On my way home from work the other day, I was tasked by my wife to stop and pickup a new toothbrush for my son. Apparently, he was goofing around with his brother while they were brushing their teeth. “Something” happened (neither wanted to explain exactly what the something was) and my wife had to extract the toothbrush from the toilet bowl. Of course, she moved it from the bowl directly to the garbage can. No stops in-between.
I pulled into some convenient store and began my endless quest in search of a new toothbrush. I can’t find where they stock them anywhere! I’m pretty sure that I covered the entire store—not sure how I missed them. As I am about to start my second pass up and down each aisle, I notice this lady creeping around and seemingly following and watching me. Whenever I turn around to double check the aisle for the mysteriously missing toothbrushes, she quickly looks away or pretends to have interest in the items near her. This stalking-like crazy behavior continues the whole while I’m looking for the toothbrushes.
I finally find the toothbrushes and select an appropriate one (hey, maybe this one will float). I make my way to the checkout at the front of the store. As I approach the end of the aisle, I notice that my “stalker friend” is making her way down the next aisle. I can see through some of the displays and she is clearly racing me toward the check out. As I reach the end of the aisle, I discover about six people in line. The creepy lady jumps directly in front of me as I was approaching the end of the line. She was carrying one of those two handled baskets and it was jammed full of all sorts of stuff. She had hair coloring, cookies, a bottle of pop, several candy bars, a magazine, shampoo and conditioner, and bunch of other things that were out so sight as well. Great, I’m going to be here forever in line behind the crazy lady. I give her space. A lot of space—wacko. Even while we are standing in line waiting for the incredibly slow kid working the only open register, she is peeking over her shoulder, looking at me, and then quickly looking away.
I can’t take it anymore, “Hey lady, what’s your problem?” Perhaps that was a bit harsh, but she was really freaking me out. She apologizes for staring at me, but doesn’t really stop doing so. “Really? Why are following and looking at me?” And then I get her answer.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that you look so much like my son. He was tall too. And your face… Your face has all the same features. My son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident about two years ago. I never got to say goodbye. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s just… never mind, I’m sorry.”
Well don’t I feel like a loser now. Here is this lady having a rough time with some memories that I managed to stir up and I’m the one barking at her. With a heavy heart I say to her, “Wow. I’m really sorry for snapping at you.”
She replies, “It’s ok. I should not have followed you around like that.” At this point she is almost teary eyed. And then she hits me with this request. “Can you do me a favor? When I leave the store, can you wave to me and say ‘bye mom’?”
Oh no! No way! What and incredible awkward moment. How weird is that? She wants to use me to say goodbye to her dead son! Somehow I uttered “umm… yeah. Sure.” A couple of minutes pass by and I’m feeling more awkward than any other time I can think of in my life. I feel like I’ve been standing in line for hours—even days. She finally reaches the register for her turn and rings up all her stuff. My mind is whirling. She grabs her bags and heads to the door. She looks back at me. I raise a hand in a half hearted wave and say, “Bye mom.” She smiles and disappears around the corner. Well I’m certainly thankful for that to be over.
My mind is still swirling as I hand the kid at the register my son’s new toothbrush. The kid scans it, pushes a few buttons, and says, “That will be $77.12.”
I say, “For a toothbrush?!”
“Yeah, your mom told me on the way into the store that her son would be paying for her stuff.”
Click! The light in my head goes on! Now it makes sense. “You guys just got robbed! Hang on I’ll be right back!”
I leave the register (and my toothbrush) and I dash out the door. I spot the woman opening the door to her car. I run over to her yelling, “Stop!” I don’t even know what I’m doing. I didn’t do anything wrong and yet I’m thinking about confronting and stopping her. Just as I reach her car, she slams the door shut. I reach down and open it again. She didn’t have time to lock it. She starts yelling, “Go away! Leave me alone!” I reached in and grabbed her shirt up by her shoulder. She instinctively pulled away and fell over toward the passenger seat. At this point she was sort of laying down on the driver’s seat and started kicking at me. While trying to avoid her attempts at kicking me, I grabbed her ankle. I wanted to pull her out of the car so that she couldn’t leave. So I’m pulling her leg. She is yelling. I’m pulling her leg. Just like I’m pulling your leg.
I’m pulling your leg! Get it? I love telling this story and I so wish I could see your face. I told this story to my mother years ago. She actually cried real tears in the middle of the story. I felt bad. But just a little bit.