I Met an Angry Lady at the Check-out Line: Part Two

Haeckel_Orchidae

Three items: A bag of cat litter. A jug of water. A pack of chewing gum. Those were the only things I needed from the grocery store that day. Why did I drive all the way across town to the mega-market when I could have spent five minutes at the neighborhood grocery store?

Because time is a non-thing to me right now. Who knows which day of the week it is, and who cares? I’m on staycation. I can choose to waste time in order to cruise through my beloved city. I can take the long route that winds through areas which spark fond memories. Modoc Road, oh, how I love you.

Yet it is clear to me now that the real reason for driving that distance to that particular grocery store had nothing to do with my leisure and everything to do with Fran.

Fran the Angry Lady. I met her at the check-out line. We had a conversation. This is Part Two of the story.

[Click here to read Part One]

[Click here to read Part Three, the conclusion]

Give me a slight breeze and seventy-two degrees and I will choose gardening. My yard is a mix of projects completed, in session, or forgotten. A never-ending mess that I love. The backyard is covered in a weedy grass that can only be killed by Kryptonite. I have tried, tried, and tried again — mulch smothering, Round-up poisoning, boiling water scalding, the California drought. Nothing has been able to beat it.

So, after paying for my groceries, I left the store with visions of weed wars in my head. I could not wait to get home and take on the enemy, another sweet battle that I would temporarily win. I had already spent more time in the store than I had planned. If it hadn’t been for …

Fran?

There she was, loading her groceries. My car was right across the lot from hers and a few spaces up. Her back was to me. I could have passed her by and been on my way to gardening joy.

I got closer to my car, my mind doing that Tom and Jerry thing where the angel would be on one shoulder and the devil on the other: Garden. Fran. Garden. Fran. You already spoke to her. But how can you pass by without saying something? The woman feels better now. She told you so! Oh, stop being selfish and say something to her.

The angel won. Instead of sneaking away, I called out to her as I got to my car. “Goodbye, Fran.” She turned to me and I waved.

“Oh! Donna. Look at this orchid.” She held up the plant. “I love orchids. I buy new ones every few months.”

I considered correcting her on the name fail, but I decided against it. “Orchids are so beautiful. Don’t they look like they’re smiling at you?”

“Yes, they do. And I see that you have a cat.” She walked over to me and pointed at my cart. “I saw the cat litter. I have a dog. I rescued her. Sweetest thing. Never would leave my side. Now she has all the room in the world to run, from the ocean” — she swung her arms back and forth — “to the mountains. Not like in New York. Here, I thought she would run away, but she still won’t leave my side.”

I tried to convince her that cats rule, but she wouldn’t buy it. “I’m too independent myself,” she said with a wave of her hand. “Anyway, nice talking to you.” She walked back to her car.

“Take care, Fran.” There. Duty done. I opened the hatch to load my things.

“I wish there was another place nearby that I could shop for groceries, but I live too close.” She yelled to me from across the lot. “I hate this store.” She pointed at it to make sure I knew which one.

“That is some strong language, Fran.” I turned towards the store. “This one is my favorite. I drive across town to buy my groceries here.”

“You’re kidding! Let me tell you something.” She walked back over to me. “This doesn’t happen in New York. Businesses know how to treat their customers. There’s too much competition for them to treat people like they do here. Treat the customer like that and they’re out of business the next day. Really!”

“I don’t doubt that, Fran, but, well, um, you know, this isn’t New York.”

“I don’t care!” She threw her hands up. “It’s business. Everybody should treat their customers right.”

“I agree.” I admitted to Fran that I encountered the “I’ll help you when I’m good and ready” attitude many times in Santa Barbara. I shared a bit of history and what I had seen over my fifty-five years in this town, especially the early days when local families owned all the stores and restaurants.

“Humph. How old are you?” Fran asked.

“I’ll be fifty-six this year.”

“I’m seventy-eight. You’re my daughter’s age.” Fran’s eyes had lost their fury. “My husband died and I remarried. That’s why I’m here — to be with my new husband. He’s a CEO for a worldwide company. I told him he had to retire.” She grinned. “If you want to marry me, I said, you have to retire.” She leaned in closer to me and lowered her voice. “This man is the best. He treats everybody like they’re special. If they call him, he’s there. It doesn’t matter what time of the night or day. Everybody loves him. But I told him he couldn’t have me and work every single day. Retire or forget it.” She stepped back, looking victorious.

“And he did?” I didn’t doubt it, but I was dying to hear her tell the story. This woman was thoroughly entertaining. The garden could wait.

“No.”

“No?!” I was stunned. How could this man resist Fran?

Fran crossed her arms. “We compromised. He said three days a week. I said okay.”

I laughed. “I guess that’s better than seven.”

“Actually, after a while, I told him to go back to seven. Having him home those four days, it was” — she shoved me — “driving me crazy!” Her voice was shrill. Her delivery was perfect. She laughed like it was the first time she had heard the story. After getting over the shock of her shove, I joined her. Absolutely hilarious.

What more could this woman do or say to make our conversation better than it had already been? ∞

NEXT: Part Three (Final) – Darla Shares a Sad Part of Her Life with Fran

Note: As with Fran’s name and a few of her personal details, I have also changed Fran’s husband’s occupation.

Orchid Image: That center orchid has a lovely face, doesn’t it? The image is a lithographic color plate from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur, 1899, showing the botanist’s depiction of different varieties of orchids. Source: Wikipedia.


 

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

10 Comments Write a comment

  1. Through you, Darla, I’ve met a new friend. Or at least Fran will soon be a friend, I think.
    You bring out the best–and most interesting and creative–in everyone. The weeds can wait! 😉

    Reply

    • The weeds did wait, and they flourished, and I just came inside from a nice battle with them. Gardening during the Golden Hour is so magical. I do have a forever source of exercise, that’s for sure. I hope you run into your own Fran soon, Marylin.

      Reply

  2. Wow that read was much too fast for me! I want more and more. The adventures of Fran and Donna (wink) thanks Darla loved it

    Reply

  3. So glad I saw this… just yesterday I had a conversation with an angry, double amputee, Vietnam vet. God prompted me to go over to him, something I normally wouldn’t do. He was on the phone complaining something about a hospital and the bus not able to get him on. I planned to offer to pay for an Uber ride to get to his appointment, but it turns out he was on my bus up to the mountains here in Colorado. He explained the situation and angrily stated he should have “died with his boys,” which I later learned meant his platoon buddies. I felt the urge to ask if I could pray for him, another thing I normally don’t do with strangers. He accepted and folded his hands. The prayer flowed easily out of me, prayer for God to show him his purpose, give him peace, and solve the bus dilemma. I was thoroughly blessed to watch the transformation in him! Turned out to be an interesting, if not eccentric character. The bus pulled up and they loaded him on first easily, despite the clerk having told him they couldnt. I loaded at the end, and when I got on he waved me to the seat he’d saved for me. So much for getting the work done I had planned, but needless to say the conversation was quite entertaining the rest of the trip! Your story has the same feeling to it, and it brought back the joy I felt, as well as the angel/devil dance on my shoulders when I first noticed him 🙂

    Reply

    • Hi, Cheryl — Are you related to Julie? I love the Gilmore family! Thanks for sharing your experience, and thank you for listening to God’s prompt. What an excellent example of patience and compassion. Can you imagine what has been going through his mind since he survived and his “boys” didn’t? Your words and prayer may have shifted a life towards restoration. 🙂

      Reply

      • Yes, Julie is my baby sister. Glad you like her, too. She liked your post, so I saw it and was intrigued by the title because of my experience. I could have added so many other details! At times, when he would get hostile/negative about his life, I would come back unbelievably bold and direct and tell him he has to stop thinking that way. Sooo unlike me! So like Christ in me! One other great part is that on the bus he told me story after story. A few were about a couple troubled young boys, now young men, he mentored and is now honorary grandpa to their kids. Toward the end he paused, then quietly said, “maybe that’s part of my purpose for still being here.” Beautiful! He was so quiet I could tell that insight had penetrated his heart. He says he “gave up for Christ” right after his retirement, although I don’t know when that was or what his walk has been like since. But he definitely was a gentle soul by the time I got off at my stop!! I can’t wait to read Part 3 about Fran, but already I can bet she feels more at home in Santa Barbara after you gave her a chance to have her story heard and felt 🙂

        Reply

        • How wonderful for you to hear him realize that he does have a purpose. I would have been close to tears at that point. Note that I posted on Facebook a link to your original comment. Your words made my day and I wanted others to enjoy them, too. Part Three is coming soon!

          Reply

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