I’m Not a Cynic!

Photo by Nik on Unsplash

Yesterday, while dutifully scrambling to transfer my groceries from the cart to the belt, dig my credit card out of my purse, search for an empty space on which to place my bags in the bagging area, poke multiple buttons on the pin pad to decline this membership and that donation, AND bag my own groceries, I was flummoxed by the impatient clerk who irritably told me to move my bag. I had mistakenly set my bag in the place where the bags-for-purchase would have received my purchases had I not provided my own reusable bags.

“Would you move your bag; you’re in…”, she snarled.

“I’m in your way?” I finished for her brightly, as she fumbled around her cranky brain for an acceptable finish to her impolite request.

“Don’t mince words, I’m not overly sensitive”, I followed as she sheepishly nodded. I moved my bags further down the counter and proceeded to place my groceries in my bags, reaching over the various and sundry items that stores have deemed the last ditch place to get one to part with yet another donation or make an impulse purchase. The clerk shifted impatiently as she waited for me to remove my card from the card reader so she could begin shoving the next customer’s comestibles into the items I hadn’t yet had time to bag.

I remember a time, and here I flagrantly make a display of my age, when one wheeled the cart to within reach of the checker, then stood back to fill out the check (that’s a slip of paper with one’s banking information on it, with spaces to fill in the amount of money one wishes to transfer to the vendor) in anticipation of paying for the groceries, while the pleasant staff removed purchases from the cart, rang them up by hand (no scanner), and conveyed them down the line to a clean-cut young person (known as a box boy) who carefully sorted one’s items into bags (provided at no additional cost), and placed them into one’s now-empty cart. The check-out clerk dutifully compared one’s driver’s license to the information on the check and then kindly asked if the customer would like help out with her order.

Do I sound old and crabby? Have I become cynical, fondly remembering the good old days? Probably but I prefer to believe that, “Those people we identify as cynics are idealists whose feelings are hurt every single day by the world being not what they hoped it would be.”*

*Bob Odenkirk in Lucky Hank

A Healthy Immune System

Waiting in line at Sprouts yesterday, I was entertained by the family in front of me, a woman with a girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, and a younger boy, perhaps 5. The woman, an obviously thrifty shopper, was negotiating her discount coupons with the cashier while her daughter carefully moved her groceries from the cart to the belt. The arrangement of the groceries to most productively make use of the discounts, entailed separating her purchases into two orders, which took a bit more time than the little boy had patience for. His boredom was expressed, “Mom, mom, mom!” until eventually he was given a sucker to occupy his overactive mouth.

Both children were uncommonly beautiful and better behaved than average, so I was content to let them entertain me while mom held up the line. The little boy exclaimed how good the sucker was to his still preoccupied mom. But then, he accidentally dropped the treat on the floor. Glancing up to see that Mom hadn’t seen the slip, he quickly retrieved it and popped it back into his mouth.

The woman waiting behind me and I burst into laughter simultaneously. I turned to her and she said what I was thinking, “Good for the immune system”.

Photo by i Abrar on Unsplash

On Friendship and Loss

I stumbled upon this in my drafts folder, and being freshly injured by the news that Michel Fauquet had died, I decided to go ahead and post it. I had been reading Michel’s posts since about 2003, and he actually felt like a real friend. The following has nothing to do with Michel except that long-term friendships all share something in common, even if they are with virtual friends on a distant continent.

My family moved from Michigan to California when I was ten years old. I had enjoyed a large circle of friends in Michigan, being naturally gregarious, and by virtue of the fact that my house had a large basement that was the ideal play area during the long winters. That, despite my mom being the terror of all the neighborhood kids after she swatted the butt of my friend Kimmie, as she scuttled out the door, after we had painted the storm windows (literally painted the windows), when we had been expressly told NOT to touch that work in progress in the basement.

Approaching puberty could be the most difficult time to make new friends, especially when one “talked funny”. My Midwestern hard vowels sounded odd to the Southern California drawling kids and my vocabulary, inculcated by my brilliant sister and mother, made me an oddity. And then there were the geeky knee socks I wore to conceal the oozing rash on my leg. So, to make matters even more difficult, my folks moved me from one school to another, just when I was beginning to impress the Mentone Elementary kids with my hidden charm.

In my new neighborhood, I again claimed my rightful place as queen of the gang games because we had the only house with a thick, forgiving lawn. Ever the astute linguist, I quickly adopted the slang and cadence of a native Californian, and toned down the vocabulary from”cease and desist”, as my sister frequently growled at me, to a more age-appropriate, “Shut up!”

Puberty brought a whole new dimension to my popularity. Being the first in my class to sprout female appendages, oops, I mean boobies, I suddenly had the attention of boys who had never before noticed my athletic prowess. Now, they were intent on testing my wrestling skills. Being as naive as any thirteen-year-old, I was nonplussed when one of my would-be suitors “took it out”. Bear in mind, this was long before anyone knew there was such a thing as inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment. But with as much aplomb as I could muster, I rose from the aforementioned grass where we were seated, and informed him that I had heard my mother calling. I did not entertain that boy again though a few years later I had to marvel at his forthright behavior.

“He took IT out”

When in junior high, now called middle school, I met a girl who had two horses. I could tell we would become best of friends as soon as I learned that detail about her. And we did. The horses eventually died, they were old when they were given to her, but our friendship grew. Her parents moved her to a place nobody in their right mind would visit in the summer, much less LIVE there. Suffice it to say, we carried oven mitts in our purse to use on door handles that were in the sun. I would ride the bus down to visit her, and her folks occasionally came back to town to visit family, so we kept in touch throughout high school. We both married young men who loved to drink and party, so the friendship continued with the four of us.

When I had grown weary of the party life and left my husband, my friends decided that my husband would get custody of them in the divorce. He didn’t really want custody and allowed the relationship to languish, so I got them back by default. Since Mary and I both loved to travel, we went on several trips together but as time went on, I couldn’t keep up with her. She was an accomplished drinker who could start the day with bloody Marys and shift seamlessly to wine, then vodka tonics, and still hail a taxi to a Broadway play. So, by the time she died of liver disease, we had drifted apart enough that her untimely death didn’t wreck me as much as it should have.

But this morning, I was gobsmacked by the realization that there was nobody left on earth who “got” me in the same way that she did. What we shared was unique because she was unique. We could commiserate and laugh about the vagaries of aging. I always imagined that we would live together in our dotage, our men having died ahead of us. So, now when a fart struggles for freedom from the flabby cheeks of my septuagenarian gluteus maximus, oops, I mean “butt”, I have nobody to appreciate the low-brow humor.