Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Powers of Observation

I stopped at the Trader Joe's on 25th and M tonight on my way home. The line was eternal, and I was standing between a very cute guy wearing a lot of brown and beige corduroy and a man with a little boy in a stroller. The boy was alternating between hitting people with his yellow balloon and making the kind of combination grunting, moaning, growling noises that I assume an angry hippo in heat might make.

I was in front of the balloon-hitting-hippo-in-heat- noise-making boy for quite a while. I had just started to consider opening my chocolate covered raisins and shoving as many as I could up his nose just to be malicious when I was distracted by the big non-smiling weirdly flirty checkout guy from last week.

A couple days before Thanksgiving I stopped at that Trader Joe's. I went to the register with a million power bars, some chocolate, and a couple bottles of red wine. The checkout guy, an enormous, brown haired man, picked up a bottle of wine, looked me straight in the eye and said, "Are you old enough?"

Now, I'm only 5'3" and I think sometimes my size makes people think I'm young. And granted, I was wearing a bright pink coat and I didn't have makeup on. But I by no stretch of the imagination look under 21, and I have been legal drinking age forever.

So I laughed and rolled my eyes and said, "Me? My God, I'm old."

He didn't crack a smile. "Yeah, I hear that all the time."

If he'd been charming, I'd have flirted with him delightedly. I am perfectly happy to show my ID. These people can get fired for not doing their jobs. And not only do I not give anyone a hard time, now I practically thank them for asking me.

I offered to show him my ID. And he, with eyes narrowed, replied "Yes, I'd like to see it."

And so I shuffled through my wallet, which is fairly disorganized. I found receipts, credit card, money, more receipts...

He was watching me very carefully. "Oh, so maybe you don't have your ID?"

"Huh, maybe I don't..." Shuffle, shuffle. "Oh, here it is!" I handed it over.

He looked down at it, raised his eyebrows and said, "Well, I'll be damned!"

And then he said, "How on earth can you feel old with finger paint all over your hands?"

We both looked down at my hands. They were covered with splotches of fuchsia and blue, dye-stained from the night before.

"It's not finger paint. It's dye."

"Well, how come you feel old?"

As I said, ordinarily I'd have flirted. I'd have had fun with the conversation. But he had me on the defensive. I felt awkward. And annoyed.

"I don't know. I guess it's just one of those old kind of days." Please, I thought, please, just process my credit card and let me out.

"You shouldn't feel old! I bet your boyfriend just loves showing off his young girlfriend!"

I nodded in agreement. If I had one, of course. Just not that day. That day he'd have had to say, "Here's my 'young' girlfriend who got up late this morning, which is why she didn't bathe or have the ability to match any of her clothes. And although today she also looks like she either finger paints or has hands that are about to rot off, neither are true. Usually, I swear, she's hot. And has relatively clean hands."

As I was zoning out thinking about fictional boyfriend's imaginary explanation of my apparent lack of hygiene, the credit card went through, and he handed me my receipt and my bag. Without smiling, he gave me a huge wink that involved scrunching up half his face and said, "Happy Thanksgiving!"

I was thinking that since I've been writing more, maybe I've been honing my observational skills. I asked our HR person at work, who doesn't miss a thing, if she thinks that I'm more observant than the average human, or if weirder things happen to me. She gave it five seconds of thought and laughed.

"More observant? Do you know how many times I've passed you walking on M Street, honking and waving like a maniac from my car, trying to get your attention?"



"And do you know anyone else who, while taking her boot off at the office, gets it stuck halfway off her foot, panics and then falls off her chair?"


"Weirder things always happen to you."

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