“Can I see your bonus card?” the teenage cashier asked.
“Why?” That’d be me. The grumpy one.
“It says you need to show your card to use this coupon.”
All I wanted to do was to buy a gallon of milk. Actually, I’d rather not buy a gallon of milk. It was at least a half-gallon more than I needed. But the ripped scrap of newsprint which I slapped on the conveyor belt said I could have a dollar off a gallon, so a gallon it would be.
I challenged her authority: “Where does it say that?”
She pointed at her screen. “Right here.”
“It doesn’t say I have to show my card to use the coupon on the coupon, does it?”
I knew it did not, but I watched as patiently as possible while she pulled the flimsy paper to her nose with both hands and proceeded to read the very finest print. For almost a minute. Finally, she looked up, frowned, and said, “No, it doesn’t.”
“Well, then I’d like to buy the milk with a dollar off with exact change, anonymously.”
I felt like I was trying to sneak an incendiary device past security.
She kept frowning. I thought maybe I’d have to leave without the milk. She somehow subtracted the dollar–actually, the computer did it–and I handed her three dollars, one dime, one nickel, and three pennies. She gave me a ridiculously long receipt–which reminded me of going to the gas station with Daddy when we were little and asking in unison a hundred times “what’s a receipt?” and never quite getting an answer which didn’t include the word receipt. But that’s a whole ‘nother story for another day.
I took the receipt and reached into the wet plastic bag to pull out the milk jug because who needs a bag to carry a jug with a handle?
And that’s what broke baby bird’s balloon. Oh, wait, that’s another, equally old, story. (Never try to follow a writer’s TOT (train of thought) on a first draft. Don’t you know that yet?)
Normally, I can expend the energy needed to get along with the other humans on the planet who venture into my path. Today, not so much. I used to be able to explain away these snippets of time with the H-word (hormones) but not today.
Today it’s the S-word. Stress.
And not even my own. My favorite women (sisters and daughters) are bearing burdens. I’d like to support them. Hug them. Hold them up. Instead I exude worry. It wafts off me in slimy waves in the ultraviolet and infrared (not visible) regions. Second-hand stress. I’m carrying it in all my creases and pockets, on my hunched shoulders, between my eyebrows. It doesn’t help anyone at all. But I can’t stop it.
XXOO to all my girls.