Wednesday, January 12, 2005

ll Sheep Thing

I behaved like one, in the checkout line.
It was raining, hard ---which is unusual enough around here, and has been for over a week, which is exceedingly unusual.
I mention this only because as I look outside right now, I can see the water has risen over the pool's edge, so now there is a blue pool inside a black pool, whose edge is some four feet from my window, which is about forty feet long and separated (by scant inches of molding) from yards of probably very absorbent carpet.
It hasn't rained this much in the desert in eight years, I'm told. Ironically, flood insurance is available here, though typically to claim flood damage results in cancellation of the insurance.
I don't really like carpet anyway. Wood is better.

Back to my shameful sheepfulness. So I'm standing in line with the paper cups I went in for and a cart full of things I didn't plan on. Sheepy enough, I know, but not the confession I'm going for---

---I've learned some interesting things about how and why you go into Target for one thing and leave with twelve. Thats another rant entirely.---

So there's a customer in front of me. The cashier's machine isn't reading his card. It could be the card. It could be the machine. It takes awhile. I have to pee. I grimmace at Aubrey (my daughter). We'd dashed into the restroom when we arrived, turned heel and dashed right back out. Ick. Gross. We giggled behind our hands. I can be immature in this way, especially in her company.
Now I'm getting a little miserable. It is pouring outside.
An employee greets customers at the door with plastic bags for their umbrellas.
Gimme a break. I'm so not from California.
Finally the card reads.
So it's my turn now and the machine can't read my card either.
"Oh-oh," says the clerk.
It must be the machine.
" S'ok---I think I have enough cash on me" as I dig in my wallet. I really have to pee now.
The clerk is an older gentleman, dark-skinned and freckled. He seems a little nervous. I guessed he might be working for the holidays. The store is packed. It is pouring outside.
To the couple in line behind me, he says "I think my machine is broken, you will want to get in another line."
"You've got to be kidding me!" says the woman. "We've been standing in line for fifteen minutes!"
Three. Tops.
"What' wrong with you? Can't you see people are waiting?"
I turn to stare. Baaaaaah
She shakes her finger at the clerk. She is wearing an L.L. Bean rain jacket, Burber scarf and riche-tacky shoes. Her matching purse hangs on her arm, her matching husband hangs on her every word.
"I'm sorry Ma'am. It's the machine. There's nothing I can do."
"Call a supervisor"
I'm watching, my daughter is watching. Sheep-sheepy-sheep

-----I stop here for coffee. Noticed the " new " pool is creeping in rivulets down the grout lines in the tile, ever nearer to the fine line between outside and inside. I grew up in South Carolina. We used to spend all our summers on Edisto Island before it was developed. It was deserted near the end of the summer. I loved it. Grey and windy. Sometimes there were storms. Sometimes at night I dreamed we held the waves back with bonfires on the beach. I imagine tiny bonfires around the black pool. Creeping, creeping.
While I was in the kitchen I saw a black widow spider. The black widow is a wondrous creature, elegant in form and function.
I squashed her with my shoe. I normally go to a fair amount of trouble to put insects outside. But not her. She was dangeous and I am higher on the food chain. So now she is dead and I am not.
If you don't appreciate the black widow you must educate yourself. Read The Red Hourglass, Lives of the Predators by Gordon Grice.
The Red Hourglass
It's fresh and strange and oddly gothic. Gordon Grice is a very good writer.
I found the section on Pigs especially interesting
Pigs are nothing like sheep.

People in the next line are watching too.
Baaaaaah Baaaaah Baaaaah
"My light is on, ma'am," the clerk indicates the blinking box that says #2.
"I don't even want this crap!" It is matching hubby, shoving the cart away.
Aubrey starts to laugh.
Aubrey tends to laugh at human behavior.
Aubrey tends to be unashamed of laughing at morons. Why shouldn't she be?
"Well, I DO," says Mrs. Customer. She is getting shrill, snatching the cart back.
The clerk is handing me my change. I take his hand.
"Don't let the groundlings get you down," I say, and wink.
He smiles. Really nice smile.
" Happy New Year," says Aubrey, waving to him.
"I want a supervisor," croaks Mrs. Mercedes- key-ring. She is getting very red-faced.
Aubrey and I leave.
She says outside, " I feel really bad for that guy."
"Me too. But we were nice. Sometimes that's all you can do."
Baaaaah, baaaah, moo, moo. There's a fucking stampede in my head.
Sometimes being nice is all you can do. But this wasn't one of them.
What the hell was I thinking? !
I wasn't. I didn't. Moo.
I couldn't sleep after.
I kept thinking of all the stuff I could have said. I came up with some really good ones too. Heh---guess I should've gotten up to write those down.
I behaved as a cloven, small-brained mammal.
I could've told her I hoped she had some manners in that cart of hers.
I could've said they both made me ashamed to be an adult.
I could've said, "You voted Republican, didn't you?"
I could've said: "Hey, it's easy to get impatient these days, I know you didn't mean to be unkind."
(No---I couldn't have said that. There isn't enough dope on the planet to make me say that.)

I could've said, "The very least any of us can do is be courteous you bad-mannered, over-priviledged, ungrateful, seflish, short-sighted, ignorant, mean-spirited waste of oxygen."
I could've said....anything.
But I didn't.
I say a lot of things, every day in my art.
But this time I blew it. I blew it, Aubrey. Next time I'll try harder.

If you got this far, thank you! I welcome your questions or comments about this, or other.
Tomorrow I will tell you about the Science of Puppets (which are different from sheep).
Sunday, I will get to the Dirty Sex Stuff. Really---I will.


Georgiana said...

I think if you had said something to mean and rotten woman she would not have been able to accept that what you said had any validity. She would have labeled you as a pushy broad or another word that starts with b and automatically discounted everything. Then she would have been even more horrid to the checkout guy and he would have got more flustered and ended up feeling worse. As it is at the end of the day he remembered that you were nice and you showed him there are still decent people out there and it made him feel better.

Cedar Waxwing said...

Your post was timely for me as I had just finished Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Nickeled and Dimed. The book, while very interesting and educational, left me wondering what I could do to help the plight of folks who are forced to work for low pay. Ms Ehrenreich never really gives any suggestions.

Your post, on the other hand, is more constructive even though you feel as if you could have done more. The fact that you took time to be kind to the cashier was important. Did you talk to Aubrey about it later - about what you could have done?