I won a bag of chocolate for being able to pick 39 conversation hearts out of a styrofoam cup with a pair of chopsticks.
You see, my husband had a random day off from work, so I was able to attend our bi-weekly MOPS meeting sans small person. This meant that the small person wasn't sitting in my lap trying to swipe snacks and dump out my purse, which is what she always does at MOPS since she doesn't like to go to the childcare room. So I was actually able to participate in an ice-breaker game, during which I discovered my useless talent.
Since I had this unusual morning off, I checked in at home and then decided to spend a little time running some last-minute Valentine-related errands. By myself. I love taking my sweet girl everywhere with me, love showing her off and having Grandmas smile and wave at her, but it sure was nice not to have to pull in and out of her car seat a million times. Honestly, I can't for the life of me understand why we have phones that can take pictures but we don't have car seats that self-lock. I mean, if they can do it for the rides at Disney, why can't they do it for my Graco Nautilus?
I visited my flower man at the Asian market (he seriously reminds me of the Chinatown shop owner in Gremlins) and my beloved Target. Much to my dismay, Target was completely out of everything pink and red. I bought an Elmo valentine that said "GRANDSON!" in huge letters across the front. I figured it was nothing a few well-placed stickers couldn't fix. Besides, Sweet Pea can't read.
Still, valentines are important, and there was no way I was going home empty-handed. So, I decided to hit the Dollar Tree.
Here's something I learned that probably everyone else knows: Dollar Tree sells balloons. For (you guessed it!) a dollar. These balloons are apparently in very high demand on Valentine's Day, as moms and dads of every shape, size and age scurried around the store with a step ladder trying to reach the last little wrinkled "I love you" balloons that had floated to the ceiling without string. They too were out of nearly everything else, but I happened upon a few gems that I absolutely couldn't pass up, even when I saw that the long line was being managed by only two very harried women who had clearly been blowing up balloons all morning and had just set in on a huge order for another woman whose very expression and body stance read, "You mess with my balloon order, you mess with me. I will seriously cut you. No, like I actually will."
So I got in line.
I had been standing there for, oh, maybe 5-10 minutes when I noticed that folks around me were getting awfully antsy. I didn't feel so antsy because I really wasn't in any rush and I had yoinked my husband's iPhone before leaving the house. And because I was enjoying a few blissful moments of standing in a line without having to chase around a little one or take away bags of pilfered candy. I also realized that the women in front of me had been standing in line since about the same time I walked in the store, and they were getting pretty agitated. The under-the-breath grumbles gained momentum as one person's comments fueled another. The girls behind me started getting in on it too, offering loud commentary like, "Why doesn't one person work the register and the other make the balloons?" The comments kept escalating from the woman in front of me and she started yelling some nasty comments at the checkout ladies.
Suddenly, that woman in front of me completely lost it. I don't know if she was angry that she didn't have a Valentine, or was having a bad day, or what. But before I knew what was happening, every swear word in the book had been yelled across the counter and the nicest thing she said (in response to one of the checkout ladies asking her to be quiet or to leave) was, "Shut up, old lady! You're already halfway to the grave!" In comparison to the other threats, this was something of a compliment. It actually genuinely got scary; so scary, that I started to dial 911. Who knew if this woman had a weapon?
It occurred to me to wonder what the lady was buying that was so important that it could get her this upset. Did she have something special for her kids? Some snacks because she had low blood sugar? A box of Advil for a splitting headache? A pile of pregnancy tests? No, no, nope and definitely not. The all-important item was- wait for it- a lint roller.
That was all. Just a lint roller. And honestly, at second glance, she really didn't look all that linty to me.
So att this point, I was faced with what I considered to be several options.
1. Call 911. Things really were escalating that much. However, I was pretty afraid that this woman's wrath would turn to me if she heard me saying, "Um, Officer? There is a woman here at the Dollar Store who is wigging out because she wants to buy a lint roller and the line isn't moving very quickly." I didn't really want her to yell at me, or kick me with her super pointy boots (another threat she'd already made to poor checkout ladies) so I started thinking about option two.
2. Call 911 from the back of the store. This, however, would make me lose my place in line. I would go from #4 to what had turned into easily #20 in the space of the last five minutes, and the line was only getting longer.
3. Watch out entirely for my own safety and leave the store, possibly calling 911 from outside and coming back later to purchase my items, which might not be there any more since they had so few Valentine items left.
4. Throw caution to the wind and stand there, waiting out what could easily turn into a hostage situation in order to spend $8 on my dollar store treasures.
Now, I think it is really imperative to consider the items I was purchasing before making a judgment as to my best final decision. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I pretty desperately wanted four each of the following items:
In case you can't tell, that is a pair of socks that says, "Owl Always Love You" with an apropos owl and a foot pumice stone that is shaped like a lollipop. In other words, treasures beyond worth and basically the world's best Valentine's Day gifts.
So obviously, I threw caution to the wind.
The lady finally calmed down enough to buy her lint roller and left. When my turn came, I smiled as cheerfully as I could and told the ladies at the counter that they were doing a great job. They were more than a little flustered and one looked teary. I walked to my car thinking about Valentine's Day and love and blessing others and how easy it is to have a really rough day. I thought about the couple of times in my life when, after a super rough day, I lost it with someone I didn't even know. In fact, one time, during a stressful, tearful and and frustrating conversation with a medical professional I announced, "You are a horrible person." To which she responded, "I am sorry that you feel that way."
In other words, we all have off days, and there are days when everyone needs just a little extra gesture that says, "I noticed you. I am sorry you are having a bad day."
I wish so much that I'd had the guts to tell that woman in front of me to stop treating those other women badly and that I had the grace and kindness to do it in a way that showed I cared about her, too, lint roller and all. I felt so sad driving away from that store until I remembered that little baggie of chocolates I had on my seat from MOPS. So I pulled an illegal U-turn and walked right back into that dollar store. I handed the bundle over the counter and said, "I thought you guys could use a little chocolate therapy," and the whole line cheered.
I think the lint-roller lady could have used some chocolate therapy, too. I would have given her some if I hadn't been just so darn afraid of those pointy boots. Maybe she would have better appreciated a pair of the socks.
(I would just like to state, for the record, that my favorite part about writing this story was that the climax is a pair of socks that say "Owl Always Love You." I would also like to state, for the record, to the four recipients of these gifts that "Owl always risk life and limb to buy themed socks for you." That is all. Over and out.)