“You’ve been living a lie? I’ve been living “¦ like, twenty.” “” George Costanza, Seinfeld
So I lost one of my favorite stores due to a lie I didn’t even know I was in “¦
Let me back up a step: As someone who tends to wake up in the middle of the night, I get most of my outside-of-work things done before 5 a.m. I go to the gym, read, clean, and even shop while most normal people enjoy a blissful slumber.
The beautiful part of shopping at 3 a.m. is that there is never a line, or if there is, there is a great story waiting to unfold. Sometimes, even when there isn’t a line, a story arc evolves and ends in tragedy. This is one of those stories.[pullquote]I’m not sure if it was my bright, positive attitude, or perhaps the shaved head and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart goatee that made her think I could be responsible for educating the young “¦ [/pullquote]
A big part of my day job involves talking to strangers about technical problems they usually don’t understand. While I love my job, this leads to me not wanting to talk to anyone about anything when I’m not at work.
So, normally, if you see me shopping, I have my Bluetooth earpiece in, either listening to music or something that distracts me from those around me. It’s also a built-in excuse for talking to myself. The problem with this is that sometimes, when you don’t fully listen to/care about what others are saying, you just nod your head in agreement.
My travels would often lead me to one of the few stores open at such an hour; I won’t say the name, because they don’t sponsor me and it’s not germane to the situation. More important is the one cashier who was constantly on duty for at least the past two years.
Apparently, we built up quite a rapport, several days a week, two or three minutes at a time. I’m not sure what part I played in these conversations, other than to nod my head. I’d love to blame it on her being difficult to understand, but basically, I was just uninterested in cultivating a relationship with the overnight staff.
I guess, at some point, I gave the impression that I was a schoolteacher. I’m not sure if it was my bright, positive attitude, or perhaps the shaved head and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart goatee that made her think I could be responsible for educating the young, but that’s the impression she got, and it seems I mumbled or nodded in agreement.
I didn’t realize this was the case until one fateful day last week when I went to my normal checkout with a bag of plums, coffee creamer, and a protein shake. She was talking to the deputy working extra duty and said: “This is one of my schoolteacher babies “¦”
I’m not sure who looked more shocked: me or the officer. He skeptically asked: “You’re a teacher? Where do you teach?”
I’m sure the dumbfounded look on my face gave it away, but quickly I decided, “Sure, I’ll play along.” However, my few improv experiences with The Family Dinner and with hecklers when doing standup only qualified me to throw out the vilest and most profane things I could think of.
My natural instinct was to throw her under the bus and say “I don’t know WTF this crazy lady is talking about “¦” I guess, somewhere along the way, I found a small conscience, because I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I fumbled to make up a name for a school, like the Stubenhoffer Academy on Kenilpark Drive Circle, but I knew the cop would see through that. I also knew that, no matter what real school I said, the cop would have gone there, had a kid there, or had an uncle who was a principal there.
I think I should also mention that all these thoughts were not happening lightning-quick in my brain; I am legitimately horrendous at lying on the fly. By this time, a good 45 seconds had passed, with me alternating between being on the verge of speaking, and opening and closing my mouth like a fish flopping around on the ground when the aquarium breaks.
Finally, the best I could come up with was: “It’s summer; I can’t even think about school much less talk about it “¦” Then I briskly walked away. If I were capable of being embarrassed in a situation like that, I would have been.
I’ve since had to detour, driving away from my office to a different store and adding another four miles to my morning commute. Not because I don’t want to face them, but because I have no idea what other stories I may have inadvertently involved myself in.