Out of Line

One afternoon several weeks ago I bought a pair of shoes at Loehmann’s.
Thank you, and good night!
Well … actually … even though that’s certainly worthy of both celebration and mention here, it’s not the focus of the hocus. What is, however, is this:
The check-out area, downstairs (this is the uptown store, which opened on the street level of the Ansonia) keeps the hordes herds at bay by way of a very simple “lane” delineated by a tape-like rope on posts (not to be confused with soap on a rope), just like at airport check-in but not as labyrinthine. A sign at the back of the lane indicates that that is its entry and please, oh please, enter there. To enter at the front is something you should only do if you are the only person entering the line. Or if you have a terminal illness and you absolutely must use your 20%-off coupon before both of you expire. And even then, I’m sorry, but why did you want so long.
So, anyhooter … on the aforementioned afternoon, at a rather peak shopping time, somehow, by some freak twist of unheard of fate, there was no one in line, so one opportunist took the opportunity to enter at the front of the line to await the announcement of the next available cashier. No problem. No one else was entering the line, so she saved herself a good 15 to 20 feet of walking effort. Immediately after winning the first position, a small, quiet-looking older woman entered the line at the proper entry point and made her way to what she (and I ) thought would be her rightful second place. I trailed her, happy to rank as “show”. But no sooner did we make our way behind the first woman than another one crammed her brutish adiposity into the line from the front, thus effectively cutting into line in front of me and the older woman.
The older woman said, “You can’t do that.” Quiet. Plain. Firm.
“DON’T START! OH, DO NOT EVEN START!” the cutter yelled in a Jamaican (I think) accent, wheeling around, coal eyes flashing, nostrils flaring, hooves pawing. “DO NOT START!”
The older woman waited a beat. “You know I’m right,” she said, again quietly and firmly.
“DO NOT START! DO NOT START!” the cutter yelled, because no one heard her the first three or six vagillion times. “YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER! YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER! YOU! ARE NOT! MY MOTHER!”
After silently watching this delightful exchange for as long as I could endure without participating even marginally, I tapped the older woman on the shoulder and said, “I’m with you. You’re right. She’s wrong.” She turned around, and she and I discussed, sotto voce, the undeniable rudeness of the offender. “I get so mad at things like this,” she said. “Oh, sister, I hear you,” I said. (And yes, I really did call her “sister”. I am as shocked as you are.)
I could not stand the thought of the belligerent beast thinking that the older woman was the only person who thought she was wrong, so I stepped forward and gently touched about three molecules of my right index finger on the back of her broad left shoulder.
“DO NOT TOUCH ME! DO NOT TOUCH ME! YOU DO NOT TOUCH ME!” she yelled, spinning around like a deranged dervish, edging as slightly as an ox can slightly edge torward me because her mere words and the volume with which she delivered them were not emphasis enough.
“Oh dear god,” I said with a laugh and eyebrow raise. “Please.”
She raised her left arm, which was thick with about as much meat as you’d find on a sandwich at the Carnegie Deli. I was surprised to see that she had an opposable thumb, the better with which to grasp a silver shoe (as yet unpurchased). “I WILL CONK YOU WITH THIS SHOE!” she informed me. “I WILL CONK YOU! I WILL CONK YOU! I WILL! CONK YOU! WITH THIS SHOE!”
“Nice,” I said to the older woman with a calm snicker. “She’ll conk me. Conk.”
Oh, how this honking ogre, who was at least twice my weight, delighted in nostril-flaringly threatening me with conking. As I told my ally, the freak had no idea that I carry “guns” under my jacket, the better with which to conquer the conker. (N.B.: By guns, kidz, I mean my arms. I mean, come on. Can you honestly see me with an actual gun? … Okay, so can I, so that’s why I can’t see me having one!) “She may be all pissed off or whatever, but she has noooooo idea who she’s dealing with. Ohhh no.”
This Conk’s Hell continued, along the same forehead-vein-bulging vein, for the duration of the screamer’s transaction. By this time, there were at least a dozen women in line behind me, stunned and slackjawed at the display. Indeed, the monster was so engrossed in constantly wheeling around to unleash her fury on me that she was still doing it, still brandishing the shoe she had yet to purchase, when I was called by a cashier (quivering and whispering to me that she just wanted to go home) to step up to the counter for my own purchase.
By this point, all I could think was, “Oh, honey. Please. If you’re going to ‘conk’ me with a shoe, could you at least make sure it’s not such a tacky one?”
But I kept my mouth shut. Because, after all, I am a lady.

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