I made a quick trip to the mall today, hoping to get some spare parts for the People’s Lawn Improvement Tractor so that it might actually start up and become mobile, which is an excellent quality in a tractor of any kind. The People’s L.I.T. is a Craftsman, and I thought I might be able to find someone at the Sears to help me identify the necessary bits and help me place an order. That particular procurement mission failed – all I got out of the store visit was a 1-800 number and some gentle mocking from the girl at the catalogue sales counter concerning (in her apparent opinion) my somewhat advanced and possibly premature plans to begin mowing, seeing as we are only at May 3rd.
Having been denied – temporarily – the glory of fully functional heavy machinery, I headed for the bookstore to grab a magazine, intending to grab lunch in the food court before continuing on to my next Saturday errand. I selected a copy of Wired magazine, which (in case you haven’t noticed) has recently gotten a heck of a lot thinner and a heck of a lot more relevant; in my opinion, over the last few years it’s basically been a fashion magazine little different than Cosmopolitan or Vogue, but with high-tech devices in place of ridiculous dresses, and just as many lifestyle based advertisements. Anyway, they’re back to talking about things with lights that flash, that you plug into the wall, and that generally seem cool.
As I approached the counter with my magazine, the cashier (a post-secondary age youngish looking girl who had been stocking shelves behind the counter with some newly released paperback or other) spied me and headed for the till. Attempting to put down some sort of signage that she had been holding, she dropped it on the floor and there was a bit of a clatter as the sign and it’s metal support bracket fell to the floor. When she got to the till, I greeted her with my usual insouciant (and highly charming) “How’s it goin’?” A man of the people, I always feel the need to let the cashier know that I am a person who sees beyond the function they are performing; I see them for the person they are, and I am prepared to converse, should you so desire. That’s just how I roll.
“Not bad,” she replied, “except I have a bad case of the dropsies. It’s not just today, either, it’s like…always.”
Not sure how to respond to this apparent cry for help with her manual dexterity, and entirely lacking any basis upon which to either contradict her self-deprecating assertion or (in the alternative) wholeheartedly confirm the scathing indictment of her complete lack of co-ordination, I felt that my conversational alternatives were somewhat restricted. With the pressure nevertheless on to come up with some sort of intelligent response, I confess to some disappointment that the best I could do was to utter a fairly general and non-committal response: “Yeah, well, y’know. It happens.” This was the equivalent of a “set” shot in volleyball; just trying to keep the ball/conversation going, so a team-mate can make a point.
“It’s why I work in a bookstore,” she continued, tapping my magazine on the counter as if to conclusively prove her point. “Paper. Doesn’t break.” Satisfied with her explanation, she began ringing in my purchase.
I felt I was on reasonably solid ground now, and felt that the cashier’s remark was like a “bump.” Back to me for the spike! In a flash, it came to me. “Yeah, good thing you don’t work in a medical research lab or something,” I said. “Otherwise, that might have been ebola virus all over the floor,” I joked, tilting my head in the direction of the fallen signage as a visual cue that I was referring to the dropped sign. I was pleased with myself; it wasn’t exactly Mort Sahl, but I was convinced that my lightning quick decision to use the word “ebola” was certain to amuse and entertain, because that’s just a funny word.
She stopped mashing the keys on the cash register and looked at me doubtfully; I think she was sizing up whether I was the sort of fellow who might have just said something terribly rude about her. “What’s ebola?” she said.
Thus did I find myself attempting to convey the sum total of my (admittedly rudimentary) knowledge concerning certain hemorrhagic fevers emanating from Zaire to an unamused and very suspicious cashier in the middle of Coles bookstore in Burlington this morning at around a quarter to twelve. If you were in line behind me, I apologize for the delay. Next time, I’ll just grunt incomprehensibly and take my change, thank you very much.