This is a small story of an unusual moment. I’m not proud of the resolution but each of us has a moment of clarity which belies our better natures.
Today, I went shopping and stopped at a local market. As I attempted to check out, I realized I needed the Alcohol Lane, because I was buying a 50-gallon drum of spirits for my wife. I’m just kidding – I exaggerated to get her attention. My wife drinks hard liquor, which the grocery store doesn’t sell. Still kidding, but I did have alcohol to purchase.
As I walked up, an older white woman came up, muttering to herself, looking for an open lane that was quick, or perhaps even a brick to throw through a plate glass window. She had a terrible case of R.B.F., with the exception of her face not being at rest. A short, older Hispanic lady had arrived at the register first. Although the cashier wasn’t Latina, she spoke Spanish to her. (My part of town has a lot of Latinos and Marshallese, so it’s normal to hear several languages at the grocery store, which I love.) This seemed to incense Mrs. White, (so named because she was an older white woman) who mumbled that Americans speak English. I addressed the older Latina lady in line in Spanish, to let her know I’d throw a belt spacer between our orders. I looked toward Mrs. White and said, “Good afternoon, ma’am” to her and made eye contact as I smiled, to avoid a potential concealed carry situation and to let her know she was dealing with human beings who weren’t interested in being rude to her or one another.
Inexplicably, Mrs. White pushed her way between the first lady in line and me, still mumbling in barely suppressed anger. Her voice sounded like Gollum just a tad. I let her through, smiling. I could clearly hear her saying unpleasant things, implying I was a Mexican. I toyed with the idea of being clever, but decided that perhaps she was having a bad moment. As I almost always do, I let it go.
A cashier approached me and waved, indicating, “Come up and I’ll ring you up.” He said it to me because everyone else was trapped in their spot. Mrs. White seemed to spew steam from her ears in anger, so I invited her nicely to go ahead as I backed up and moved over. She seemed to be waiting for the older Latina lady to move up, which was impossible. “Go ahead, ma’am” I told her again.
“But I’m going up there,” she hissed, oblivious to the fact that she was opting for climbing Mt. Everest instead of just stepping around me and going to the open register. As she maneuvered with all the dexterity of a wounded rhino, she spewed an impressive stream of derogatory epithets. She had a fairly rounded arsenal, honed for everyday use, it seemed to me at the time.
As she stomped away, I apologized to the cashier and lady in line. I did so in Spanish, because I knew that they both spoke Spanish but not necessarily English. Mrs. White’s head swiveled back toward me like the girl in the Exorcist. And for a moment, I awaited a stream of green pea soup vomit to come hurtling at me. Instead, she turned her wrath onto the poor gentleman who opened a new register. He had no choice but to attempt to ignore her wrath as she continued her tirade. I felt sorry for her, both for her anger and for her apparent love of racist commentary. (But I would’ve given her at least a 9 for consistency, if I had only possessed a large white rectangular card to indicate my evaluation of her ability.)
In my defense, you’ll note that I behaved myself and avoided any rudeness.
As I left, I noticed she was stuck at the register still, as she was trying to use some unusual coupon. Miraculously, she was silent at that point. But murder was written large across her face. All that was missing was a hat emblazoned with “Redrum.”
As I walked to the car, I took my time, waiting for the race cars to speed past the crosswalk with the intent of breaking the land speed record. I loaded my stuff into the backseat and as I plopped down into the driver’s seat, I looked up.
To my right was the cart corral, with the cart entry to the far end. I could see Mrs. White approaching, once again angry about something.
And while I’m not proud of the moment, as Mrs. White angrily pushed her cart into the opposite end of the cart corral, an invisible and irresistible force overtook me, one guided by the spirit of chaos and pure evil. As she gave the cart that last angry push, I hit the car horn for a solid two seconds, just a mere few feet from her. My car horn has never bleated as loudly as it did in that moment. It was as if the clouds had parted, emitting a thunderous echo.
It seemed as if Mrs. White’s hair stood on end, pointing toward the sky. She shrieked and then her gaze pivoted directly to me with a fiendish intensity.
She raised her right hand and gave me the biggest middle finger I’ve ever seen. It seemed to pulsate in righteous mean-spiritedness. Flame should have shot out of her upraised middle finger.
Shockingly, I laughed and waved at her, as if I hadn’t just attempted to give her a massive coronary.
I know as she drove home, she was cursing that foul Mexican man at the grocery store. If her windows were rolled down, I bet a satellite could’ve detected a black cloud slowly rolling behind her.
(I was surprised by how far this story reached on social media.)