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  • If Mother Teresa Had Shopped At Walmart, She’d Just Be Teresa

    September 30, 2011

    I love the Mother Teresa quote which says, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

    I would like to be like Mother Teresa, to be able to say that my life is a love letter to the world, but some days, I’m afraid my life looks less like a love letter and more like graffiti.

    The other day I went to Walmart to pick up just a few things, and is always the case, when I walked into the store there was no one in the checkout lanes.  The lanes were so empty you coulda gone bowling.  The cashiers were standing in the main aisle chatting and looking around hopefully for someone to checkout.  Ten minutes later, when I had gathered my few things and headed towards the lanes, they were backed up, three deep.

    But that did not matter, for I was in a love-letter-writing-to-the-world mood.  I stood in line behind a lady who was apparently stocking up for the apocalypse.  But what did I care? I was all love, peace, patience, kindness, yada yada —  I was busy browsing the September issue of Good Housekeeping (the one with Meredith Vieira on the front; I’m featured somewhere around page 150, in case you care).

    Now let me pause here and say that someday I am going to write an entire series on grocery store etiquette, but for now, I will just tell you that at the top of the list of grocery store do’s and don’t is this:  Don’t crowd the person checking out.  They own that space until they have been cleared for takeoff and pushed away from the checkout tarmac, so BACK OFF.  I hate it when I am not even done loading my stuff on the conveyor and the person behind me starts putting their stuff on.  It makes life complicated.  As well, don’t stand right beside me when I am paying.  You are not welcome in my space at that time, so please, step off.

    So since the lady in front of me was the current owner of the conveyor, I politely left a reasonable 12-18 inches between the end of the conveyor and me.

    As I was standing there, flipping through the pages of Good Housekeeping, I sensed a cart was very close to my backside.  Apparently my backside has some sort of extra sensory perception, my backside has ESP.  So I turned and looked and sure enough, there was a cart there, with only a whisper of airspace between my Hanes yoga pants and this cart.  But again, I was feeling the Mother Teresa vibe, so I didn’t turn and shout, “BACK OFF BUSTER!”  I just kept reading.

    And then I heard this very large middle-aged man behind me grumbling loudly. “You are a complete idiot!”  I turned again, anxious to find out to whom he was directing his ire and boy was I surprised when I found out it was ME.  And my first thought was this:  I am glad my kid is not here.  My second thought was this:  Wha?

    He continued his tirade against me, describing me in inventive and colorful terms.  That was a day brightener.

    I finally figured out that what I had done to upset him so was that I had not moved forward 18-inches and sidled up next to Apocalypse Lady to watch her write her check.  He was upset because he had to stand at the end of the aisle and not next to the gum rack.

    I was stunned.  In my years of shopping at Walmart, I’ve encountered the occasional less than pleasant electric cart lady, but never has anyone behaved so aggressively towards me.   So in an effort to smooth his ruffled feathers, I said to him, “I’m really not trying to upset you, I just want to give the lady ahead of me her space.”  But he didn’t care to hear my thoughts and provided an exhaustive description of the content of my character.

    And frankly, I didn’t know what to do.  I felt like opening up a can of Antique Mommy whoop bottom on him. I felt angry. I felt intimidated. I felt scared. I felt like crying. But at no time did I feel like writing a love letter with God’s little pencil.

    So I just turned away and ignored him as best I could and tried to convince myself I wasn’t terrified.

    When it was my turn to checkout, I put my few things on the conveyor, anxious to get checked out and get gone.  I had picked up a water bottle for Sean that did not have a price on it, and for a split second, I was tempted to insist on a price check, just to gig him. But I didn’t.  The urge to flee trumped the urge to gig.  So I told the cashier I didn’t really need it and I would get it another time.  That was as love-lettery as I could muster.

    As I left the store, anger began to overtake fear, so I stopped by the manager’s station and told her what had happened and pointed him out.   And then I high tailed it out of there, anxious to get home and get some sympathy from Antique Daddy.

    As luck would have it, when I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the lane that passes in front of the store, Mr. Asshat was coming out.  And he notices me in spite of my clever disguise of sunglasses.   He stops in the middle of the of lane with his cart and blocks my car.   He bares his teeth at me, like some kind of animal, and then punctuates his point with his middle finger.  Wow. What an awesome display of manhood. His mother must be so proud.

    So then I did what I’m sure Mother Teresa would have done.  I stuck my tongue out at him.  And then I sped home taking a circuitous route.

    Yes indeed, Mother Teresa’s life was an inspirational love letter to the world. Then again, Mother Teresa didn’t shop at Walmart.

    The Phone Call

    May 3, 2010

    After supper the other evening, Sean and AD went outside to play and do boy stuff while I stayed inside my nice quiet people-free house where there was no sound to be heard save the soothing hum of my dishwasher.

    Awhile back we read the Ralph and The Motorcycle series and since then my fabulous six-year-old has taken to making motorcycle/motorboat noises anytime he is in motion, which is anytime he is awake.  It is darling. It is adorable. I love it.  But sometimes I just want it to stop.

    So then, I sat stock still in my chair and relished my sound-effects free house for a few minutes before getting busy on a project.

    Okay, since you asked, I’ll tell you.

    I am working on Sean’s kindergarten graduation slide show and I think I have found what I was born to do – direct!  It has been way fun putting this thing together and oh how I wish I could show it to you.  You would say, “AM you are some sort of Spielberg!” And I would look down shyly and kick the dirt and say “Aw shucks, you think?”

    And then you’d say, “No not really, I was just being nice.” And then I’d say, “Oh.” And we’d leave it at that but I’d make you watch it until your eyes glazed over and drool started leaking out of the corner of your mouth.

    At any rate, I was very excited to get back to work on my little project when the phone rang.  I cursed at the phone in my head because I did not want to hear the phone ring nor did I want to speak to anyone unless it was the Publishers Clearing House people or perhaps the HGTV Dream Home people.  Since I have signed up for neither, that was unlikely.  So I let it ring a few times until guilt got the better of me and I answered it.  AD can completely ignore a ringing phone. I cannot.  What if someone was in the Cash Cab and they needed me to help them answer a question?  Mr. Google and I are here for you!

    So I answered the phone.  The person on the other end asked how I was doing and what was going on, but I wasn’t really quite sure who it was.  So I kind of kept playing along with evasive and vague comments hoping for some revealing context that would solve the mystery.  In person this is easier because you can nod knowingly but you can’t really do that on the phone, you have to say something.  Finally I just had to ask.

    “Um, who is this?” I cringed.

    “Who is this? This is your cousin Judi.  Don’t you recognize my voice?”

    “Judi!” I enthused.  “No I guess I didn’t recognize your voice. We don’t talk on the phone that often.”

    In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve spoken to Judi on the phone. Judi is actually AD’s cousin’s wife, but in our family we make no distinctions.  I knew Judi was supposed to be coming to town and I was delighted that she had called because we were hoping to get to see her.

    We talked for several more minutes about this that.

    “Well I hear you are planning a vacation,” she said.

    I told her yes we were in fact trying to plan a summer vacation and that we were planning to come out her way, hoping to get by to see her.  I was a little surprised that she seemed unaware of that.  Maybe her husband, Cousin Tim, had forgotten to mention that we might be staying with them.

    She asked how school was going.  I told her we were finishing up and that I was working on a slide show for the graduation.

    She indicated that she thought that was unusual, but didn’t press me on it.

    She asked about my heath.  I told her I was doing well and then to be polite, I asked about hers.

    She told me all about her health issues, in detail, and boy was I surprised because I’ve always thought Judi was so healthy, always eating salad and jogging.

    “Well my brother has written me off for dead,” she sighed, “But I’m just fine.”

    And that’s when I knew that something was not right.  Cousin Judi had a brother but he died many many years ago.

    “Um, you know what?” I hedged, “I thiiiiiiinnk you might have the wrong number.”

    “Really?”  She was astounded.  “Are you sure?”

    I asked her what number she dialed.  The phone number was exactly the same, but the area code was off by one digit – up just one button.

    “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she said, “But it has been nice talking to you!”

    “Same here,” I laughed.

    Queue the Twilight Zone music.  I felt like I had been living in Judi’s parallel universe for that past five minutes and chuckled at how long it took for it all to unravel.

    Back to my own quiet planet, I turned to my computer ready to get to work.

    But before I could get started, I heard the front door slam and what sounded like a motorcycle.

    The Yarn Lady and I

    October 9, 2009

    Awhile back, I created a little something for someone which I sent off in the mail, a little gift of sorts.  It was a little something that took me, oh, about 20 hours to create.  But whatever.  That is neither here nor there.

    Several weeks, maybe even a month has passed, and I have heard nothing, no acknowledgement, nada. It is like I am dead to them.  Although.  How can a dead person spend 30 hours making a lil’ something to drop in the mail?  Can’t.  So naturally, my feelings are devastated shredded whipped bruised an itsy bit hurt given that I spent about 40 hours working on this little creative gifty thing.

    So, I’m thinking that is kind of weird. Either they hated it or are offended or both. Or they hate me.  Or all three.  Or!  They don’t appreciate that I spent 50 hours of my life working on this little bit o’ art.

    So I tell AD about it and he does this thing that always aggravates me.  He’s logical. And charitable.  And worse? He takes up for the offending party.  “Well they probably never received it,” he said.

    It is lonely on my bandwagon. Yes it is. Many seats are available. Form one line please.

    Shortly thereafter my cell phone rings but I can’t get to it before it goes to voice mail. Later I check the voice mail and it is someone from a galaxy far far away, in another area code, someone I don’t know.  She has left a long and rambling message for someone who is not me. For five minutes she talks about the new baby and the yarn she has bought and what would I like for her to make for the new baby and on and on.

    I considered calling the yarn lady back, but I have a phone phobia.  I do not like to talk on the telephone. I am fearful that I might just blurt out some random thought (a lot like this post) or that I might launch into an unfortunate choice of story and not be able to stop myself. Like this post.

    And based on the length of the message, I have to assume she would engage me and there would be talking, a lot of talking, maybe even about yarn which I know nothing about, and I just can’t do it.  I’m just telling you that up front because I know y’all will blast me for not returning the call. But I just can’t. I would email her but that is the one bit of information she didn’t leave.

    Anyway.

    So when AD came down for lunch, I told him about the yarn lady and the wrong number.

    He shook his head and laughed and may have even pointed his finger at me.  “Somewhere,” he said “there is a woman with hurt feelings because someone never acknowledged her.”

    So I said the most obvious and logical thing.  “Fine! Fix your own lunch.”