I was at my local market yesterday, which is not unusual. I am a frequent flyer there, so much so that I am often surprised not to be greeted enthusiastically and in the same fashion as was “Norm” in the 80’s television series, Cheers. (A chorus of “JACKIE!” would not, in other words, be out of place.) It is just that kind of local place. They may not serve beer or have my barstool waiting, but everyone knows me just the same.
That being the case, it is often surprising that whilst grabbing a carton of eggs, a handful of leeks, or a bottle of soda, I have borne witness to my fair share of “yokels behaving badly”. These people never seem to care that everyone, figuratively and, at times, even literally, knows their name.
It is sort of funny to have a front row seat when some of the townsfolk — many of whom seem relatively normal as they dive into a bag of zeppoles at the annual church carnival or peruse a fashion magazine at the municipal pool — have highly emotional and, yes, outsized, reactions to the absence of things like kumquats or candied orange peel at the local market.
I have been downright shocked to observe certain people, when they think no one is watching, getting handsy with the cheese samples. The forward thinking and generous folks at the market conveniently place toothpicks next to the complimentary cheeses to avoid just such unsanitary behavior. (Use them, Mrs. W., use them!)
The powers-that-be have done their due diligence on the toothpick front. I don’t hold them responsible for the Mrs. W.’s of the world. You can lead a horse to water and all that.
The expectation that the toothpick stockers can foresee and avert a run on niche produce or citrus confections, well, that is just ludicrous. More ludicrous, though, are the reactions of those who pop into the market to purchase such exotica only to find the shelves bare.
To say these kumquat seekers feel thwarted is to put it mildly. Judging from the exchange that I was privy to recently, one would think that the market managers wake up in the morning and hatch an evil plan to remove certain products from the shelves just, you know, because they can. Just because “that guy” will be in later seeking them.
“That guy”, a guy that I do not actually know, but whose act I am all too familiar with, was carrying on — to a powerless cashier, mind you — about the availability or, to be more precise, the lack of availability of fresh squeezed juice.
I didn’t even know the market carried fresh squeezed juice! In the interests of full disclosure, I am not much of a juice drinker. Still, I think I would have noted its presence. It really must be tucked away in some dark corner. Maybe it is nestled amongst other healthy items that hold no interest for me — the quinoa, the granola, the wheat germ — if it were housed near the chocolate chip cookies, I surely would know of its existence.
While there are many things that I do not know, there are a few things that I do. For example, I know “that guy” — not by name, but certainly by face. His act and his expectations were no different on his recent visit to the market than it frequently had been when I was forced to wait on him at the small local restaurant where I was, recently and briefly, employed.
He liked to create the impression that he was a very important person by barking at whoever he was on the phone with — and he was always on the phone with someone. That he “dressed for success” in basketball shorts, two-dollar flip-flops, and a stained t-shirt was, I always thought, part of another statement that he was making — that he was too busy to care about his appearance when it didn’t matter, when the only people he was going to come into contact with were the peons that would be doing his bidding, peons like me. Peons like the market cashier.
When he came in with other people — people who I assume he was selling something to (I think he may be a realtor) — he presented an altogether different appearance: a suit and tie, shoes with laces, and, of course, the requisite pinkie ring. Yeah. He is a real operator, a bona fide mover and shaker. He is also a world-class boob.
I wouldn’t buy a penny candy from him, but I know for sure that his clients are not privy to who he really is. When he was wining and dining someone, he would deign to speak to me — like one human to another; when he was alone, with no one to impress, he would, if I was lucky, grunt his order at me.
When I was unlucky, which was most of the time, our entire discourse would be conducted through the use of hand motions. He would wave away the menu I was presenting, indicate that he wanted a drink refill by holding his glass aloft, and order soup by miming a spoon-to-mouth gesture. If he wanted another bowl of soup, which he almost always did, he would charmingly tap his empty bowl on the table and then tilt it to demonstrate its emptiness.
While Mrs. W.’s attitude toward food safety may have come as a shock to me, “that guy” berating a cashier didn’t surprise me at all. Not one little bit.
Had I not been getting “the eye” from my husband, who sensed that I was about to spring to the cashier’s defense, and had the cashier not handled herself with aplomb — had she looked upset or been younger, for example — I would not have hesitated to open my mouth. On some level I would have loved an excuse to call “that guy” out, but I am happy that it didn’t come to that. (I daresay my husband was also very pleased at my rare show of restraint!) The seasoned cashier, to her credit, did not need my “help”; she was perfectly capable of handling “that guy”.
I did manage to catch “that guy’s” eye, though. He knew exactly who I was. More importantly, he understood that I knew exactly who he was. I took some satisfaction in the fact that I did not have to behave badly myself, that by simply making my presence known “that guy” scurried away — as quickly, let me just add, as his skanky flip-flops could carry him.
For my next passive-aggressive act, I would love to catch Mrs. W.’s eye when she gets busy fondling the cheese.