From Trader Joe’s, circa 6 pm last night.
A guy begins walking up to my register wearing an eye patch. My first thought, naturally, was: I can’t believe Nick Fury shops here.
Julia, an energetic, outgoing, flirty young 20-something student from Hawai’i who spent most of the two hours at an adjacent register singing “La Bamba” and learning additional Spanish words to sing from other employees (including “turtle” and “little girl”), approached him as I was scanning his groceries.
“Excuse me sir, but do you have that eye patch just to attract the ladies?” she asked him, trying to strike a balance between curiosity and flirtiness.
“Uh … no, not exactly,” the man said, now fumbling with his wallet and clearly taken by surprise at the comment (or also possibly having problems with depth perception). Nothing about this man gave evidence as to whether it was lazy eye, aspiring piratism, one-eyed-willy syndrome or horrible skull rot which had necessitated the eye patch.
She tried to cover: “I just thought it might be a way to get the ladies’ attention is all.”
“Girls dont’ really go for it,” he said.
I jumped in trying to defuse the situation with light humor: “Well, you know at least one girl who is into it, I guess.”
His response: “No, maybe if she had a brother,” said in a low voice, probably half to himself.
Me: “Oh, I see … Hey, Julia, do you have a brother?”
Julia (obliviously loud): “Wait … he’s into dudes??”
That’s when time slowed to a crawl and the cold molasses of awkwardness oozed over everyone in earshot, making the next few seconds an unbearable strain of mumbled yikesities* while cramming this poor man’s groceries into his bag and sending him on his way as quickly as possible.
In the course of two minutes, Julia had identified the the two features about this customer he was probably most self-conscious about, and done the verbal equivalent of walking up to him, shining a flashlight under the eye patch while prodding it with a cold metal screwdriver, and then writing the word “butt pirate” on his leather jacket with a Sharpie.
Patch Adams grabbed his bag as soon as the last grocery fell in and headed for the door, before I could even hand him his receipt. It took a full five minutes to explain to Julia that, indeed, the man was gay, and yes hon, he was probably not going to come back to TJ’s for a long time lest we open up a discussion on recent diarrhea episodes or something to do with daddy’s drinking problems.
Only other comparable experience, from a few weeks ago: older lady customer telling me “that’s not good customer service” when the adjacent cashier told her that, yes, despite the thousands of dollars she had spent on her precious dog, it probably still had worms, like all mammals. Just a big, nasty, worm-riddled mess, it was.
“That’s not good customer service, telling me my dog has worms. For the money I spend on her, you can believe she doesn’t.”
I have no idea if her dog had worms. I kinda hoped it did. But I need to be more careful about who I stand next to apparently.