You’re Just Going to Have to Read It

pharmacy***Sometimes titles come to me and others, not so much. So yeah, you’re going to have to read this one. It’s a story about elephants, pharmacies, criminal behavior, and a great, big, gummy smile.***

<Wednesday evening, December 28>

Somewhere between 9AM and 12 noon today, I went from zero to see-you-next-Tuesday in about six seconds flat. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I know one thing to be true above all others when I’m facing Crimson – the name I’ve taken to calling my less-than-famous, cut-a-bitch moments: The last thing I need to do is speak.

Not a single word.

And on top of it all, there seemed to a completely unauthorized Occupy Sinuses movement going on by a baby elephant in my head. Definitely a fucked-up way to be going about one’s day.

So I headed home, threw on my cold weather running gear and bolted out the front door. A few things happened.

First, I queued up a playlist fueled by the likes of Ratt, Metallica, and White Zombie. Seemed fitting.

Then, about 300 yards down the road, I busted my ass something fierce on the ice. Fuck it – got back up. Ow, ow, ow.

And then…it all just fell away. Seems that I ran just about 4 miles in about 35 minutes – pretty much a land speed record for me, ass-busting and all.

Given that the baby elephant was still taking up unauthorized residence in my sinuses, I headed to the grocery store to grab something with a ‘D’ in the product name. An eviction attempt. Putting the elephant on notice.

Sidebar: To all of the fuckups who have snorted or utilized over-the-counter medications designated as “decongestants” in an off-label, non-prescribed manner, I’d like to thank you. It’s rare that I’m given the opportunity to see what my life would have been like if I’d opted for a career on the pole snorting blow off a coworker’s ass and getting umpteen free rides in a black and white cab. It’s because of you that I’m made to feel like a criminal every time I need to evict a small baby elephant from my sinuses, as the pharmacies now keep these (fictional) elephant-killing medicinals under lock-and-key behind The Counter. I have to stand in line, show identification, sign a form with my name, date, and for some fucking reason – the time – in order to pay my $7.29 and get my damned decongestants. So, I have a request that you start huffing the fumes from smoldering Glenn Beck books and Justin Bieber CDs, as if it’s this hard for me to get decongestants, shitty literature and music should have the same controls placed upon them for the good of the American public.

But I digress.

I procured my D-drug redemption card because we can’t trust you with the box of choice and took my place in the six-deep line at the pharmacy. I was freezing, truth be told. Funny what happens to your body temperature when you go from an 8-mile-per-hour pace to dead still with a breeze kicking off the linoleum.

And then I saw him.

I thought that perhaps I’d cut him off, the old man who towered at least a foot above me who stood to my left. But another glance told me no, he was standing over to the side of the aisle with his cart. Waiting. For her. The lines that time had carved on his face scrunched up when she approached. A smile unhindered by the constraints of teeth – defined by gums alone.

She stood there.

Didntcha need makeup? Powder? Sumthin’? he said

Oh, yes! (she shuffled off, shuffles back)

She dropped something in the cart with a thuck

Thank you dear said this Weeble of a woman who stood next to the towering man with the toothless smile.

Yup. Yup. Need soap? he asks

No… she sings

Toothpaste? Shampoo? he queries

No… she sings

Vitamins? Lotion?

No, that’s all taken care of. That cabinet in the hall – open it up and it’s all right there. But thank you she gleams.

She gleamed. Just stood there and beamed up at him – her big, toothless, gummy-smiling man who must have been more than two feet her senior.

And he smiled – still – down at her Weebles-wobble-but-they-don’t-fall-down self.

For the second time in the day, it all fell away.

I almost expected him to scoop her up and put her in the kid part of the shopping cart. Instead, he put both hands on the handle of the cart and said grab on. She adjusted her purse and set her right hand on top of his left on the handle and they rolled off towards the checkout at the front of the store.

My turn at the counter finally came and with much fanfare and great ordeal, I procured my D-drugs with no fewer than three cards, two signatures, and just over seven dollars. Bag in hand, I floated to the parking lot and headed towards my car.


Snapped me out of my reverie. A boy of about ten or eleven was bounding through the parking lot into every pool of melted snow, and I’d caught some of the backsplash. He looked at me with a wide-eyed stare and I stood there.

Staring back at him.

My run was soggy, sloshing through sidewalks filled with melted snow and runoff. I was sweaty from my run. And now, I was pretty much drenched with freezing, filthy, grocery store parking lot water on the left side of my body. Fucking hell.

So I laughed. When I opened my eyes, he was smiling and I guess his mother was yelling at him (something about getting his ass *up here*) so he ran towards the front of the store and I walked to Beatrice Olivia the Mini Cooper. Opened the door, sat down, shut the door…and laughed some more. And somewhere between starting the car and pulling up in front of my house, I turned on the seat heaters (praying I wouldn’t be electrocuted).

Maybe it doesn’t mean much to you that I had a shit day today, but maybe the next time you have a shit day, you’ll remember mine. You’ll thank the fuckups who made buying decongestants a criminal act so you have to stand in line and see people like Towering Gummy Smile Guy and Weeble-Gal. We miss them when we’re too bloody busy in our own shit to stop, look, listen. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have some fearless kid drench you with a heaping splash of parking lot puddle just top top it all off. Remind you that you’re human. And that while you might have been ready to cut a bitch a few hours prior and busted your ass on ice not even an hour ago…

That there’s really nothing than can’t be fixed by seeing someone else — even complete strangers — smile.

38 replies
  1. Stacey Hood
    Stacey Hood says:

    I think I almost got emotional with this post. This just shows how beautiful of a person you are both inside and out. I want to give you a hug for sharing. We still owe each other drinks, right? 

  2. rita
    rita says:

    OMG so awesome!  I LOVE how you describe the old man and his lady friend.  That was awesome.  I agree with Stacey..I want to give you a hug right now too.  

  3. Kellie Brooks
    Kellie Brooks says:

    Nothin’ gets me more than people of a certain age in love. Maybe because I haven’t seen it all that often (in my own family) and maybe because it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful to believe in. Thanks for sharing, and hope you feel better soon.

  4. Melinda Van
    Melinda Van says:

    Awesome :-). Hope you’ve dried out by now and I’m right there with ya with the hassle of obtaining D drugs. I just don’t get it. Pisses me off every time. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Apparently it doesn’t apply to those with sinus issues. Still, thanks for the glimpse into the moments that really do make it all worth it 🙂

  5. Ben Anderson
    Ben Anderson says:

    The last couple of months I’ve made it a personal mission of mine to share my awkward smile with as many people as possible. Just yesterday I was in a fast-food place that serves under a double yellow rainbow and shared such a smile and was pleased and delighted at the smile reciprocated by the English-as-a-second-language employee. It really is wonderful seeing smiles that are genuine and honest. Thanks for bringing this story to us despite the butt whooping that you took to bring it to us. 

  6. Jesterqueen
    Jesterqueen says:

    Oh GOD I want to kill the people who made those laws, too. Sorry, the methheads are just getting their drugs through mexico now. They didn’t fix the problem, just moved it. and made it harder for legitimate users of those D drugs .

  7. Paula Lee Bright
    Paula Lee Bright says:

    Red, this one is memorable! A keeper. 

    I’m reasonably certain that although Farmer Bob and I still have a good mouth o’ teeth, we resemble that couple in many ways. I’ll bet we get stares, as I’m a brilliant (meaning I breathe teaching 24/7, theories, inventing new techniques for my struggling readers, reading endlessly about it, etc.) but mindless nut case. I don’t know a single thing I need ever when I’m in a store, and being partially blind, I stumble into shelving, walls, and sales displays at every turn. It ain’t the blindness, though; it’s the dreaming. 😉

    Meanwhile Bob’s pocket is bursting with notes on every movement he needs to make for the coming year and 63 days. Organized and practical. Yet he loves my braininess. And I love his get-things-done mode. 

    So yep. We’re happy. And hoping to hang onto these toofs a few years longer. Thanks for a really good ‘un!

    Love those gummie folks, and the joyous splasher. 


  8. Msintrepid
    Msintrepid says:

    These are the moments I love the most – having ADD and shying away from people I tend to notice these moments more than other people, it gives me a vicarious little thrill 🙂 

  9. MoxieValery
    MoxieValery says:

    Fantastic post. Shit storm days are reminders that life happens for us, not to us. In the eye of that storm you saw the jewel, the lesson, life had for you.  Wishing you lots of love and laughter now and in 2012.

  10. Lauryn Doll
    Lauryn Doll says:

    Thanks for this. Sometimes, we really need, and want to make the small things, the little insignificant shit, the central point of focus, even if only for a moment. It’s those small pieces of odd quirky crap that make shitty moments less shitty, and kind of throw us back into perspective. 

    And it beats remembering the fucked up adage “Someone is always worse off than you.” Cause you know, nothing beats remembering that you at least have it better than someone else. 

  11. Gcmandrake
    Gcmandrake says:

    Your story reminded me of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut that I think you might like:

    “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur
    or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

    Sometimes, I just forget and this helps remind me.  It’s the little things, and you do need to pay attention.  Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Puck90
    Puck90 says:

    As a person who suffers from year round allergies I thank you for validating my annoyance every time I have to replenish my supply of D. Plus the strip on my ID doesn’t work so they have to type in all my info every single time.  And yes, we could / should focus on the human experience and not the annoyances.

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    We’ve definitely all had shit days, when one sorry events piles on top of another. Getting splayed by slush puddle moisture is just the icing on the turd cake. I really like how you embraced the moment and turned it into something positive. I need to laugh more when I get my next slush puddles.


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