I remember the first time I saw her, the first time I was behind her, and it seemed like some sort of act. Her movements were contrived and her voice just oozed with deception. I keep telling myself that life isn’t a work of fiction and I can’t just go around writing everyone around me into some sort of story but there are people who beg for it. They plead, with their actions or inactions, to be put to print, even if no one ever reads them. This woman, on only the second encounter I have with her drags me into writing about her.
Let me set her up for you:
She’s about sixty or so and both times I’ve seen her she was dressed up like she was going to or coming from, church. She has this hat thing going on and a lot of church ladies do have the hat thing going on. This is a woman with a lot of bling on her wrists and she jungles and jangles with bracelets and bangles. And she has this purse. It’s a huge thing. You know those movie stars that keep tiny dogs in their purses? Well, this woman could keep a Border Collie in this thing she’s carrying. She’s got this super red lipstick on that makes her look like she French kissed a fire truck.
So here we go:
The cashier is ringing stuff up, the guy is putting the stuff in bags, and this woman is carrying on a conversation with them both. “My isn’t this weather wonderful?” “You know, I just love this store and everyone in it.” “Do you remember Michael? He used to work in the back in the meat department, do you remember him, I taught him when he was in the third grade, and do you know what, he was really good, really good, at math.”
Everything coming out of her mouth is just dripping with honey. And she has her bag on the counter and she has her hands folded on top of her Border Collie Bag. Finally, the cashier totals her up and suddenly it occurs to this woman she has to pay for the groceries. She acts startled as if she were lost in thought. She unzips her bag, digs down deep, up to her elbows, unzips another compartment, and she brings out a handful of change. She spills it out on the counter and begins counting out loud. So now she’s covered the last part of the amount. Everything past the decimal is accounted for, right? She picks up the remaining coins from the counter, one at a time, and digs down into her purse, nearly to the shoulders, puts them into the lower caverns, and zips it back up. Then she digs around some more and produces a checkbook. Yes, a checkbook. She asks to borrow a pen. She has to write the amount of the check in first, and then she has to write it out, which she doesn’t have to do because they just scan the check, and all the while she’s humming some song as if this is the best thing ever. She returns the pen, digs around to put the checkbook away, and in the meantime, she hasn’t budged an inch from the furthest point she could be from the cashier and still reach her. The person behind her, that would be me, could have unloaded the four items I had in my buggy, but no, the Border Collie Bag is sitting right there in the way.
So she tells the cashier to have a good day and finally, with great fanfare, moves slowly away, like a ship launching, and the only thing missing is the confetti and streamers. The cashier is a young woman and I can see it in her eyes. She wants to say something but she doesn’t want to get fired for saying it. I have four items and use a credit card. The cashier looks wounded, angry, used and plain pissed off.
“Is she like that every time?” I ask.
“Every time.” The cashier replies. “And she comes in here every day, sometimes twice a day. She pays for one thing with a check and change. It drives me fucking crazy.” And she realizes she’s said more than she needed to say. She looks at me and I just nod. Yeah, I got ya.
If I ever struck it rich the first thing I would do is hire someone to do my shopping. But I wonder, truly wonder, why Border Collie Purse Woman does what she does. I think she has to know she’s irritating the hell out of the cashier and the people around her. I mean, she does know, right? So is that it? It that her thing? Does she register this sort of an event as some sort of victory over the forces she considers evil? Is this her way of Sticking It To The Man? What would drive someone, anyone, to be such an obstructionist?
I get back to the truck and there she is, sitting in the car beside me, nodding her head to gospel music. So what if I’m wrong? What if she’s just incredibly lonely and that one trip to the store is all the human interaction she’s going to get? What if she’ll go home now and there’s no one; no cat, no Border Collie, no one at all for the rest of the day and night and those dozen or so words spoken to her at the store is all she has to eat until she goes in again. I get out of the truck and go over to where she’s sitting.
“I love your hat” I tell her and she looks startled and she looks at me if maybe I’m messing with her.
“I got it at LuLu’s” she says and she seems really proud of it.
“Looks good on you, really.” And that’s it.
So, it’s a win-win. If she’s really just a bitch and likes pissing people off she has to think she failed now. If she’s just a lonely woman needed someone to talk to she now thinks her gat attracts people albeit those she never expected.
Me? As I finish this I wonder where she is right now and if she’s wondering if I meant it about the hat.
I did. It was an awesome hat.