Monthly Archives: May 2007

Two roads diverged in my pantry. . .

Sometimes when I get “stuck” writing, I tackle some other task while things are percolating in my head. So yesterday I cleaned out the kitchen pantry. Sort of.

I could not believe the stuff that was in there. You know how when you buy a can of soup, for instance, and the expiration date is approximately twenty years in the future? Ok fine, at least four years, right? Well, when you find cans of soup in the pantry that expired three years ago, there is a problem.

Oh, I know what the problem is. Hurricanes. Big swirly storms that come in off the ocean? Those. My first experience with hurricanes was named Andrew. We’d been living in south Florida for an entire year and in all that time no one had really mentioned hurricanes. Guess it was a quiet year. So when Andrew roared ashore, I was not ready. Not in any way whatsoever. My supplies of food and water and mental fortitude were all pitifully low. We were lucky and Andrew carved a path of destruction well to the south of us. But it also made a big impression on me.

I became obsessed with hurricane preparedness. You don’t believe me? I have a recipe for water. In case the water supply is contaminated by flooding. I think it involves boiling and bleach. I’ve never used it, but I feel better knowing it’s there.

Just like all those canned goods. They represent security. I can’t seem to help it — I buy more security every spring. Never mind that no one in my family even eats half this stuff. Apricots in heavy syrup? I hate apricots. Canned lima beans? What was I thinking? But I know they’re there. Just in case.

Never mind that we no longer live in south Florida. The first year we were here — two hours inland, mind you, in the middle of North Carolina — there was a little thing called Fran. And then there was Floyd. Believe me, I could live in the Black Hills of South Dakota and I would By God Be Prepared for a hurricane.

I found an unopened box of club crackers that had a price tag sticker from a store named Big Star. The last time I shopped at Big Star was when we lived in Atlanta. Sixteen years ago.

Ok, so maybe hurricanes don’t explain all the stuff I found in my pantry. The other problem is that insistent voice in my head that says, “Ooh look, something shiny.” Yeah, halfway through sorting and throwing, I figured out how to solve that little plot glitch.

To paraphrase Frost: knowing how word leads on to word, I doubted if I should ever come back.

I’m pretty sure those lima beans are still sitting on the counter. Right next to the jar of artichoke hearts from 1998.


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Adventures in Shopping

Um, that was not an excerpt. Well, it was a real life excerpt. I understand it’s important to get that first sentence right. I’m sure you all appreciate the extra effort. So, if you must know . . .

I went to the grocery store after work today. Well, it was yesterday. And it was interesting. Want to hear about it? I thought so.

You know how sometimes you accidentally make eye contact with a stranger? You give a half smile and maybe a nod and keep walking. Well, that happened to me. Nice looking guy, seemed pleasantly friendly, the kind that makes you think maybe not everyone in the world is intent on meanness for its own sake.

We crossed paths again in the next aisle. Same brief nod and smile, though this time with the awkward acknowledgment that we’d been here and done this already. At least, that was my take on it.

A couple aisles later as I’m standing there trying to remember which flavor of Pringles DD19 likes, here comes the same guy again. Only this time he plants himself next to me, clearly ready to make some kind of speech. I thought the worst: Oh crap, somehow I’ve managed to offend this guy and now he’s going to tell me about it.

He said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I just want to tell you that I think you are a very beautiful person.” Huh? “I really think not enough people in this world are willing to say positive things about other people and I just wanted to tell you that. I think you’re beautiful.”

Ok, so this was not what I was expecting. But it was nice. He was a nice guy. I was very flattered and told him so. Thanked him for brightening my day. Really. Thank you. That was nice. Now go away.

He said his name was Mike and stuck out his hand to shake mine. I’m thinking maybe this guy is taking court ordered anger management classes and this is homework: find someone who looks particularly downtrodden and make them feel good through flattery. So I played along. I said, “I’m BCB, nice to meet you, Mike,” and shook his hand. I can be nice. There were a few seconds of polite chit chat and then he went on his way and I decided sour cream and onion sounded right.

I was in the bread aisle when I noticed him again. I tried not to, but it’s damn near impossible not to notice someone who walks right up to you and starts talking. This time he managed, pretty much all in the same breath, to tell me his age (ten years younger than mine), his marital status (single, never married), his parental status (no kids), his occupation (bio-pharmaceutical industry), his financial status (all those material things are very nice but don’t make up for that lack of personal connection), that he’d taken the day off work to help a buddy build a deck (explaining the somewhat scruffy appearance) and that I have truly beautiful eyes. Huh?

Who does this guy think he’s kidding? This time of year my eyes are a prime candidate for an antihistamine commercial. So I’m a little stunned, but starting to suspect this behavior was not ordered by any court. Then he speculated about my age being close to his, perhaps a couple years younger. So I told him how old I am. I even mentioned that my youngest child was currently attending college at the school featured on his ball cap.

He didn’t miss a beat. Said I looked fantastic and much younger than my age. Said he was attracted to more mature women anyway, women you could have a cup of coffee with and actually talk to. I had a brief vision of this guy throwing himself in front of a train in the throes of abject despair, so I refrained from mentioning that I do not drink coffee. You know, just in case.

Between trying to remember what else I was supposed to be shopping for and calculating how much longer I could linger before the tuna steaks in my cart went bad for lack of refrigeration, I started to wonder whether this guy was hitting on me.

Nah. That would be crazy. It’s been so long, that isn’t even a distant memory. He was just bored and lonely. Looking for a little friendly conversation. I thanked him again for the repeated compliments and edged carefully away toward the deli section, remembering my DD’s request to get “something for sandwiches other than peanut butter.”

The third time he approached me [sigh], I started to wonder whether the store had security people on staff. This time he handed me a register receipt with his name and phone number written on it, telling me to call him if I wanted to talk.

Uh huh.

Yes, I looked for the hidden cameras. For the reality show host lurking eagerly and not-so-inconspicuously behind the doughnut display. For the banner declaring: “Top Ten Reasons to Trust Your Instincts” or “The Importance of Maintaining a Regimen of Skin Care and Dental Hygiene Once You Reach a Certain Age.” For something, anything, to explain this aberration. Nothing. Not even a trace of glitter trailing in my wake.

Of course when I got home, first thing I did was rush inside to look in the mirror. To hell with the tuna mutating in the back of the car. I figured drastic changes must have taken place since the last time I looked. Hey, it could happen. You never know.

So anyway, I looked and, well– damn. Another hope shattered.

And then I started laughing. Poor Mike. That must have taken a lot of nerve. Good thing I was there so he had someone to practice on. I really hope he’s not sitting at home waiting for his phone to ring. ‘Cause that just ain’t happening, buddy.

Sheesh. And my DD thinks the internet is a dangerous place. Just wait until I tell her about the grocery store.


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I went to the grocery store after work today.

After work today, I went to– no, I shopped at the grocery store.

Today, after work, I shopped at the grocery store.

I shopped after work today, at the grocery store.

This is not as easy as it looks.


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