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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Small Town Shopping - A Cautionary Tale

My son and I spent an evening in a big city for a sporting event. We truly don't watch much television in my house, and me, being of the pointy-headed liberal mindset, don't put much stock in sports in general. So, this event was a pretty big deal. We both had a great time.

When discussing the differences between living in a city vs. living in a small town, I crafted a scenario to try and illustrate the point, (and to try and make him laugh). The beginning is true. The rest is not. If you have a hard time finding the dividing line between truth and fiction, you probably live in a small town, too.

While shopping in our local supermarket for two boxes of cake mix for my daughter's cupcake decorating class, I entered the baking aisle, selected my items, and made for the other end of the corridor. At the end, was an older lady, reading the ingredients of something. Her cart was skewed at an angle, as if she had simply stopped while making the turn at the end of the aisle, to pick up said item. Not only was the cart completely blocking the baking row, but it also , by virtue of the fact that it was half in and half out of the aisle, blocked the traffic moving along the back corridor of the store.

Now, being that it was an older woman, I'm inclined to wait patiently. I may be old some day, and I hope younger people will be patient with me.

But, this idea led me to reflect on a woman's unique sense of entitlement when shopping. You'll forgive me if I choose to lump all women into this category. I'm sure there are some who don't share the following traits. I just haven't met them.

A woman will tilt her cart at an angle, blocking an aisle for almost any reason; to chat with a friend, read an item's description, gaze longingly at the Yodels, whatever. She will see me coming. I know she saw me coming because she looked right at me, before turning her attention back to her distraction of choice.

She will wait until I have stopped, being unable to progress any further, and have surmounted my need to avoid unnecessary chit chat with strangers. She will wait until I have said, "Pardon me," before looking at me with mock-surprise and saying, "Oh, sorry." after which she moves her cart just barely enough for me to pass, while returning to engage with whatever was more important than me.

She's not sorry, I think. I envision myself saying, "Don't say you're sorry! If you were sorry, you would have moved when you saw me coming! I know you saw me coming! You looked right at me!" But, I say none of these things, smile graciously and go about my business.

My son asks,"Why don't you say it?" My response is, "Two reasons. One, by saying it, I have now created the situation I had hoped to avoid in the first place: meaningless conversation with strangers. She'll say she's sorry, I'll say she's not, and then one of two things will happen. Either she'll reiterate that she is indeed sorry and be suitably embarrassed, or she'll berate me for my impatience and rudeness. Neither outcome is desirable, because you just know I'm going to see her again two aisles over, or at the milk case, or in the checkout line, etc.

Plus, we live in a small town. So, regardless of the outcome, you know she'll be telling her friends about it, (Men, take note - all women know each other. They have meetings while we sleep.) By the time she gets around to telling her husband, she'll have convinced herself and everyone that she knows that I hate women and small children, and train dogs to fight by feeding them kittens. The fact that she was accosted by such a reprobate will, undoubtedly, not sit well with her husband.

Given that we live in a small town, I will undoubtedly run across her again. Perhaps at the bank, the post office or the movies. She'll see me and whisper, "That's him! That's the guy from the supermarket". So, as I'm waiting pariently for the bored teenager to give me my popcorn, a mountain in a flannel shirt will roll up on me and say, loudly, "You got a problem with my wife? Now, I'm gonna kick your ass."

Not knowing this guy, I'll be understandably confused. "What?" I'll say. "Do I know you, pal?" My wife will then ask, "How do you know his wife?"

So, here I am, having just shelled out $50 to see "Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Squeakuel" and I have this guy, who is large enough to have his own zip code, wanting to punch my lights out.

"Really?" I'll say. "You want to hit me? You want to physically assault me? I don't even know you!" And then one of three things will happen: One, he'll hit me and it will hurt. Two, I will somehow evade the punch and hit him, and he'll be hurt, or Three, I'll somehow evade the punch, hit him, and he won't be hurt, (and now I'm really scared).

Meanwhile regardless of those possibilities, the bored teenager holding my popcorn will have already called the police.

Police in a small town have less to do than one might think, and one will race to the scene. Upon his arrival, said peace officer will realize that his son plays football with Mr. Mountain's son, and me, being the pointy-headed liberal type, can't compete with that. "This jag-off insulted my wife, and I had to teach him a lesson. You'd do the same thing." he says to his friend, (who, it turns out, played high school football with Mr. Mountain all those years ago. Remember, it's a small town.)

I am subsequently hauled to the station to be placed in a cell with Benny the drunk guy, who has expressed an inappropriate affection for my shoes. When I call my wife to come and bail me out, she wants to know first how I know that man's wife.

Satisfied with the outcome, Mountain's wife goes home to happily call all of her friends, explaining how her manly-man of a husband took care of the town psychopath. Word will spread. My wife will hang her head in shame at church. My children will endure whispers of "Do you know who their father is?" Life as we know it becomes unbearable.

Our choices, then, will be simple. We'll just have to move away, start a new life, hoping that I can avoid disgracing my family in the future.

Or, I can just turn my cart around and go back up the aisle.