Jul 24, 2009

Check-out Line: The Natural Place to View and Express Universal Truths

Me: Looks like you're having quite a party. When should we all show up?
He: Yeah, it's my daughter-in-law's birthday and we're throwing her a big party.
Me: That's so sweet!
He: Yep. She's great. She keeps our son away from our home!

Me: Hello, how are you today?
He: (with a dazed and glowing expression, I'm thinking, way too early to be drunk) I'm just fine. . . I mean, I must have done something . . . I guess it's true . . . there is something to it. I was approached at the gas station this morning by someone with a story about traveling and being out of gas. . .
Me: Yeah, that happened to me last week. Scammers.
He: . . . and I don't know why, I listened and I just. . . I mean, I just gave him $10. I felt compelled, somehow. And then, when I arrived at work, I was just given a $5,000 bonus! I guess paying it forward really does work!

He exited with his bottle of wine; a small celebratory drink offering to the gods of pleasure I suppose, but I perceived it was the miracle of timing that had him more in awe than the actual amount.


Me: Did we have everything you were looking for today?
She: (with inscrutable expression deadpans,) Yes.
Me: (after noting her beautiful and quietly active little 3 y/0 daughter looking amazingly like her mom) There you are, have a good evening. Your darling girl is a carbon copy of you!
She: (now with an alarmingly odd expression) Yes, but certainly not my temperament.

And she walks out, while looking oddly at her own child. It gave me a chill to realize I had just picked up on a non-bonded mother and child. I know it happens in life, that somehow, a mom just cannot connect with her own, but jarring, all the same to witness.

She: (a former boss who was not a bad person, just a self-promoter extraordinaire who was threatened by the CEO's recognition of my talent and ability, and proceeded to crank down on me with micro-managing my computer needs. Long boring story short: I quit to work elsewhere and she got fired shortly thereafter.) Wow, it's funny how you come in here for just one thing and leave with so much!
Me: (recognizing her long before she lets on that she was my boss) It's our evil little marketing plan at work!
She: Oh, hey, Joan! It's you!
Me: Hello, C. How is your bike trekking going?
She: Oh, I'm at the top of the organization, I'm all over.
Me: Yes, I've seen you on the internet site for the charity event. Well done!
Did you see me on the news last Fall, as the spokesperson for a national brand tourist entertainment attraction?

Okay, I really didn't say that last line. But I did think it.


Mom, Bride and Bridesmaids: Can we split this bill three ways? How much is $40 divided by 3?
Me: *Bou Blink*

In my mind, I am throwing mom and the whole gang out of the store. Bodily. And dialing up her finacee on her phone and pleading with him to call it off.

Groom and Groomsmen: Can we get another keg for the same price? Dude, we need some Yeagermeister. Is that enough vodka? Where are the cigars?
Me: Oh, congrats! I met the bride-to-be earlier.
Groom: It better not have been her. She'd better be at home!

And I think to myself, it's a wonderful world in perfect balance.

Me: May I see an I.D. please?
He: Yes, certainly.
Me: And how old are you?
He: 21. I know, I look nothing like my photo, but I got contacts and cut my hair and, here, I have other identification, and my social security card and . . .
Me: It's okay. I can see that it's you.
He: Yeah, cool. I get that all the time.
Me: You'll get it for quite a while longer until you get a new license.

Next in line, obviously a buddy: How can you be so sure it's him?
Me: Because I'm an artist. I've studied the human face and line and form. I'm mentally measuring the distance between the eyes, where the point of the nose sits vertically between the brow and the chin. . .
He: Like a police artist?
Me: You never know.
He: (nervously,) uh, heh. . .

Immediate Next in line, a local celebrity looking at me intently.
Me: (after checking items) Debit or credit?
He: Credit. (He hands me his card and I glance at the name. Yep.)
Me: I know who you are so I don't need to verify your I.D. , but I will need your signature (or autograph if you like!) here, please.

He smiles, signs the credit slip and quietly slips out the door. I make a mental note that he is much taller and slimmer in person, and how sad that the modern television camera still reduces stature and proportion in a way that the movie cameras do not. Many movie stars are quite short, in fact, but they have perfect proportion of stature, so no matter what medium in which they are portrayed, they fill up the frame of view.

And then I thought of how much of our world, since time whenever, still revolves around little notes of confidence; credit slips made good by a simple human gesture of true identity and good faith. And how little our political "representatives" demonstrate of either.

And the parade of life continues to entertain me throughout my shift. Tonight three unlikely twenty-something roommates were the highlight. The Nice Girl With a Good Personality, the Good Guy Who Will Someday Sell You a Computer, and a tall, high-yellow young man in tshirt and jeans with a makeshift black caftan/robe/sheet wrapped decoratively (?) with pastel strips torn from bedsheets, hooded and draped, and all flowing behind him. I have no explanation or category for such an appearance except, He Who Has Never Been Laid (it's crude, I know, but really. C'mon.)

Bums, DT's, Babies, Jocks, Dads, Brides and Businessmen and next door neighbors and families on vacation. I have a perfect, two-minute relationship with each and every one of them. Just how I like my human interaction: short and sweet and shallow!

Twelve hours later, I can only have one thought: my feet and knees just ache.

But, I HAVE A JOB!! Did I mention that?!

It's all good.


PeggyU said...

I think you could take any ordinary thing and make a story out of it. What a gift, Joan!

"Short and sweet and shallow" really does have some job appeal. I remember my dad saying that was one plus for working in the ER versus family practice - no ongoing relationship with the patients, so less emotional investment in them. Patch 'em up, head 'em out!

Gecko said...

Hope you get a discount! Like Peggy sez, you can make a story out of anything. The play is the thing . . .
to take back the culture.

leeann said...

Regarding perceived stature of movie folk... forever I've thought Oliver Platt was nice and short like I am. Around the hobbity 5 foot area. Come to find out he's 6 foot 3 inches. I was crushed. I can't have a futile crush on a tallie!
Glad your job isn't a pain in the butt. :)

Jean said...

You make fascinating the most simple.
Woman of details. Big part of being a great artist :-)

robinstarfish said...

You have the perfect job, at least from the perspective of the reader who loves every tale.

Sal said...

what everyone else said: perfect vignettes.

leeann: I'm devastated. He was my short dark futile crush, too. Dang.

dogette said...

I admire the HELL out of anyone who can work with the general public.

The police artist thing made me LOL. Great answer.

pamibe said...

Priceless! Feel like I just watched a really good film...

Edward said...

Dear Joan,

Simply a priceless entry! Thank you for sharing with us a quick and accurate sketch of the human condition in many of its variations.

I had been a little worried when you announced that you were working in a liquor store, as that can be dangerous in some neighborhoods. Your location appears to be safe.

Take care, and if you don't have a soft rubber mat to stand on all day at the register ---- get one!

Bou said...

It's a cross section you see and you allow us to see through your eyes... and you do such a wonderful job of it. I loved reading this.

BTW, I was at the airport, handed the woman behind the desk my driver's license and she said, 'Is this really you?"

I stood there a minute and said, 'I assure you, it is me. Unfortunately the State of FL only retakes photos like every 25 years. I had that taken 11 years ago..."

She laughed and said, "OH! I thought for sure this was your daughter!"


GUYK said...

wonderful stuff Joan.

Ex-Dissident said...

Joan, the last guy you described: if he was dressed as strange as that, he was a schizophrenic off his meds.