I’ve been on a mini-vacation from work for the past five days, and for me that’s meant staying in and getting other work done—housework, writing, social media, etc.
But I got a call at around 7:30 on Friday night from a friend who was at the Waffle House with her girlfriend eating dinner. She asked me to join them, so I told her to order me a waffle with half a cup of coffee and that I’d be there in five.
We were just shooting the shit, as you do at the Waffle House, talking about books, and at one point I was telling them “a sad story” about the time I loaned my battered, manhandled copy of a beloved book to some girl on a first date: there was never a second date; I never got the book back; I saw recent photos of her and I’m glad she hasn’t aged well; etc.
A few minutes later, some guy at a nearby table leaned in our direction and said, “I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about a sad story. What was sad?”
What the hell?
Okay, I say “What the hell?” but I got up and went over to him. I told him the whole sad story (minus the detail about its being a girl I was on the date with: this is Alabama, after all), and that launched him into a diatribe about never loaning books, and then he started a whole speech about the dissertation he’s working, yak yak yak.
His wife sat there looking at me with pity, and at him like she wanted to strangle him. But I listened. Patted his back. Told him good luck. Blah blah blah.
As we were leaving, another guy approached me and said, “I heard you talking about a banned book—can I ask what it was?”
I told him it was The Catcher in the Rye, and that it had been banned from our library when I was in high school; thus, everyone in my high school who wanted to read it just borrowed my copy. Hence, its battered condition (and my sentimental attachment to it) when I loaned to That Awful Girl 25+ years ago.
He let me know that when he was in high school, The Catcher in the Rye was required reading. When I asked where he went to school, he named a la-ti-da prep school over in Mobile.
“Well,” I said, “I went to public school in West Virginia. So I guess that explains my story.”
None of this would be all that funny if I hadn’t had a similar experience the day before I started my mini vacation. There were some things I needed to buy (read: bingo prizes) for my ladies at the retirement home before I left them for nearly a week, so I went to Walmart.
And I guess because I had on khaki pants and a black polo shirt, people assumed I worked there. Because…
A woman stopped me on the cereal aisle and asked me if I knew where the sugar was. Luckily, I did. I pointed her to the next aisle over.
Then as I was approaching the self-checkout area, I saw my friend ********* finishing up a purchase. We started talking as I scanned my items, and the man at the checkout facing mine said to me, “Can you help me?”
I stared. “I—what’s wrong?”
He held up his hand: blood. He’d cut himself. He needed some paper towels or tissues, but I had none, of course. Then he remembered the handkerchief in his pocket and pulled it out, pressing it against a pretty nasty skin tear.
For whatever reason, he actually had a band-aid in his other hand, so I took it from him and covered the wound. “Make sure you wash it when you get home, and put Neosporin on it.”
If that had been an old person I love I would want someone to do that for them. So. [Insert eye roll here.]
But wait! There’s more!
********* and I went back to our conversation as my checkout task was winding down, and I heard another voice coming at me from two checkouts over. “Hey, I need your help.”
I looked up. This was a younger guy, my age. Jesus. “I don’t work here,” I said.
That didn’t register, I guess, because he pointed down and said, “This thing triple-charged me for something!”
He was mad! At me? I wasn’t sure!
I happened to be near the spot where Walmart’s self-checkout guru hung out trying to be helpful, and because I shop at that Walmart so often I actually knew her name. “Terri, there’s a guy over here who needs help,” I sort of yelled toward her.
And she helped him.
But man! I don’t think I need to go in there dressed in anything but shorts and a t-shirt from now on. Is it my face? Do people sense my inability to “just keep walking,” as I try to tell myself to do so often in order to avoid these types of situations?
Honestly, I think putting off a trip to Walmart is the only reason I wrote this blog post. For obvious reasons.