The fine people at WAMU have asked me to do a new piece of commentary, likely to be broadcast the Friday before Christmas. Unfortunately, I am finding the words difficult to put together this weekend. Not completely sure what my problem is, but I'll sort it out.
I'm lacking the holiday spirit this year, and I tried to jump start it this afternoon by compiling an iTunes playlist of appropriate tuneage. A lot of old stuff, a little new stuff, a handful of kids' show tunes... Then, I took a drive up the Pike tonight to listen to it. I still didn't feel the feeling, no matter how plaintively Judy Garland pleaded for me to have myself a merry little Christmas. Not even Burl Ives could kickstart my holly jollies. Feh. It'll come eventually, I hope.
I sat in the parking lot at Target for a while, just listening to music, not eager to go in and spend money. But life without toilet paper and laundry detergent is simply not worth living. Trust me.
I dragged my carcass into the Target entrance and immediately felt that sensation of "Mall Head", as if I'd already been there too long and needed out. I stood, nose to the wall, reading the posted weekly circular in what has become my normal stance for reading text. A woman came up next to me, laughing. She said, "I've got the opposite problem, I have to stand back to read 'em." There we stood, doing this squinty review of the ad. I told her with a chuckle, "Last year my eye doctor told me that my vision would start changing around 40 and I'd be holding things at arm's length to read 'em. And then, I end up going partially blind this year, and BAM. It's the exact opposite." I was wearing my new driving glasses. I smiled again, "Hence the jumbo frames here."
My presbyopic compatriot smiled and said, "Actually, I think those glasses make you look quite lovely. Very striking."
I'll be damned.
I wished her luck and headed for the cleaning supplies area, feeling a little better about the world. Still, I wanted out. I hit the check-out as quickly as possible, where a young skinny guy clerked and joked, and tried his hardest to be a modern day Duckie, channeling Jon Cryer with modest success. As I unloaded my Tide and Scrubbing Bubbles, I realized my wallet was sitting in my locked car, fortunately just two spaces away from the door. "No problemoooo!" chirped Duckie Jr. "If you write a check, sometimes it doesn't ask me for ID." Of course, this time, it did.
I turned to the woman behind me and apologized. I quickly explained that I was rather night blind and didn't see that my small black wallet was left on the car seat. I'd be right back. She rolled her eyes, clucked her tongue and sighed. I apologized again and asked the clerk if he could clear my transaction for her. Again he said, "No problemoooo - I'll just suspend it."
I headed for my car, and as the automatic doors whooshed open, I heard the woman say to the clerk, "Her ass is so fat, it's gonna take her ten minutes to get to her damn car." "Oh, yeaaaaah. No kidding!" said the chirpy twerp in response. I clocked myself on my wrist. 1 minute, 15 seconds. I was back before they'd finished their tacky chatter at my expense.
"Was that fast enough for you?" I said to the woman, who was studiously ignoring me. "Excuse me?" She said it in that way people do when they've been caught at something and are embarrassed.
"Did I move my fat ass fast enough for you?" I spoke sweetly, like a southern woman asking if she'd like another mint julep. She fixed her jaw and avoided my eye. I looked at the clerk and said, "Here's my ID." He looked at me and jerked his chin. "Soooo sorry. You'll have to go to the end of the line-o." The line-o was one guy-o. I considered just leaving my goods there and going to the Giant store around the corner, but I was tired. I just replied "Fine-o. I will-o wait-o." Duckie cast a baleful stare my direction. The guy behind the cranky broad chuckled.
When I took my place behind him, he turned to me and said, "It's amazing, isn't it? People feel like they can be assholes and no one will call them on it." I nodded quietly and half-smiled. I've been feeling tired and worn down lately. I just didn't want to cry in Target of all places. He then addressed the woman in front of us, who was juggling her ringing cell phone and $60 worth of holiday party supplies: "Excuse me, but can you move your fat ass a little faster? I think it's gonna take you ten minutes to get out of my way, huh?" She looked shocked.
The man spoke again. "You can dish it but can't take it?" Clearly she was rattled.
"Screw you," she hissed, grabbing her bags and throwing them into the cart. She fled to the door, but had to return to the counter, where she'd left her credit card hanging out of the scanner. The man half-bowed to her and said, "Your credit card, madame." There was almost visible steam coming out of her ears at this point. My volunteer supporter finished his transaction, turned to me and said, "You have a nice evening, ma'am." He smiled and left.
I looked at the clerk, who wasn't really looking at me. "Here's my check-o, ID-o, and I'd just like to go-o."
"Heh, uh heh heh, yeah," the clerk was nervous. I'm sure he wondered if I was going to complain about him agreeing with the customer about the velocity of my fat ass. He tried to joke as he awkwardly ran the check through the machine. "Heh, uh heh heh... check, check, check... check... republic... uh heh heh heh heh." My receipt appeared and he thrust it at me, but never met my eye.
I took the paper from him and offered a barely audible "Thank you." And I left.
Some people really do feel empowered to be mean and callous and rotten and some others are just cowed into playing along. And yet, for every jerk, there are, I hope and believe, at least two to counter them.
And blessings upon them and their parents for raising them well. Job well done, Mom and Dad.