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A Christmas Foible

December 24, 2010

A picture print by Currier and Ives. Note the uncanny resemblance to current Thomas Kinkade work.

I needed last-minute Christmas cards one year.  I found some at my convenient neighborhood drug store.

I joined the lone checkout line behind a woman and her daughter.  The woman was buying a week’s worth of groceries using a pile of coupons.  I was late for choir practice—and my Christmas patience was waning.

Another customer got in line behind me and asked, “Cold out there, isn’t it?”  I reluctantly turned, expecting either someone I knew or a raving lunatic.  He belonged to the latter set.

“Yes, it is,” I said, implying as much do-not-disturb as I could.

I had just been reading that in order to be more social, one should strike up conversations in everyday settings, like checkout lines.  Faced with the situation, all I could think about was how to avoid hearing this man’s life history.

The frugal woman’s daughter, thirteen or fourteen years old, had items of her own.  I rolled my eyes and grumped to myself, “Why the hell doesn’t she put those on the counter?”  Then I noticed she was holding them below the counter level.  “She’s going to shoplift!”

I wrestled with reporting the little thief.

The mom finally checked out.  The daughter said, “Bye mom!” as her mother walked out the door.  Then she placed the box and card on the counter.  She told the clerk that they were Christmas presents for her mom.

What were you saying, Inspector Clouseau?

Eezn’t zat nize?

That’s what I thought.

My turn at last.  As the cashier rang me up, Mr. Can’t-Keep-to-Himself bellowed at her from behind me: “I had to come over here for milk!  Your prices are cheaper than CVS!  I told them I was coming over here!”

I fished for appropriate change in my wallet when the man nudged me in the arm and said, “Here, I’ll take care of it!  Merry Christmas!”  He plunked his milk and frozen pizza on the counter with my cards.

The clerk was highly enthused by the man’s holiday spirit.  I was not, eking out a feeble, “Thank you.”  I was convinced that the store, the Great Hereafter, or I could somehow be swindled in this scenario.  It’s doubtful that his dairy savings covered my cards.

As I was leaving, he boomed, “My hair’s almost as short as yours!”  He pulled back his hood to reveal buzz cut hair, as if to provide the causal link for purchasing a stranger’s greeting cards.  I couldn’t say he looked like he needed to be institutionalized, but I was mortified by his continued, embarrassing intrusion into what I considered my privacy.  I took my free Christmas cards and high-tailed it to the car so I wouldn’t run into Mr. Generous again outside.  I feared he might ask me for a lift back to Camden Town, the North Pole or an early grave.

All the ingredients for moral lessons are here, I suppose, although I’ve failed to digest any of them.  I thought I’d pass the story along, re-gifting as it were, in hopes that someone else might find a use for it.

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One comment

  1. Moral lessons are overrated. I appreciate your intestinal fortitude.



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