Second-hand stress and the milk coupon

“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.




2 thoughts on “Second-hand stress and the milk coupon

  1. Oh my oh my oh my ~ i would if i could take some of that off you and off your women-folk. stress is a mess of mixed up emotion that has nowhere to go but into your bones and muscle and tendons and comes out from your mouth and eyeballs and fingers that dance on a keyboard.

    prayers and good thoughts coming to all the girls. you included.


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