It was raining yesterday. Hard.
Just after 5:00 I dashed out of work in what I hoped was a ten-minute window of drizzle, only to be caught in a cold, pounding rain mere feet outside my building. Still, I was wearing a wool skirt and my LLBean rain jacket and knee-high boots, and it was only a couple miles home. And I’m not a total pansy. So I set my bike lights to flash, pulled up my hood and started to ride.
I needed to stop at the grocery store on my way home and pick up a couple things for dinner. Thoroughly soaked from the waist down, with rain-bedraggled hair and mascara smudged on my cheeks, it was my goal to make this an especially quick errand.
I checked out my reflection in a soda cooler as I entered the store. I mussed my hair just a bit extra for maximum effect. Then I slumped my shoulders and set to the task of acquiring a yellow bell pepper, blackberries, lettuce, and a block of mozzarella. I had everything collected in two minutes flat. And then getting the heck outta there as quickly as possible.
Now, Jeff can tell you that I am horrible at choosing a checkout lane. Whether it’s the movie theater, Target or QuikTrip, I have a special knack for selecting the line with an old lady laboriously writing a check or some guy with a fistful of coupons and an afternoon to kill. It’s a special talent.
So I wasn’t surprised when the woman in front of me – with turquoise fingernails and a diamond-cluster ring on every finger – began waving a thick stack of formula vouchers in the checkout clerk’s face. I wasn’t paying close attention to the exact details of the transaction(s), but it seemed that each voucher could be used for “up to $XX”. Of course, to maximize her buying power, Turquoise Fingernails made the clerk juggle each individual transaction – “one can of formula, one box of rice cereal and two jars of baby food in this one,” “one can of formula and eight jars of baby food here”.
The line was quickly building up behind me. I was already trapped in the no-man’s-land between the candy bars and the conveyor belt – there was no escape. My only weapon was my hideous, soggy appearance.
So, I affected a blank, dead-eyed stare. My eyes bored into Turquoise Fingernails’ strawlike hair. My shopping basket slung on my elbow and rainwater dripping listlessly from my jacket to the floor, I stood frozen in place for each of the half-dozen transactions. I held a one-way staring contest; willing myself to blink as infrequently as possible. I thought about the quesadillas waiting for me at home. I contemplated biting into my bell pepper right there, just to prove a point.
I stared. There were still more vouchers. I stared. More cardboard cans of artificial milk. I stared. And more plastic shopping bags piling up in the shopping cart. My eyes glossed over.
Through it all, I dripped rainwater and held my little basket and stared at Turquoise Fingernails.
Finally, as the long-suffering clerk scanned the last jar of baby food and processed the last voucher, Turquoise Fingernails shuffled forward to leave.
But! “Wait,” my friend wheezed, “You forgot my KoolAid!”.
Oh yes. (You can’t make this up.) At the back of the conveyor belt, just before my own small pile of produce, were two bags of Lay’s barbeque chips and no fewer than 50 packets of KoolAid.
I’d like to think that the entire line behind us groaned audibly, but that was probably just me. Luckily, I still had some dead-eyed staring in my reserves, and no hesitation about unleashing it at Turquoise Fingernails. With every extra beep of the checkstand, a little bit more of me died. And still I stared.
Finally – I really mean it this time – it was my turn. As the clerk scanned each of my few items, I tossed them into my reusable bag. I swiped my credit card, took my receipt, and was out the doors no more than thirty seconds later.
As I unlocked my bike and slung my shopping bag over my shoulder, I saw Turquoise Fingernails one more time, turning out of the parking lot. I raced to catch up with her at the intersection, then gave her one final, icy, mascara-streaked to mascara-clumped stare. And rode home – in the rain – to eat quesadillas.