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By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

COLUMN: THE STARE

 


Ten years ago, I probably would have had plenty of crazy adventures to talk about in my weekly column. A night out with a pack of friends to a bar or a trip to Vegas would usually result in some sort of shenanigans. The older I get; I'm finding more and more of my stories are taking place at the grocery store.

What was once only a necessity can often be a highlight of the day, especially when it is a small-town store. The last time I went to Wal-Mart was on a Friday afternoon in June to grab a few things while in Butte and I felt like I was packed in a sardine can and that I might have a panic attack if one more person blocked an aisle or rammed the back of my Achilles tendon with their cart.

The experiences in a small-town store are usually pretty good unless people get a little bit too chatty about work. It always makes me a bit nervous when somebody I've met once takes up about 30 minutes explaining an event that is not taking place for a year. If I recognize a restaurant owner in the store, I certainly wouldn't go into detail about his menu. I don't mind a quick update or question, but when I'm shopping, it's about shopping.

There are also weird encounters that often times baffle me, and this was certainly the case last week.

After finishing up the paper and delivering it in record time we decided to go to the store to get the ingredients for homemade spaghetti and meatballs. It certainly wasn't going to be quick meal but was a reward for a lot of hard work. I'm by no means Italian but I'll put my marinara and pork and beef meatballs up there pretty high.

We were looking for tomato paste when someone turned into the same aisle and us and stopped his cart. He then proceeded to stare at us for a solid minute. At first, I thought he may have recognized one of us, but he said nothing. I went back to shopping and turned back a few seconds later and he was still staring. It was a strange feeling.

I thought maybe one of us had something on our clothes or face. I'm the guy that once went from 7:30 a.m. to Noon with a "buger" stuck to his face so I thought this might be the case. I also have a bad habit of chewing on pens and have had one get all over my face. I quickly realized that someone in the store with me would have said something, so I ruled out snot or ink.

I started to get really self-conscious. I was certainly not dressed up nice, my knee was sore, so I had on a brace with sweat pants, but my clothes fit, and they were clean. I wouldn't have been allowed at a country club, but I was at the store minding my own business so it shouldn't have been an issue.

After finishing up in the aisle we proceeded to do the rest of our shopping and did not run into the gentlemen again until the checkout line.

JACK H. SMITH

It appeared the weird encounter would be just that until he had finished putting his items on the conveyor belt and turned to stare again. This time it was not a you have something in your hair stare, it felt like he was trying to steal my soul.

I had never had anybody look at me like that and I didn't like it. This went on longer than the first stare. I was a little scared. I seriously don't need this crap in the store.

I wanted to politely ask if I could help him, but I was afraid I might end up on the back of a milk carton if I said anything.

A younger version of me probably would have called him out, but I'm glad that didn't happen.

My trips to the store since have all been positive, but if I see this guy ever again, I'm going to leave my cart right where it is and run as fast as I can out of the store.

 

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