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Blog: Don't Talk To Strangers

(originally written 3/1/12)

True story.

The scene: Our local CVS. I’m in line. Off-topic: just how many of my blogs start with me standing in line somewhere? Somebody check into that, please.

The experience was already painful, as I was stuck behind one of those “baby boasters”. You know the type—they  engage the cashier or another customer in a talk about their kid, then a third party joins in, and before you can blink there’s an audience. This particular BB droned on and on, making sure to rotate to confirm all eyes are firmly on her. And maybe the kid. But preferably her.

I, being me, go out of my way to exclude myself from the show by: fixing Josie’s socks, reading the label of a 5-Hour Energy drink, counting the cameras suspended from above, etc. I feel her eyes on me twice, with the second glance lingering, as if to say “Um, excuse me, sir. I’m talking about my baby and you’ve been looking away for several seconds now. What gives?”

Can’t something happen to end this, I think to myself. Maybe another gunman like at the D.C. Wal-Mart that time? I’m due for some more free shit.
You know the old saying “Be careful what you wish for—you might get it?” That guy should be the CEO of mankind. He was very wise. No, there was no gunman; rather, a different kind of “bang”—that of a shopping cart hitting mine. Initially, it appeared accidental. Now...doubtful.

The woman in line behind me, a crude, dingier version of Cruella Deville, politely apologized for the fender-bender. Eyeing Josie in my arms, Cruella then remarked “She treasures you.”

It is true that Josie treasures me. How a stranger can deduce that from watching her sit in my arms half-awake for 10 seconds is a mystery.
What I wanted to say: “She better. I’m about to drop $30 on her. That’s like, six weeks pay!”

What I did say: “You’re right, she does.”
“Is she yours?”
I know this is a somewhat legitimate question. But it’s one I’ve never been asked, and gathering from this woman’s demeanor, I’m suspecting she’s somewhat…daffy. And there’s no satisfaction in being impolite to a nut.

What I wanted to say: “No, she’s a loaner. I just take her out to get chicks. And I can see it’s working!”
What I did say: “Yes, she is.”
Her response: “She’s beautiful.”

Josie is beautiful. I smiled and nodded as if to say “thanks”, just as I’ve done 10,000 times before.
“You know, I grew up in Africa, and they take such good care of their own. They are so generous.”


What do I always say, people? It’s hard to weird out a weirdo. But Cruella did it. She weirded me out.
In the 48 hours since this “conversation” took place, I have racked my brain trying to unlock any part of our conversation lost in the “encoding” process—any hint or gesture that could have supplied logic to this segue from my kid to Africa.

I know she didn’t mean it racially; it wasn’t a black thing. It was a case of a daffy chick using my kid to talk about herself—nothing new, except the bizarre, abrupt transition.

What I wanted to say: “Yes, those Africans are generous. Not once have I ever seen an African rotting on his feet from famine and sickness. God Bless them.”
Or: “Yes, those Africans are generous. They were kind enough to loan American settlers hundreds of thousands of their own people to get their new country started. But I’m really not here to talk about the past, ma’am.”

What I did say: “That’s great.” At that point, I decided the best course of action was to simply turn around and ignore Cruella; the Baby Boaster no longer seemed so bad. At first, Cruella didn’t get the hint.

“Do you plan on giving her a good education?”
Who the hell asks that kind of question? It was so f’n weird. I got the feeling that if I’d answered “No”, she would have gone home and reported me to CPS (and then somehow used that to talk about herself). That confirmed my earlier assertion that Cruella was several sandwiches short of a picnic.

What I wanted to say: “No. I’m going to teach her how to juggle fire. She can make a living in the circus; it’ll save me tons of money.”
What I did say: “Josie, tell the lady ‘thank you’ (for the previous compliment).” Meanwhile, the BB chick in front of me is loving the attention her pumpkin-head kid is getting and in no hurry to wrap things up. I remain surprisingly calm; the combination of Josie’s presence/accumulating blog material is keeping me from erupting as I usually would in such a predicament.

Cruella continued babbling on about something, but I refused to acknowledge her in any way. I locked my eyes on the security guard near the exit and remained silent. To me, being rude was the only way to prevent myself from being really rude. And having the security guard think I lusted for him was better than conversing with a loon.

Let my baffling experience serve as a lesson—whenever someone bangs shopping carts with yours, RUN!!!! THERE WILL BE OTHER SALES!!!

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