She lifted her red-rimmed, amber eyes towards the camera, raised her arms heavenward, and let out a sound I can only describe as a “Whooooop!” Then she threw the pack of cigarettes in my face. I’ll be honest, that shocked me. But not as much as her next words.
“You’re one of them!”
This was my first inkling that perhaps I was dealing with something a little deeper than a Drunken Lady With No Pants. I looked at her feet again, and this time I gave them more than a cursory glance. They weren’t just bare, they were raw. And I wondered, for the first time, just how she’d gotten herself to the store. The only vehicle in the parking lot was mine.
“I see those cameras all around town,” she continued. “You think they’re hidden, but they’re not. I know where they all are.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say to that. In our neck of the woods, you really don’t run into any surveillance cameras. When you live in a town where pine trees outnumber people by at least 100-to-1, you can feel pretty confident that Big Brother isn’t watching.
I wasn’t about to say that to No Pants Lady, though, even if she’d given me the chance to get a word in…which she didn’t. Instead she launched into a twenty minute tirade that covered everything from global warming (apparently a Soviet conspiracy dating back to the Cold War era) to the insipidness of American Idol (I had to concede that particular point.) Every so often she’d throw a pack of gum or a candy bar at me. I got rather adept at dodging and batting.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I just stood there and took it. Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first was fear. This woman was a good six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than me and, more importantly, she just wasn’t right in the head. There was honestly no way of knowing what she was capable of doing if crossed. Second, I had stupidly left the telephone that could have summoned help in the office after my nightly against-the-rules phone call to my husband. (Fucking Karma.) Third…
I was absolutely fascinated by the spectacle. I mean, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen in my corner of the boonies every day. I couldn’t tear myself away from it.
Finally, she got back to the subject at hand: idiotic cashiers who ask “old ladies” (her words, not mine…I don’t want any hate mail) for their IDs.
“It’s frigging ridiculous.”
She gave me the evil eye, but finally dug her drivers license out of the wallet she was clutching. Then she threw it in my face. I’d been expecting it. I thanked her and entered her birthdate into the register. I also took note of her name and address. She lived nearly five miles away. It was the middle of the night, barely forty degrees outside, and she had walked almost five miles–barefooted and pantless–to the store. And she was going to have to walk five miles back home. I felt a stirring of sympathy for the woman, but there wasn’t really anything I could do about it. So I said, “That’ll be $5.98.”
“You forgot my Allen’s.”
I actually hadn’t forgotten it; I’d just been hoping she had. It was now nearly two-thirty. Even if I had wanted to break the law by selling her a bottle of liquor after hours–and by that point I was more than willing to do so, just to get her the hell out of the place–the register is programmed not to accept liquor sales after 1am. The only way around it was to enter the price manually under another category…but there was the sticky matter of the four security cameras pointed at me, recording my every move…
I hesitated too long in making my decision. She chucked three “5-Hour Energy Shots” at me, then started stomping around the store, screaming at the top of her lungs, pulling products off the shelves and onto the floor. That was my cue. I made a beeline for the office, grabbed the phone, and dialed the sheriff’s number.
Let me state, for the record, that I have always had a healthy respect for law enforcement officials. During the early 90s, I worked the graveyard shift at a Dunkin’ Donuts (situated in a town populous enough to afford its own police station) and developed a friendly rapport with several of these hard-working uniformed gentlemen. They were grateful for the free coffee and donut with which I supplied them each night, and for the form-fitting uniform with which my manager had supplied me, and I was grateful that their frequent visits kept local hooligans away.
As a result, when I–in frantic tones–told the sheriff’s dispatcher my problem, I expected a friendly, yet concerned, “Yes ma’am, we’ll be right there.”
It’s not what I got.
(…to be continued…)