My neighbor Gwen who knows something about just about everything, says she admires the way I speak out without worrying about what others might think of me. Actually, I’m not sure she said admire. She might have just said she noticed. As for me not worrying about what others might think of me, that’s entirely in the mind of the on-looker.
But I wish to say at once that I am not proud of what I am about to relate. I could have handled it better. But it wouldn’t have made as good a story.
Last Sunday, I was fresh off a successful batch of springerli cookies and ready to tackle the next holiday project. I usually send my cousins in England a pound of See’s chocolates for Christmas, but it’s gotten to where the price of postage is twice the price of the candy, pardon me, the sweets. I don’t want to go to Northgate or downtown to a See’s Candies. We need one here in Greenwood. Actually, no, we don’t.
In any case, I wanted to buy local –in every sense of the word–this year. There was blue sky and feeble sunshine so I decided to walk to the QFC that used to be Art’s, and that some of us still refer to as Art’s, on Holman Road, to see what they were asking for a small box of Dilettante truffles.
I was in the seasonal aisle trying to sort through the Dilettante, Theo and Seattle Chocolate offerings when a woman and man strolled through and stopped about 5 yards away from me. The woman proceeded to lean on her shopping cart and start a conversation on her Bluetooth at the volume, but not with the quality, that reaches the nosebleed section from the stage of the opera house.
“We’re here in Seattle visiting my brother,” she bellowed. “We’re just in the QFC, picking up an anti-diarrheal for my sister-in-law. . . some kind of fungus, they think. . . . . suppository, yeah. And my nephew needs $500 to pay his rent this month so we’re trying to help out with that.”
I turned around and caught the woman’s eye. “Yes?” she inquired.
“Do you think you could not talk so loud?” I asked.
She stared at me, “Are you kidding?”
“No,” I said. “I’m not.”
She advanced toward me, “Are you so unhappy with your life?”
I haven’t felt baited with such an offensive—in all its definitions– maneuver since my mother died three years ago. My non-engagement skills are rusty.
“Not at all,” I said. “It’s just that I can’t concentrate. I’m over here trying to pay attention to my own crap and I don’t want to have to listen to yours.”
Her husband crouched in the aisle pretending to look at a can of peanuts. He looked up at his wife and supportively grunted, “Oh my god” in a small voice.
She came closer to me. “Are you serious?
“Look,” I said, “No one wants to hear your private information being broadcast all over QFC.”
“Private? Rent money? How is that private?”
She left out the anti-diarrheal. I was in over my head, so to speak. I know from experience that no one wins an atavistic argument like this one. I remembered that my mother was gone. My skills seeped back. I held up my hands in surrender.
“Truce!” I laughed.
“You’re lucky I’m in a good mood. She lumbered past me. “Your pants are stupid.” Her husband followed her silently.
A fellow shopper with a package of Ghirardelli chocolate dangling from her hand, about to drop on the floor, watched the couple’s retreating backs.
“Nice,” she remarked. Ambiguously, I thought.
I was nervous walking home. This woman seemed capable of following me in her car for a mile and half just to heckle me. But I made it home un-heckled and called Gwen to present her with a reason to not cultivate my habit of speaking my mind.
Gwen laughed, “The best part of that story is that she is visiting Seattle. That means she’s leaving. And I admire your bravery.”
It’s not about being brave. I like to participate. But it gets me into useless exchanges. I get that from my mother.