No Pants Lady, work

"No Pants Lady" Part 3

Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.

Instead, I got a hesitant, and slightly irritated, “Well…I’m gonna have to page the officer on call and wake him up.”

“Yeah. I figured.”

[long pause]

“Then he’s gonna have to get dressed–“

“God, I hope so.”

“–and drive on down to you.” [another long pause] “From Bangor.”

This might be a good time to tell you that the store I work at is about a forty minute drive from Bangor. If you’re going the speed limit. Nobody ever does. Certainly not uniformed police officers with lights and sirens atop their cars.

“Then you’d better get cracking.”

“Well…is this lady violent? Or just annoying?”

This is where I could have embellished. No Pants Lady was in the process of emptying a Little Debbie snack cake display. I’m a writer, after all, and it wouldn’t have taken too much effort for me to come up with a tale filled with blood and gore featuring a customer by the name of Deborah…

Then I remembered…those goddamn security cameras would eventually give me away. So I opted for the truth.

“At the moment, she’s engaged in the wanton destruction of private property.”

I watch a LOT of Law & Order.

“Wanton?”

“Yes. Wanton.” [long pause] “Unruly. Unchecked. Mean-spirited.”

I also own a dictionary.

Still she said nothing, so I added, “She certainly has the capacity for violence.”

“How do you know that?”

“I’ve seen this type of behavior before. It always ends in tragedy.”

Yep. Law and Order again.

“Well,” she said, “I’ll give the officer a call. It’ll probably take him about two hours to get to you.”

“Two hours? Two fucking hours???” (Yes, I swore to a Sheriff’s dispatcher. It’s probably on tape somewhere. Big Brother’s lurking after all.) “What am I supposed to do until then?”

“Just try to remain calm. And try to keep her calm.”

I flipped through my mental Convenience Store Training Manual. Clean the bathrooms: Check. Mop the floors: Check. Card old ladies for alcohol and tobacco products: Check. Keep unruly, possibly psychotic, snack cake-flinging customers calm: Nope.

By then the dispatcher had hung up. I clutched the phone, made my way back out, slowly, into the main part of the store, and took my place again behind the counter. I saw the pack of Pall Malls staring up at me. If a hundred years of advertising was to be believed, there was nothing better for calming the soul (hers, not mine) than a direct hit of nicotine.

“Ma’am?”

My voice was shaking, and it shamed me to the core. I cleared my throat and said it again, this time with what Cartman would call Authori-tah.

MA’AM!

It worked. Or at least, it got her attention.

“What is it?” It was more a growl than a question.

“I was just wondering if you’d like a cigarette?”

It’s safe to say she did. She grinned broadly, dropped the can of Pringles she’d been preparing to hurl, and made her way over. “Can I smoke it in here?”

She sounded more like a mischievous four-year-old than a fifty-three-year-old destroyer of snacks and nerves. It was in my best interests to keep her that way.

“Sure,” I whispered. Then I gave her a conspiratorial wink. “As long as you don’t tell my boss.”

“Oh, I won’t.”

Then she lit up. This might be a good time to tell you that I’m asthmatic. Still, exposure to second hand smoke wouldn’t kill me quite as quickly as exposure to the demon side of this woman, so I smiled. She smiled back. We were chums once again. Until she saw the phone in my hand.

“Who you gonna call?”

Ghostbusters! Seriously, that’s what my mind shouted. Even in times of peril, you just can’t escape pop culture.

But I didn’t get the chance to answer out loud. It was at this moment that a customer–a big, tall, strapping, manly man, complete with broad shoulders and a thick, scruffy beard–entered the store. I recognized him right away. We’ll call him “Man who comes in every morning at three o’clock for a 24oz cup of 100% Colombian coffee (black) and a can of Kodiak Wintergreen chewing tobacco (he always has his ID ready for me).” And, God bless him, he was fifteen minutes early. It took all my self-control not to clasp my hands together, flutter my eyelids, and shout, My hero!!!

He looked at No Pants Lady, then at the snack-littered floor, then at me.

“Hey Kel.”

“Hey [Three o’clock Man.]”

He turned once more to No Pants Lady. “[Jane*], are you giving this nice lady a hard time?”

“Nope. I’m just having a smoke.”

“So I see. Have you paid for those yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, do it now, then get in my truck. I’ll take you home.”

And, under the influence of his quiet Authori-tah, she meekly obeyed. We peered out the window at her. Once she’d climbed into his truck–giving us a rather horrendous view of…well, never mind–he said, “Sorry about that. She’s my neighbor. She’s kinda nuts.”

I just nodded and handed him a can of Kodiak. “I haven’t had a chance to make the coffees yet,” I apologized. “I was kinda busy.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

He handed me a ten, but I shook him off. “It’s on me this morning.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yep.” Even though tobacco chewing is the third most disgusting habit I can think of.

I waited until they drove away, then I called my boss. I figured he might want to be apprised of the situation. He growled something indistinguishable that I took to mean, “I’ll be right there.” I hung up the phone, then began the arduous task of cleaning up the store. When he arrived, fifteen minutes later, all that remained of Hurricane No Pants Lady were the candy bars and packs of gum she’d thrown at me. He gave the store a brief once over, then said:

“How come the coffees aren’t done yet?”

**********

Epilogue

My story is probably a little anti-climatic. If this had been an episode of Law & Order, there would have been a police stand-off and dramatic trial. Of course, that would have made me Murdered Cashier, a role I’m not too keen on playing. If this had been a romantic comedy, then No Pants Lady would have been the MacGuffin that brought “Three O’Clock Man,” as portrayed by The Hot Guy on Saving Grace, and myself, played by the beautiful and talented Kate Winslet (shut up! this is my movie adaptation fantasy!), together again after a long and painful separation. That won’t work, either, since I’m happily married to a strapping, unbearded guy who doesn’t chew tobacco. Or it might have been…well, you get the idea. But what really happened is this:

Three O’Clock Man drove No Pants Lady to her house, where she lives alone. Not even a cat. No one knows what’s actually wrong with her. And no one knows if an unsuspecting cashier (or an electric meter reader or a Fuller Brush salesman) will be confronted by her again. That’s because after I finished making the coffees, my boss took pity on me for having to endure such a rough night and sent me home early. As I slept, warm and safe beside my hubby, the officer arrived; two hours after my original call, exactly as promised. My boss decided not to press charges (apparently the only actual damage done was to three Little Debbie snack cakes…a grand total of $1.20), so the cop drove back from whence he came. Without No Pants Lady’s real name and address. Without giving a shit whether or not she’ll strike again. Or if she’ll kill herself someday by getting hit by a car while walking five miles, barefoot and half-naked, to the store for a pack of Pall Malls and a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy.

It’s a kinda sad ending, really. But it’s the truth.

* Not her real name.

No Pants Lady, work

"No Pants Lady" Part 3

(read part 1 here)

(read part 2 here)

Instead, I got a hesitant, and slightly irritated, “Well…I’m gonna have to page the officer on call and wake him up.”

“Yeah. I figured.”

[long pause]

“Then he’s gonna have to get dressed–”

“God, I hope so.”

“–and drive on down to you.” [another long pause] “From Bangor.”

This might be a good time to tell you that the store I work at is about a forty minute drive from Bangor. If you’re going the speed limit. Nobody ever does. Certainly not uniformed police officers with lights and sirens atop their cars.

“Then you’d better get cracking.”

“Well…is this lady violent? Or just annoying?”

This is where I could have embellished. No Pants Lady was in the process of emptying a Little Debbie snack cake display. I’m a writer, after all, and it wouldn’t have taken too much effort for me to come up with a tale filled with blood and gore featuring a customer by the name of Deborah…

Then I remembered…those goddamn security cameras would eventually give me away. So I opted for the truth.

“At the moment, she’s engaged in the wanton destruction of private property.”

I watch a LOT of Law & Order.

“Wanton?”

“Yes. Wanton.” [long pause] “Unruly. Unchecked. Mean-spirited.”

I also own a dictionary.

Still she said nothing, so I added, “She certainly has the capacity for violence.”

“How do you know that?”

“I’ve seen this type of behavior before. It always ends in tragedy.”

Yep. Law and Order again.

“Well,” she said, “I’ll give the officer a call. It’ll probably take him about two hours to get to you.”

“Two hours? Two fucking hours???” (Yes, I swore to a Sheriff’s dispatcher. It’s probably on tape somewhere. Big Brother’s lurking after all.) “What am I supposed to do until then?”

“Just try to remain calm. And try to keep her calm.”

I flipped through my mental Convenience Store Training Manual. Clean the bathrooms: Check. Mop the floors: Check. Card old ladies for alcohol and tobacco products: Check. Keep unruly, possibly psychotic, snack cake-flinging customers calm: Nope.

By then the dispatcher had hung up. I clutched the phone, made my way back out, slowly, into the main part of the store, and took my place again behind the counter. I saw the pack of Pall Malls staring up at me. If a hundred years of advertising was to be believed, there was nothing better for calming the soul (hers, not mine) than a direct hit of nicotine.

“Ma’am?”

My voice was shaking, and it shamed me to the core. I cleared my throat and said it again, this time with what Cartman would call Authori-tah.

MA’AM!

It worked. Or at least, it got her attention.

“What is it?” It was more a growl than a question.

“I was just wondering if you’d like a cigarette?”

It’s safe to say she did. She grinned broadly, dropped the can of Pringles she’d been preparing to hurl, and made her way over. “Can I smoke it in here?”

She sounded more like a mischievous four-year-old than a fifty-three-year-old destroyer of snacks and nerves. It was in my best interests to keep her that way.

“Sure,” I whispered. Then I gave her a conspiratorial wink. “As long as you don’t tell my boss.”

“Oh, I won’t.”

Then she lit up. This might be a good time to tell you that I’m asthmatic. Still, exposure to second hand smoke wouldn’t kill me quite as quickly as exposure to the demon side of this woman, so I smiled. She smiled back. We were chums once again. Until she saw the phone in my hand.

“Who you gonna call?”

Ghostbusters! Seriously, that’s what my mind shouted. Even in times of peril, you just can’t escape pop culture.

But I didn’t get the chance to answer out loud. It was at this moment that a customer–a big, tall, strapping, manly man, complete with broad shoulders and a thick, scruffy beard–entered the store. I recognized him right away. We’ll call him “Man who comes in every morning at three o’clock for a 24oz cup of 100% Colombian coffee (black) and a can of Kodiak Wintergreen chewing tobacco (he always has his ID ready for me).” And, God bless him, he was fifteen minutes early. It took all my self-control not to clasp my hands together, flutter my eyelids, and shout, My hero!!!

He looked at No Pants Lady, then at the snack-littered floor, then at me.

“Hey Kel.”

“Hey [Three o’clock Man.]”

He turned once more to No Pants Lady. “[Jane*], are you giving this nice lady a hard time?”

“Nope. I’m just having a smoke.”

“So I see. Have you paid for those yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, do it now, then get in my truck. I’ll take you home.”

And, under the influence of his quiet Authori-tah, she meekly obeyed. We peered out the window at her. Once she’d climbed into his truck–giving us a rather horrendous view of…well, never mind–he said, “Sorry about that. She’s my neighbor. She’s kinda nuts.”

I just nodded and handed him a can of Kodiak. “I haven’t had a chance to make the coffees yet,” I apologized. “I was kinda busy.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

He handed me a ten, but I shook him off. “It’s on me this morning.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yep.” Even though tobacco chewing is the third most disgusting habit I can think of.

I waited until they drove away, then I called my boss. I figured he might want to be apprised of the situation. He growled something indistinguishable that I took to mean, “I’ll be right there.” I hung up the phone, then began the arduous task of cleaning up the store. When he arrived, fifteen minutes later, all that remained of Hurricane No Pants Lady were the candy bars and packs of gum she’d thrown at me. He gave the store a brief once over, then said:

“How come the coffees aren’t done yet?”

**********

Epilogue

My story is probably a little anti-climatic. If this had been an episode of Law & Order, there would have been a police stand-off and dramatic trial. Of course, that would have made me Murdered Cashier, a role I’m not too keen on playing. If this had been a romantic comedy, then No Pants Lady would have been the MacGuffin that brought “Three O’Clock Man,” as portrayed by The Hot Guy on Saving Grace, and myself, played by the beautiful and talented Kate Winslet (shut up! this is my movie adaptation fantasy!), together again after a long and painful separation. That won’t work, either, since I’m happily married to a strapping, unbearded guy who doesn’t chew tobacco. Or it might have been…well, you get the idea. But what really happened is this:

Three O’Clock Man drove No Pants Lady to her house, where she lives alone. Not even a cat. No one knows what’s actually wrong with her. And no one knows if an unsuspecting cashier (or an electric meter reader or a Fuller Brush salesman) will be confronted by her again. That’s because after I finished making the coffees, my boss took pity on me for having to endure such a rough night and sent me home early. As I slept, warm and safe beside my hubby, the officer arrived; two hours after my original call, exactly as promised. My boss decided not to press charges (apparently the only actual damage done was to three Little Debbie snack cakes…a grand total of $1.20), so the cop drove back from whence he came. Without No Pants Lady’s real name and address. Without giving a shit whether or not she’ll strike again. Or if she’ll kill herself someday by getting hit by a car while walking five miles, barefoot and half-naked, to the store for a pack of Pall Malls and a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy.

It’s a kinda sad ending, really. But it’s the truth.

* Not her real name.

No Pants Lady, work

"No Pants Lady" Part 2

[Read Part One Here.]

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.”

“Yes ma’am.”

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…)

No Pants Lady, work

"No Pants Lady" Part 2

[Read Part One Here.]

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.”

“Yes ma’am.”

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…)

No Pants Lady, work

"So, a drunk lady walks into the store without any pants…" Part 1

That’s exactly how I planned to open today’s post. The second I saw her walk through the door–barefooted, clad only in a thankfully long t-shirt–I saw the bold, block-lettered headline in my mind. My only worry at that point was how to write it so that I’d be believed.

I clutched my mop handle tightly, to ward off any laughter, and said, “You’re not allowed in here without any shoes.” I didn’t mention the pants because–to be honest–I wasn’t sure where I stood, legally, on that issue. No shoes, no shirt, no service was all I’d ever been told.

“I refuse to wear shoes!” she proclaimed (it really was a proclamation.) “It’s a symbol of my Native American heritage. I’m half Mic Mac Indian.”

This surprised me. My husband–coincidentally enough–is also half Mic Mac, and he has no problem with wearing shoes. Or pants. Sometimes he wears both at the same time.

“And,” she continued, “I’m here so I can buy my drugs-of-choice.”

I simply nodded, because I knew what she meant. She wanted a pack of cigarettes and probably some liquor. I gave her bare feet another quick glance, but decided, What the hell? It’s two in the morning. Nobody’ll care. Besides, I knew that I’d have to burst one of her bubbles in another moment, it being an hour past liquor-selling time. I wheeled my mop and bucket behind the counter and stood at attention, awaiting her command.

“A pack of Pall Malls and a fifth of Allens.”

I grabbed the smokes for her and scanned them into the register. It let out an annoying musical ditty, the lyrics to which are: “Someone’s trying to buy tobacco!!!! Ask for their ID!!!!!!”

Now would be a good time to tell you about my store’s policy for selling tobacco and alcohol, and it will reveal the identity of my employer to anyone who’s ever attempted to buy either of those products from this particular chain of convenience store in the fair state of Maine. Several years ago, Maine passed a law that requires cashiers to ask for ID from anyone wishing to purchase alcohol or tobacco who appears to be under the age of 27. That’s right…appears to be. Rather subjective, no? And it puts cashiers in a rather sticky position. Legally speaking, if I sell a pack of smokes to a 23-year-old without carding that person, even though that person is old enough to buy tobacco, both the store and I–yes, me personally–could each be fined $1500. And I’d lose my job. My employer decided to save everyone’s asses by requiring cashiers to card everyone. My 77-year-old grandmother could walk into the store for a six-pack and I’d have to say, “Can I see your ID?”

So I asked No Pants Lady–easily in her mid-fifties–“Can I see your ID?”

It was my first mistake.

“My ID????”

I smiled apologetically. “Yep. Your ID.”

“I’m fifty-three-fucking years old! Can’t you just give me my goddamn cigarettes instead of treating me like a child?”

I could see her point, and I sympathized–although I personally think smoking is the second most disgusting habit there is (nose-picking being the first.) I would have liked nothing better at that moment than to give her the goddamn cigarettes and get her the hell out of the store so I could finish mopping my floor. In fact, if I had a time-traveling DeLorean, that’s exactly what I’d go back and do. Instead, I pointed to one of the four security cameras pointed directly on our little conversation and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. I can’t.”

That was my second mistake.

(…to be continued…)

No Pants Lady, work

"So, a drunk lady walks into the store without any pants…" Part 1

That’s exactly how I planned to open today’s post. The second I saw her walk through the door–barefooted, clad only in a thankfully long t-shirt–I saw the bold, block-lettered headline in my mind. My only worry at that point was how to write it so that I’d be believed.

I clutched my mop handle tightly, to ward off any laughter, and said, “You’re not allowed in here without any shoes.” I didn’t mention the pants because–to be honest–I wasn’t sure where I stood, legally, on that issue. No shoes, no shirt, no service was all I’d ever been told.

“I refuse to wear shoes!” she proclaimed (it really was a proclamation.) “It’s a symbol of my Native American heritage. I’m half Mic Mac Indian.”

This surprised me. My husband–coincidentally enough–is also half Mic Mac, and he has no problem with wearing shoes. Or pants. Sometimes he wears both at the same time.

“And,” she continued, “I’m here so I can buy my drugs-of-choice.”

I simply nodded, because I knew what she meant. She wanted a pack of cigarettes and probably some liquor. I gave her bare feet another quick glance, but decided, What the hell? It’s two in the morning. Nobody’ll care. Besides, I knew that I’d have to burst one of her bubbles in another moment, it being an hour past liquor-selling time. I wheeled my mop and bucket behind the counter and stood at attention, awaiting her command.

“A pack of Pall Malls and a fifth of Allens.”

I grabbed the smokes for her and scanned them into the register. It let out an annoying musical ditty, the lyrics to which are: “Someone’s trying to buy tobacco!!!! Ask for their ID!!!!!!”

Now would be a good time to tell you about my store’s policy for selling tobacco and alcohol, and it will reveal the identity of my employer to anyone who’s ever attempted to buy either of those products from this particular chain of convenience store in the fair state of Maine. Several years ago, Maine passed a law that requires cashiers to ask for ID from anyone wishing to purchase alcohol or tobacco who appears to be under the age of 27. That’s right…appears to be. Rather subjective, no? And it puts cashiers in a rather sticky position. Legally speaking, if I sell a pack of smokes to a 23-year-old without carding that person, even though that person is old enough to buy tobacco, both the store and I–yes, me personally–could each be fined $1500. And I’d lose my job. My employer decided to save everyone’s asses by requiring cashiers to card everyone. My 77-year-old grandmother could walk into the store for a six-pack and I’d have to say, “Can I see your ID?”

So I asked No Pants Lady–easily in her mid-fifties–“Can I see your ID?”

It was my first mistake.

“My ID????”

I smiled apologetically. “Yep. Your ID.”

“I’m fifty-three-fucking years old! Can’t you just give me my goddamn cigarettes instead of treating me like a child?”

I could see her point, and I sympathized–although I personally think smoking is the second most disgusting habit there is (nose-picking being the first.) I would have liked nothing better at that moment than to give her the goddamn cigarettes and get her the hell out of the store so I could finish mopping my floor. In fact, if I had a time-traveling DeLorean, that’s exactly what I’d go back and do. Instead, I pointed to one of the four security cameras pointed directly on our little conversation and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. I can’t.”

That was my second mistake.

(…to be continued…)