I foolishly decided to go to one of the home improvement stores after work. I opted to go to the one that isn’t a mission impossible to enter or exit the parking lot. Walking and looking for an item via the “it will magically appear in front of you if you wander long enough” method, I trailed behind a 50-something white male. His mask was in his hand, not that I cared. He had already told someone to “F-off” when they asked him to pull his mask up from his neck. Being the mature citizen that he is, he not only didn’t pull it up but yanked it off defiantly, probably to imaginary applause in his head.
For this story, I’ll call him Randy. He looked like a Randy more than any Randy in the history of the world. If your name is Randy, and you’re reading this, write me off as a jerk in your head.
Coming past the paint aisle, I noted that store employees had reduced the walkway space arbitrarily by placing pallets of things that no one possibly wanted to buy. Randy had one hand on his cart, pushing it. The other arm swung exaggeratedly as he walked; it swung almost cartoonishly. Coming from the other direction, I saw a woman walking with her presumed son. She held his left hand with her right. He was about eight. I am not sure what ethnicity or nationality she was.
Randy saw them approaching and precipitously moved to the wrong side of the walkway. The woman moved over without looking directly up. Randy swung his arm even wider. The mom pulled her son as close to her as she could and slowed. Randy ran into the son with a glancing blow. Instead of addressing her, he sneered, “Get the eff out the way, boy, that’s not how we do it here.” After he passed, I stopped and looked back. The mom pulled her son to her and gave him a quick hug. The hurt look on his face turned to a smile. The mom whispered something to him that I couldn’t understand.
Randy didn’t know it, but he was about to experience a bit of shenanigans, courtesy of me. I followed him to the area by the lights. He left his cart in the middle of the aisle (of course) and went down the shorter lengthwise aisle with the rakes. I grabbed his cart and took off, walking away with it, laughing as I did so. I left it two aisles over and put a bucket in it so that it looked like it belonged to an absent shopper. I returned to the area by the lights and watched. A minute later, Randy popped out of the rake aisle, looking for his cart. He turned in two complete circles. Cursing under his breath, he high-stepped his way through the entrance and grabbed another cart. His movements were angry and ridiculous.
At this point, I should have disengaged and left. That, however, wasn’t possible for me. I casually followed Randy back around the rear of the store. Randy left his cart by electrical and went down the aisle. He could still see the cart had he turned. He didn’t turn, though. Without thinking, I grabbed the cart, wheeled around, raced down six aisles, and left the second cart sitting out of sight. I kept myself from laughing as I walked back toward Randy.
Before I could see Randy, I heard someone shout, “Where is my @#$damned cart?!” He was furious this time. Because I had on my work badge, I turned the corner and politely asked, “Are you okay, sir?” Randy said, “No, @#$damnit, I’m not. I’ve had two carts taken from me in less than five minutes.” Because I was already neck-deep in this one, I offered to get him another cart. “Yeah, do that,” he said. I walked to the front of the store and retrieved another (his third) cart from the entrance, and took it back to him. People often mistake me for a store employee because of the way I dress. Now that I tuck my shirt in, it happens with greater frequency than ever.
Randy put a couple of items in the cart, and without saying “Thank you,” he turned and went the length of the store. I found my adhesive and walked through the outdoor area. It was there I encountered the woman and her son, both of whom were talking to the presumed husband and father of Randy’s victims.
In a flash of inspiration, I knew that my afternoon of tomfoolery wasn’t over. As all of you who know me are aware, I always carry flashcards and a permanent marker on me. They are perfect for notes, reminders, doodling, and all manner of communication.
I stood next to a stack of fans and wrote on one of the flashcards: “I saw what you did. Don’t be a jackass, especially to children. Good day!”
I decided that if I saw Randy in the store again, I would find a way to put the card in his cart. I knew it was a risk.
I walked the length of the store and saw that Randy was still inside. I laughed and tried to convince myself to leave and be satisfied with my efforts to that point. Instead, I walked toward Randy. He stood near the tool aisle, looking fixedly at a power tool. He was about ten feet away from his cart. Since he had placed several items in it, I doubt he was concerned about a THIRD stolen cart.
Before losing my nerve, I placed the flashcard I wrote on face-up in the top portion of his basket, pivoted like a ballerina, and marched away from him at a breakneck pace.
It’s true that I desperately wanted to see his face when he read the flashcard. I’m dumb, but not stupid. I didn’t turn until I was back in the outdoor area. The woman and her family were checking out at the outdoor register. As they left, I paid for my three or four items, laughing.
I sat in my car for ten minutes, hoping to get a glimpse of Randy. He didn’t exit the store while I waited.
While my tomfoolery didn’t improve the world any, I felt immensely better.