Standing in line at a grocery store checkout counter is one of the least fun things in life for anyone. Especially on those occasions when you’re in the “Twelve Items or Fewer” line with three items and the person in front of you has a month supply of groceries in their cart. Fortunately for me, the woman in front of me was not that person. No that person was behind me. So I was in a state of bliss because the Grocery Gods had smiled down upon me.
However I don’t think those Gods were smiling upon the woman in front of me. I watched as she placed her items on the conveyor belt, four fruit pouches, box of children’s night time cold and flu medicine, box of children’s daytime cold and flu medicine, box of Kleenex, popsicles and a large bottle of red wine. For those parents out here reading this, you know what she’s been going through.
I took a step back and studied this woman. Late twenties, pale olive skin, hair pinned up in a bun, oversized tan cable knit sweater, black yoga pants, tan Uggs and a large scarf wrapped around her neck. Not totally inappropriate clothing for forty degree rainy day, but surely she should have worn a coat. A noise behind me caused her to turn her head and I saw her face.
Her lips were thin and stretched tightly at the corners, her jaw was flexing and I could see her cheek muscles pulse as she silently ground her teeth. Under her non-blinking, emotionally exhausted light brown eyes were dark circles. I knew that look, hell, I’ve had that look as all parents have.
It’s how you look after days of little rest, too much worry and fruitless attempts to comfort and care for your sick child.
My heart cried. I knew her pain and I empathized with her. I wanted to say something nice, something uplifting, something… anything that would lift her spirits. My mind was blank. I wondered where her child/children were. Were they in the car? Was her husband home taking care of them? Maybe it was her mother or friend who stopped by so she could go to the store and enjoy a brief reprieve from household doctor duties. I suppose it doesn’t matter. She deserved the break and I know she deserved that bottle of wine.
The clerk bagged up the woman’s groceries and the woman paid.
That’s when her day got even worse
When the young lady turned to grab her bags I saw something flapping behind her out of the periphery of my eyesight. Something I’d only ever seen in movies as a cheap comedic trope.
About two and a half feet of toilet paper, hanging out from under her oversized sweater all the way down to her calf. I composed myself by thinking about her situation. Well, the situation I envisioned in my mind.
I wanted to say something to her. But I knew if I said anything she would either die of embarrassment on the spot or get extremely angry at me and verbally accost me. So I just stood there and empathized with her and hoped she’d not be too embarrassed when she discovered she’d miraculously sprouted a thin, wispy, white tail.
I paid for my groceries, picked up my bag and turned to leave. That’s when I saw the same woman in the parking lot. Her back was to me, arms laden with bags and that new tail of hers was dancing in the wind. A ridiculously silly sight. I laughed. Out loud. I couldn’t look away. It was just too surreal.
After all, seriously, tell me. How many times have you ever in your life seen someone with a toilet paper tail? Hmm? I can’t imagine the number is large. Hell, I’m fifty and this is was my first real-life-in-person experience.
By the time I got to my motorcycle the woman was gone. I was still laughing. I was also feeling pretty ashamed at my juvenile response to a woman who was having a bad day.
So, exactly what is the etiquette in this situation? I’ve no real clue but I’m glad I didn’t laugh in her face at the outset.
But I’m still laughing now.
Have a great week.