I awoke this morning to the sounds of sirens and reports of freezing rain. I guess I haven’t been paying close enough attention to the weather forecast… For some reason I didn’t think the bad weather was coming until tomorrow, so I figured I’d have some time today to run to the grocery store and wrestle through the people around me who are frantically doing their best to leave all the areas that contain milk, eggs, and bread looking like the toilet paper aisles last March. After years of living in the South and making fun of southerners for apocalypse-prepping at the mere mention of snow, I looked in my kitchen and saw that I had five eggs, half an inch of milk, and NO BREAD.
I really had no desire to go out in the cold, and neighborhood Facebook pages told tales of icy roads. But I figured the next few days were only going to get worse, so I decided to brave it (I grew up in Michigan, thinking that people in the South were morons when it came to driving on snowy roads, but I LEARNED VERY QUICKLY that snow and ice in Tennessee were not to be taken lightly). It’s 25 degrees out, and there was a misty rain outside — perfect freezing rain conditions. The fact that my feet were sliding around on my driveway and my car was frozen shut were not good signs, but I figured I’d just test out the neighborhood roads, and if it was too bad, I could decide not to go.
After chiseling my way into the car, starting it, and letting it idle for about 15 minutes to melt the thin layer of ice coating the windows, I traction-control-warninged my way up the hill out of my neighborhood. I was sliding around a little bit, but I thought I could make it. I decided to drive to Walmart. I know, I know… But I needed some new razors, and I’m not paying Kroger prices for razors. I’m not made of money. As I drove up and looked for a parking spot that wasn’t a country mile away from the store, there was a man walking his cart to his car while carrying a giant bouquet of about 20 helium-filled Valentine’s Day balloons. It was embarrassingly big. I wondered to myself who would want that to receive that many balloons as a Valentine… Scoffing at the weird gesture. I don’t know. Maybe he was going to resell them? Anyway, as he loaded his groceries into his SUV, he let go of the balloons, and within moments they were a distant red mylar romantic gesture in the hazy, icy sky. A part of me — the part that is even more frustratedly aware of pandemic loneliness at this time of year — giggled just a bit as he watched them disappear. I felt a little bad for him, so I was going to offer for him to video me telling his Valentine how nice the balloons were before they floated away… But then he didn’t return his cart to the corral that was ten yards away, so I figured he had it coming.
I ice skated across the parking lot and into the store, where the few staples I was going to buy turned into a half-full cart. As I walked to the checkout, I realized I left home without my wallet. So, SO dumb. Somewhere, the Balloon guy was snickering. I tried to figure out if there was some way to have them ring the stuff up, and then I could call them with my credit card info? That wasn’t going to work. I figured I would leave the cart near the greeter… But should I take the ice cream all the way back to the frozen food section? My tired legs said no. I’d just hustle home, come right back, and pay. I slid back to my car and went home for my wallet. There was a car that was just abandoned in the middle of the road, so other people didn’t know if they were going to be able to make it up the hill (Nashville is way hillier than people think). I pulled around a skeptical Jeep. I didn’t care… My ice cream was MELTING. I made it back to the parking lot, parked a country mile away, grabbed my half-full cart, and made my way to the checkout. There were about three aisles open, and each of them had at least half a dozen milk, egg, & bread-filled carts lined up… So I made the decision to go through the self-scan. I know, I know… But my ice cream was MELTING, PEOPLE!
I scanned the bag of grapes, and it told me I needed assistance. The lady came over and commenced pushing button after unnecessary button, until it was literally asking for my I.D. in order to purchase cigarettes (I was definitely not buying cigarettes). The lady looked me up and down, and she pushed the button that said I was over 18. Some other screen came up with something that looked like launch codes… It was a circus. It felt like the scene when Mr. Bean took forever gift wrapping the necklace in Love Actually. Then she had to unlock the high security casing for my razors, and apparently the key was somewhere in the frozen food section. This lady did NOT care about my melting ice cream.
I finally got through, and I shuffled my way back to my car, using the cart as a steadying walker of sorts. And as I packed the groceries into my trunk, I heard a crash. The giant jar of pickles I just bought broke through the earth-killing bag I had put it in. I felt a wave of pickle juice wash over my green shoes. I was soaked. Pickles and glass were everywhere. I looked behind me, expecting to see the balloon guy standing there, smiling… middle fingers extended.
I trudged back into the store for a THIRD time this morning. At least this time my glassy, brine-soaked feet seemed to get a better grip on what was, by that point, black ice. I walked to the pickle aisle, past people who were looking around trying to figure out where that pickle smell was coming from. I grabbed a replacement jar of pickles, and I headed to customer service to tell them that the parking lot was covered in pickles and glass. I thought to myself that “Pickles & Glass” sounds like name of a Vaudeville duo. Turns out that the customer service area is closed on Valentine’s Day, I guess? I found an employee, told her about the Pickles & Glass duo idea, and told her I’m taking the replacement jar. She looked at my face and saw the eyes of a broken, pickle juice-covered man. It was about as non-romantic as holidays get…
If you can figure out what the moral of this story is, please write it in the comments… Because I can’t figure it out. Also, if you’d love the stuff I write and you’d like to become a Patron, you can DO THAT HERE. If you’d like to leave a tip, you can DO THAT ON PAYPAL, or you can Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool”. Please follow me ON TWITTER and ON FACEBOOK for more romantic stories. Happy Valentine’s Day!