Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Lie

Yesterday, I threw Seth under the bus at Trader Joe's.

After having been laid up for a few days with a knee injury, the cupboards at home were bare. So, off I went, reusable bags and all, to my favorite store.

The parking lot was bustling and I paused to enjoy their autumnal arrangement of bright pumpkins and the yellows, russets and reds of the mums, displayed and ablaze beneath the warm October sun. I was was very happy to be out.

Limping a bit, I loaded up on greens, choosing peppers, grabbing a bag of nuts, inspecting some bananas, apples and my favorite, clementines. We needed yogurt, cheese, a box of raisin bran, a nice bread. My cart was full.

Once at the register, however, as the Hawaiian-shirt clad checker was sliding my groceries over the scanner, I reached for my debit card and, to my horror, discovered there was nothing in my wallet. Not one card, not one dollar, not one coin. Not even a piece of lint or an M&M. 
I immediately flashed back to a youthful trauma. I was a little kid sent to buy a carton of milk around the corner. I don't know what my mama may have been smokin' but she hadn't given me enough money for the purchase. 
The Archduke himself.

I recall the cashier looking at me as if I had just shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started a world war (this was a long time ago---my analogies must reflect that).

There were people behind me, I was around 7 years old (can you imagine sending a 7 year old farther than the bathroom alone in today's world????) and still childishly meek. The world, and cashiers, were still very big and I hadn't yet developed THE MOUTH I now employ to deflect attack.

The cashier, who appeared to be enjoying my discomfort, immediately roared out to, as far as I could see, no one in particular, "SHE DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY! WE NEED A MANAGER AT THE REGISTER!"

I was humiliated.

He might as well have bellowed, "This tiny asshole is short five cents! She obviously comes from a bunch of morons who have no idea what a quart of milk should cost and is not worthy of remaining alive. I spit on her, her ancestors and her progeny and deem her entire bloodline unfit to live!" That, in essence,  is what I perceived and, literally, have never recovered from the experience. 

I still get nervous when it's time to pay and check and recheck that I have enough money for my purchase.

I also made sure that my mother gave me a little extra when I ran errands for her in the future. That was not going to happen again. I got the same old feeling at Trader Joe's when I looked into my wallet. I was three feet tall money for milk. I felt nauseous.

They could not have been nicer. Whether or not it was true, the manager (who was summoned discreetly for the dreaded procedure) assured me that it happens to lots of people. I told them I would hurry home and get my money and they smiled as they put everything back into the cart and headed off to the cooler where all my stuff "would stay fresh" until my return.
They're so nice there. Plus,
there are balloons.

When I got back, the friendly check-out hipster asked me with a smile, "Okay, who are you planning on blaming for this?"

Now, it was totally my fault. Occasionally don't we all go through our wallets to toss old receipts and frayed slips of paper,rearrange our cards, line up our cash so the presidents face in the same direction and put all but a few coins into the change jar?

I had done that the day before and got distracted, leaving everything in a pile on the desk.

But, instead of laughing off my own stupidity, I felt my mouth go dry as a dessert while my palms begin to sweat. Before I cold stop myself, I replied, "It was my husband!" And, as if that total lie wasn't enough, I embellished: "Yes, that's it!! He was looking for something in my wallet and he took everything out and DIDN"T PUT IT BACK!!!!!!!!!!!"
Women around me heard this and all happily went into their default "Men are idiots" routine as the news of my husband's fictional stupidity traveled like wildfire down the check-out line, through the store, out the door, to the mall, across the highway, to the state capitol and beyond. It was on the evening news...all three major networks.

He who did absolutely nothing wrong is now a legend of stupidity.

In any case, if a lie really gets rolling it can start to feel true, so I was actually a little annoyed with Seth by the time he got home. Why hadn't he put the cards back that he had never taken out in the first place?

Was my lie a knee-jerk response to the memory of the trauma from long, long ago or am I just a jerk?

I will you let all decide for yourselves.
No, not the cake!!!


  1. I really enjoyed this.

  2. Another classic!

  3. Thanks so much to my two anonymous readers!