Many happy returns...
I noticed the oddest thing at the parking lot of the grocery store yesterday. Half the parked cars had guys sitting behind the wheel, just sitting there, staring straight ahead, waiting. They all had the same look on their face. That look as if they were in a doctor's waiting room when the nurse walks in and announces in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear that they could come in now for their digital prostate exam.
I'm guessing their wives had run into the store to quickly pick up something, but then I wondered, how would it slow them down if the husband went in with them? Well, maybe some of these guys are old or infirm. But certainly not all of them. None of them were parked in a handicapped spot. There were no little handicapped tags hanging from their mirrors, no markings on their license plates. No, they were just sitting there behind the wheel staring off into space.
I asked Sue about it. She said a lot of women don't drive. Or don't like to drive.
"My mother didn't like to drive," she said. "Whenever she had to take us somewhere she would always use the back streets. 'I don't do interstates,' she used to say."
"Yes," I said, "but even if the women don't drive, why is the guy sitting in the car? Why doesn't he go in the store with her? Let's see, he can walk from his house to the car, he can drive the car to the store, he just can't get out of the car and go in the store? Help me here. If he's too feeble to go into the store, should he really be the one driving the car?" Sue shot me the universal "I married an idiot" look and shook her head.
While Sue's shopping I'm returning bottles. Two garbage bags full of soda bottles. I used to wonder what kind of sick, twisted person would wait until they had two entire bulging garbage bags full of bottles to return them. Now I know. It's me.
When we lived in the city it was so easy to get rid of empties. We would place them very carefully on top of the garbage waiting to be picked up out on the street and within moments some homeless guy would pick them up, put them in his shopping cart and take them to the redemption center. We always were careful to put them right on top so they wouldn't have to root around in the rest of the garbage. But about two minutes later, another homeless man would come by, not see any bottles and proceed to root around in the garbage for 10 minutes, throwing it every which way. About two minutes later, a guy from the Sanitation Department would write the apartment building a $50 ticket for having loose garbage on the sidewalk.
Now that we live on a farm, we wait until our weekly drive to the grocery store to return empty bottles. But sometimes weeks go by before I feel like returning them. In the return line in front of me was the town librarian, Valerie Snebbin, impatiently tapping her foot.
"Hi," I said. "Didn't I see Bill sitting outside in your car?"
"Yes. He won't come in when I return bottles. He thinks it's embarrassing. He thinks people will think we need the money."
Her garbage bags were full of empty beer cans. "You'd think he'd be more embarrassed that people might think he's an alcoholic."
"Yeah, it doesn't seem to bother him if people think I'm an alcoholic. Maybe that's why he insists on driving me to the store even though I'm a much better driver. Because husbands don't let wives drive drunk. Then he sits out in the car and waits for me. It's so embarrassing."
Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes A Village Idiot: A Memoir of Life After the City." He writes a weekly humor column for Pilot-Tribune readers.