Thursday, December 22, 2011

Patience, Old Grasshopper

Last night I made the mistake of stopping at Target on my way home from work, when every other resident of my community got the same idea at the exact same time. I only ended up with a handful of things in my cart, because the store was out of several key items on my list. This Christmas, if anyone asks you during an after-dinner trivia game, “Which major U.S. retailer was completely out of Rolos three days before the second-largest candytastic U.S. holiday?” you can now answer with confidence.

The lines to check-out were endless, streaming into jewelry and inappropriate tween wear. I wove my cart through the herd and settled into Lane 8, which only had three shoppers in front of me. However, Lane 6 only had one shopper! And she was already checking out! Oh, joyful, speedy day!

Quickly, I steered my cart into Lane 6. Which was when time waded into a pit of molasses and started to sink. After five or ten minutes of mouth-counting, the clerk finished sorting the ninety dollar bills the woman before me had laid on the counter. And then the shopper asked the clerk: “Do you have a pen?”

Holy, sweet, innocent baby Jesus, do you have a mother^&#@ing pen?!?! That’s right neighbors, Speedy Gonzalez was paying for a portion of her purchase with a check! A check! Like they used all the time back in 1982! And she was penless, despite having a purse the size of a Buick on her shoulder.

“Do you want to apply for a Target credit card to save 5%?”

“No, but why don’t you slowly read me the fine print anyway?”

“Sure!” After the clerk finished reading, she pulled out a massive abacus to complete the transaction, while the shopper fished through her purse for some glass beads and decorative feathers with which to finish paying for her items.

“Do you need to see my driver’s license?”

“No, as long as your license number is on the check.”

“I want to show it to you anyway, but it’s expired.”

“Oh, well why don’t you run down to the DMV to renew it, come back, and finish paying for your things? I can wait!”

They were completely oblivious to the orgy of frustration and impatience seething within me. The only clue was the twitching of my left eyelid; the sales associate in Lane 10 noticed, however, and started winking back at me. I wanted to throttle both of them, or gently ask if a swift foot to the taint might help speed the whole process along. I could suddenly see the merits of a concealed carry permit. But I took a deep breath, pulled my phone from my purse, checked the time, and settled for sighing heavily.

In Lane 8 next to me, twelve shoppers who'd arrived at the store after I’d switched check-out lanes had already paid for their purchases, and returned home. Several of them had already eaten spaghetti for dinner and were now cuddled on the couch with loved ones, watching the X-Factor finals.

Eventually, I paid for my own items, and eventually, I got home, made dinner, and watched a nature show on PBS because I am old.

Still later, the universe decided to teach me a few lessons about patience when I found myself upstairs in my painting clothes at ten p.m., numbly applying second coats of white paint to window and door trim, my taskmaster cracking a bull whip over my shoulder and shouting things like, “You’ve got a drip! Catch it, catch it!” and “Sand with the grain! With the grain, I say!!!”*

Patience. It’s what I really want for Christmas.

*J really isn't this bad, though I have been banned from doing any touch-up painting on surfaces at eye-level. My evil plan to get out of tedious detail-work by pretending to do things poorly is working…