This is the story of my Winter mini-vacation.
It all started when I gave in to my recurring delusion that I could complete my weekly grocery shopping duties over my lunch hour. If you don’t know what I’m talking about try ending your long work day by picking up two hungry/cranky children after wearing control top panty-hose and two-inch heels for nine hours. Then head to the store and try to get everything on your grocery list (if you were lucky enough to remember it) before the control top gives way or the children “permanently” maim one another.
One thing I love about lunch shopping are the people. During work hours there are different people in the grocery store than I typically see in my evening rush. There are slow-moving sweet-faced widows accompanied by dear friends or daughters. They shake their heads at the price of berries and have a cart with one tomato, one carrot, and one potato. There are bleary-eyed but happy moms with sleeping infants who secretly wish they were using this time to sleep, but realize they must procure sustenance in the form of pureed sweet potato and overstewed green bean. There are others, many others, and they are all sauntering. They are swaying and weaving aimlessly down aisles. They are perusing. Comparing. Pondering.
But not me. I am on fire. I have my list. I have my reusable bags. I have my alphabetized baggie full of coupons which I retrieved from my briefcase. I have my heels on, and I am flying. I pause only momentarily. I calculate my round trip transit, checkout, unload time, and cart return requirements. I determine that I have 38 minutes remaining to complete the list.
I am moving constantly and seamlessly, from produce to dairy to bakery to butcher shop. I pass through the bulk bins and organic section before hitting the winery. I am triumphantly nearing the end of the list when it hits me: I haven’t eaten. I need to grab lunch food that can be consumed at work over my memo. I am exasperated because this is not on the schedule. This is not part of the plan. My heels hurt. My toes hurt. My wool coat is hot. I already have ten thousand dollars worth of groceries in my cart.
I consider whether Dante’s Inferno should have contained a ring for mothers who have to shop over their lunch hour, and a subsequent ring of advancement for those lucky enough to learn to complete the task within the appointed time, with coupons.
So I decide to stop and take a moment. It’s just a moment. Through my nose I take in a deep breath of the aroma as I lean way, way, waaaaaay out over the oranges. I fill my lungs until it’s almost uncomfortable, and I let out a sigh as I exhale. A kid across the way looks up at me, and he is suddenly horrified. Not because I’m a middle-aged woman who appears to be having an affair with the citrus section, but for another reason. I look back at him and he doesn’t blink. What? I look down, and there it is.
I am having a nose bleed. Right on the oranges.
I think, it’s okay. I’ve got this. Every woman experiences inopportune body fluid moments at some point. Recent memory goes to my marathon “moment.” And I was once unaware that my newborn’s poopy blowout was trailing out of the front-pack and down the front of my shirt, leaving a trail in that adorable childrens’ boutique. Then there was the time I realized the importance of lactation pads while shopping at Michael’s. I had a newborn and a blanket to cover me that time.
But here, now, there is this blood, and it is coming out of my nose, and I have nothing to clean it with. And I’m freaking out a little kid.
Not only do I have nothing to clean it up with, it’s still coming. I had only my wallet from my briefcase, so no purse tissues. I have my I-device, so there is no paper list that can be McGyvered into an impromptu blood-soaker-upper. I am stupidly leaning over the oranges with my hands out to the sides as if to say, “Step away from the bloody bleeding lady and her bloody oranges, people. Step away!” I am trying not to bleed all over my suit and coat, and I am sacrificing poor innocent oranges in the process. And the poor kid is still there. I think he might start crying. I smile at him. But then I stop, thinking I probably look scarier when I smile.
I grab the only plastic bag I can find, and I start piling the oranges into it, simultaneously attempting to catch the drips and splots as they periodically continue to come. I realize how completely gross this is, and I laugh. I laugh with a bloody nose. I actually laugh before I realize the potential consequence of this action. You can imagine what kind of splatter pattern this creates in my bag. Well, mostly in my bag.
Finally, finally, after what must be an eternity, a twelve-year-old grocery clerk (I swear) approaches and hands me one paper towel. One stupid paper towel. I am now holding my head upward, shoving the thing in my nose, and trying to say, “I’m so sorry. It just started. And I. OH. I didn’t realize …” but before I can form a complete sentence I’m dumbstruck. I see something more horrifying than bloody oranges. With what is likely the only other paper towel in the store, the clerk is wiping down the oranges that are still on the display.
“Stop! Stop!” I yell.
At this point, I stop myself instead, and I realize that I’m officially making a scene. I mean, not that I wasn’t already a stark contrast from the other grocery patrons, what with my low-level flight through the baking aisle wherein I swerved around the man staring at the chocolate chip selection from the middle of the row. But now, I pause and I look around, and people are watching me. Heh. They are watching the crazy lady in the suit and heels with the cart full of food and the blood and the fruit and the bags and the paper towel and the yelling. And it’s just ridiculous.
I decide I can’t attempt a sentence about how ridiculous he’s being with a paper towel shoved up my nose, so I simply hold up my non-bloody hand in the universal HALT sign and I say, ”Biohazard!”
The poor kid, probably embarrassed beyond belief, and possibly contemplating whether he should have donned latex gloves before responding to “deadly cleanup on aisle five” simply shoves the remaining oranges into the bag along with the bloody paper towel, and hastily leaves the scene of the crime. I instantly wonder if this is the same clerk I told off once before (also involving blood), and I cringe. I high-tail it for the bathroom.
When I finally emerge, I look around and am pleased to discover nobody is looking. Ahem. Business as usual. Well, except that my cart is perched neatly just outside of the ladies’ room, waiting there for me. It is a silent invitation not to return to the produce department, and I take the hint. But not before I contemplate buying blood oranges just for spite …
So that’s how I ended up significantly extending my lunch and taking a ”vacation hour” this week: with a bloody nose, a juvenile citrus clerk who couldn’t spare a square, a traumatized boy who will likely suffer from PTSD (produce traumatic stress disorder), a bag of bloody orange biohazard, a bruised ego, and a victoriously spotless suit. I could make some comparisons to the week I spent in Mexico last year, but I won’t.
So, I hope all of your vacations this year are a little sunnier … and slightly less traumatic. And please, wash your oranges. You just never know.