She had that blonde-out-of-a-bottle look. Including her eyebrows. Dolly Parton on steroids. Riding somewhere in middle age, complexion of a Saltine cracker and burly body of a barroom brawler, you might assume she was a recruiter for the Tijuana chapter of Hell’s Angels. Whatever her background, at this particular time, she was the grocery checkout woman in my lane. I was 15 customers back; and each cart ahead of me looked loaded as if they were scheduled to be catering the Thanksgiving Macy’s parade.
It was, indeed, the day before Thanksgiving, about 3 in the afternoon; and yes, I had gone to the grocery store to “pick up a few things” as they say. Has anyone ever gone to the grocery store and left with “a few things?” Ever? Some time ago, I went to the grocery store stoned and left with Aisle 3.
So, there I was with more than “a few things” in my cart, waiting in line – all the other 12 lines full as well – to be checked out (so to speak) by this fascinating-looking woman. Meanwhile a feeding frenzy was going on throughout the store: sharky shoppers with boxy metal mouths swimming up and down the channels snapping up just the right culinary delights for Thanksgiving tables.
I knew better than to go shopping the day before Thanksgiving. Of course, I did. But if I were to make a list of all the things I have done for which knew better, it would be nearly as long as the list of things our Congress knew were better, but never did. But, by God, I had committed myself to this shopping absurdity and would see it through. The motorcycle mama at the checkout counter had definitely gotten my attention. I grinned as I imagined what choice words she would have for this pre-Thanksgiving madhouse.
After all, my total time in the store was maybe 30—40 minutes. She could well have been here all day in this bedlam or would be working well into the night. From the looks of her, Madame Motorcycle had a vocabulary that would make a rapper blush and it made me even more eager for the people ahead of me to bag it and boogie. I couldn’t wait to talk to her.
Finally, my turn arrived. As she began sliding my chicken boullion cubes and sourdough bread across the scanner, she looked up at me with a full-size grin and said, “How you doin’, honey?” She was gorgeous in a way that would make Bette Midler proud. Then without missing a beat while scanning the beets in my basket, she looked around at the hundreds of frenzied food snatchers and said, “Isn’t this beautiful? Honey, look at this! Look at all these people running around grabbing up a bunch of food so they can have a good time tomorrow with their family and friends! Don’t it make you happy?”
“We are all in the gutter,” writes Irish scalawag, Oscar Wilde, “but some of us are looking at the stars.” What that red-lipped, blazing-blonde, rough-and-tumbled star-gazing Buddha reminded me was that when you release your self-important urgency and see the magic in the chaos, you open the door to joy. Sometimes, the most important life lessons come not just from philosophers and scripture, but from been-there-done-that-wildly-blonde motorcycle mamas.