A couple days ago I was coming home from the grocery store when I stopped at a four-way intersection. The guy headed in my direction ran the stop sign, and the woman to my right whose turn it was to go entered the middle of the intersection, her hackles SO OUT OF CONTROL, and honked her horn for about 30 seconds straight. Her face got all distorted, and she looked at me and at the other car waiting across from me like, “Can you believe he just did that? HUH? HUH? CAN YOU? I CANNOT BELIEVE IT, so I’m going to sit here for a few more seconds and honk my horn so that the whole world can tune in to my disbelief.”
At first I thought it was funny — the horn-honking woman, not the guy who ran the stop sign because that’s never funny. He could have hurt if not killed someone, but he didn’t and he was at least a half a mile away at this point. There wasn’t much we could do about his, ahem, transgression against our legal system, but the honking woman WANTED HIM TO PAY. After about the 16th or 17th second of the honk the funny part about it turned into sadness. Why was she so angry, that poor woman WHOM I WAS GOING TO STRANGLE WITH MY BARE HANDS IF SHE DIDN’T GO ALREADY?
The scene finally ended, no one run over or strangled, and I looked at Leta in the rear view mirror and said, “Some people, Leta. They live life like an Internet troll, wanting everyone to know how angry they are about someone else while they themselves ARE BLOCKING TRAFFIC.” And I was proud of myself, proud for coming up with that obviously brilliant metaphor, proud that I had imparted that wisdom to my daughter even if she wasn’t paying attention and was eating her shoelace, her foot pulled up to her face.
Yesterday I had to pick up a present for my sister, September, whose birthday is tomorrow. She’s turning 35, and her 13 and 11-year-old daughters are giving her no end of shit for being so old. THIRTY-FIVE. I told her to tell them that when Leta is 13-years-old her father will be 75, that they don’t know what old is. HA HA. 75. I’m exaggerating, of course. Only a little, though.
I packed up Leta and headed to T.J. Maxx, my sister’s favorite place on earth second to Woolmort. I’ve really never shopped at T.J. Maxx because they don’t sell Old Navy clothing, so this was a big step for me, especially since I HATE SHOPPING. I am the daughter of a professional shopper, and some of my worst memories of childhood are being dragged to the JC Penny at the Raleigh Springs Mall and waiting for my mom to choose between the blue or green blouse, JUST CHOOSE ALREADY. I think I spent half of my youth in that JC Penny pulling on my mother’s arm just wanting to go home. I can’t stand department stores for this reason and the sound of an old cash register printing out a receipt gives me seizures. That sound always meant that someone else, NOT ME, was checking out and going home.
Jon had a similar experience in his childhood, except he was WAY more creative than I was at getting his mother’s attention. I would just sit on the floor and whine, but Jon… Jon WOULD PLAY DEAD. He’d fake dying and fall down the stairs ever so slowly and dramatically, just to get his mother to stop shopping. When he told me this story for the first time I had the confirmation that I needed to prove that he was my soul mate because THAT is the type of person you want to share a joint bank account with.
Turns out T.J. Maxx is a little bit of heaven on earth. Not a lot of heaven, that’s at the bottom of a Herradura tequila bottle, but a little. EVERYTHING in that store is on sale, and all those little red clearance tags made me a little wobbly in the knees. Plus, they sell everything, no really, EVERYTHING, except food and liquor and maybe hot-air balloons. I couldn’t believe the stuff they were selling for so cheap, and for a moment I was overcome with the horrifying realization that MY GOD, MAYBE I AM A LITTLE BIT LIKE MY SISTER. NOOOOOOOOOOO.
Leta and I spent a good half hour taking in the whole spectacle, and while I’ve never seen so much tacky clothing in one place, they just didn’t have anything flashy enough for my sister. I was looking specifically for a bright shirt of some sort, something you could see 30,000 feet from the Earth, with maybe a floral or squiggly pattern going on. But nothing was bright enough. Nothing screamed SEPTEMBER! at me, and in order to scream SEPTEMBER! you best be loud as a fire cracker in your pants. (That should be read like this: Far cray-ker in yer pay-ants.)
I finally decided that I’d wimp out and just get my sister a gift certificate so she could come out here and sort through all the flash herself. Worst gift ever, I know, but remember this is my sister and T.J. Maxx is her tequila. While Leta and I were standing in line behind five people with hundreds of clearance items in their carts — the other line had six people in line, and I don’t think either cashier spoke English as a third or fourth language — I watched some guy pick up a picture frame, stick it into his bag, AND WALK OUT OF THE STORE.
He just walked out! Of the store! WITHOUT PAYING FOR THE PICTURE FRAME! And to top it off, the alarm went off! AND NO ONE DID ANYTHING ABOUT IT! Isn’t there a ten commandment or something that says thou shalt not shoplift lest ye go to hell and have your innards eaten by Mormons? There I was standing patiently in line ready to pay for my consumer goods, and that guy just walked out of the store with a stolen picture frame. And to top it off even more, I saw him walk into the middle of the parking lot, light up a cigarette, and just stand there for like 10 whole seconds. I KNOW it’s against the Bible to smoke. Joseph Smith said so.
If I had had a horn to honk I would have honked that horn like no horn has ever been honked. Or at least, that was my initial reaction. A HA! I caught myself having those feelings, those feelings of RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION (today’s theme, if you haven’t noticed), of wanting to enact the Lord’s wrath on his behalf because it would have felt so good. And I realized that I was no better than the honking intersection woman, than a damn Internet troll, and that if I were breaking the law I wouldn’t want anyone to tell on me.
So I stood there patiently to prove a point to myself, that even though I may not be any better than those people I could at least look like I was outwardly. And I looked down at Leta who was sitting in the front of the shopping cart (naked, without being strapped in, having not been fed in four days) and said, “Leta, it is NOT okay to shoplift, not because it is totally wrong, but because both your father and I are clumsy people and you’d never get away with it.”