough dough in return, I can always ask for a receipt.
Still, Dana is absolutely right about being told a total. I hope his words will land with a thud on all cashiers. How hard is it to say, "three eighty-eight," gang?
The jury is still out on the new $20 bills, and I for one hope a verdict of guilty comes back.
The portrait of Andrew Jackson on the old $20 was dignified. The new one makes him look a bit wild-eyed, a bit desperate. Besides, the graphics on the new $20 look as if they were chosen by the inventor of Monopoly money. Way too loud and splashy.
Yet the worst aspect of the new $20s may be that they are new. As Ruth G. Adler, of Bethesda, points out, new bills have a tendency to stick together. "Some people may unknowingly be giving sales clerks $40 instead of a single $20," Ruth notes.
Her solution: Before making any purchases with new $20s, "separate all the bills and then bend one or two corners to prevent further stickiness."
If only Jackson's face appeared in the corner of the new $20. Then the Ruth Adler Crimp might make his face a little less haunted-looking.
Herm Albright says he recently saw a news story about illness. It reported that people who are cheerful and happy are able to resist disease much better than grumpy people.
Herm says this proves that the surly bird gets the germ.