I went to Trader Joe’s at the busiest time yesterday. Big mistake. Shopping passive aggressively was this muscular-faced bleach blonde woman with an exhibitionist-type nose that looked like it was smashed up against a pane glass window, the insides of her nostrils were happy to see me. She was wearing pilled Lululemon leggings and a tight tank with the words “Crossfit: I heart burpees!” on it. I noticed her first at canned fish. She spat “Excuse me!” to nobody and grabbed the albacore as I grabbed the smoked trout. She clearly hated my choice. We glared at each other to brush off the discomfort (though her open, come-hither nostrils offered inadvertant contrast to her snarl), then stormed off at the same pace in opposite directions down the aisle.
As we turned to stare back at each other, I caught the back of her shirt: “Your work-out is my warm-up.” I was affronted, but then I unwittingly conveyed my agreement in the form of my cardigan tied around my waist, curtaining my wilted, sulking, unmotivated ass. Moments later, I heard her shrill “Excuse me!!!” again as I was quickly grabbing some half & half. I’d taken the regular pint but admittedly felt guilty, and maybe it took a full three seconds for me to reverse my course and grab the organic…I wasn’t happy about spending two dollars more—who would be?—and I thought for a second that the rBST-free label could appease me on the factory-farmed, but the guilt was digging in its heels, and so I grabbed the organic resentfully and smugly, both… But I wasn’t loitering! Bitch was trying to worm her way to the fat-free half&half, WHATEVER THE FUCK THAT WAS?!? i thought about offering that she just go for the skipjack instead of the fattier albacore and indulge in some real half & half, but then I decided she deserved the mercury poisoning and I kept my mouth shut. But why all her scoffing,? I wasn’t even in her way, it almost seemed like she was begging to be impeded by my presence.
Again we parted ways, rage was escaping like a rash across my consciousness. We met for the third time at Avocados. She looked like the-bag-of-avocados type, so I thought I was safe at the single avocados crate, when I suddenly hear the familiar huffy “Excuse me!!!” one. last. time. You have gots to be kidding, I was merely fishing out fat ones and squeezing, just normal avocado-choosing behavior and plenty of room for her to the left. I needed to finish her: “Listen, sweetheart, I’m not loitering at the single avocado crate, trying to make new friends… I am choosing an avocado, and that requires that I station myself in close proximity to the avocados. What, should I be bringing a few at a time over to the goat yogurt section, and assess their viability over there, and then, when none meets my exacting standards, bring them back and take a few more to Goat Yogurt for review?” She was stunned and I heard her murmer: “Excuse me!” This was a slight change in emphasis, focusing on the me instead of the excuse… Her earlier excuse mees were all versions of a euphemistic “Permit me to occupy you seamlessly!” This new version was “Shit, she noticed, but the very fact that I exist is excuse enough for my incursions.” It’s “I occupy, therefore I am.”
I was worried that this manifest destinarian would never stop saying excuse me, worried more for strangers than for myself. I inhaled deeply to calm myself and I whispered, almost sexually (reasoning that it would be harder for her to feel defensive if I sounded seductive: “Please stop saying “excuse me” for the next 72 hours, it’s a crutch, you have to short circuit your impatience. Just pause. You’re beautiful…We’re all beautiful… just breathe in the fact that I like smoked trout and supple avocadoes…..and it won’t kill you. Say it after me: YOU LIKE SMOKED TROUT, AND SUPPLE AVOCADOES, AND REAL HALF AND HALF…She didn’t say it, she looked frightened, I tried again “Ok, now both of us: YOU LIKE SMOKED TROUTH AND SUPPLE AVOCADOES…and…it…won’t….kill…me” She wasn’t repeating the words with me and I won’t pretend that wasn’t awkward, she was instead biting her lower lip, and she kept looking around the store, hoping someone would step in, but to her credit, she didn’t walk away and she didn’t say “Excuse Me.” And so I said “Look, you can go at anytime…, I know you think you’re afraid, but I can sense that at least your nostrils are open to the totality…from here forward, I recommend that you are guided by those nostrils.” I put my avocadoes down and left her in exchange for the company of turkey meatball and frozen enchiladas that have on occasion given me listeria.
Photograph by Erin Albrecht.