I know it’s Thanksgiving. However, if you’re expecting a column romanticizing warm hearths, glazed turkeys and grumbling grandparents, look elsewhere. I’m no Norman Rockwell.
But starting off positively, let me assure you, I like people. Well, some people. Most of the time. OK, some of the time.
Sure, if pressed, I’d have to say less than a quarter of the time. Maybe an eighth.
Some of you, like my wife, get along with everyone and never meet a stranger (“Where are you from? What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Do you believe in String Theory?”).
And you, my devoted readers, I so enjoy and appreciate meeting because, among an array of other reasons, you obviously have excellent taste in literature.
But some people, as Huck Finn might say, I want no truck with. Take the woman ordering meat in one of our grocery stores.
I’m next in line, hanging around the meat and fish glass display case ready to announce, “I AM!!!” when the butcher calls, “Who’s next?” if anyone should try to horn in before me (this store, incredibly, has no Pick-a-Number system, assuming, maybe, most customers, unlike me, will be patient and forbearing).
The woman is telling the butcher she wants half a pound of ground sirloin. The butcher weighs it, wraps it and prices it. Then she orders a pound of the same. The butcher repeats the process. Then she orders a pound and a half. Then two pounds. All wrapped separately.
After maybe 10 minutes (it feels like 30), the butcher hands over the last of her whims. “Now chicken breasts,” she announces, walking toward me. “That one,” she says, pointing. “No, the one in front. No, yes, there. Now the one two down. No, TWO down.”
She may not say exactly this, but it’s close.
“Now chicken thighs,” she says.
If she had looked, she would have seen black smoke pouring out my ears, nose and mouth. But indifferent to the time she’s taking, the woman picks out chicken thighs with the exactitude of choosing an engagement ring.
Finally, her multiple packages carted, she wheels away down the bread aisle and suddenly, in her spot, a man looking like he could have commanded the WWII Pacific fleet (wavy white hair, blue blazer, dress slacks, leather loafers) appears as if beamed down by the Enterprise. Leaning over the counter, he tells the butcher in almost a whisper, “Thank you for your time.”
“You’re welcome,” I want to say, but refrain, much to my later regret.
As the man turns and follows his wife, I hiss to the butcher, “She wanted separate packages? You gotta be kidding! What a jerk.”
Of course, “jerk” is a euphemism I use here to substitute for the real thing.
What’s incredible is not so much what she asked for; maybe she had a good reason for separate packages such as giving her children different weights of ground sirloin for early Christmas presents.
What’s incredible is that she didn’t apologize to me or the butcher. What’s incredible is her husband apologizing to the butcher, but not to me. What’s incredible is her husband’s facile charm when cleaning up after her selfish nature, like the last-in-line end-credits sweeper of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s parade.
If you absolutely need a heartwarming Thanksgiving moral, how about “less is more,” from the amount you cram on your plate at the buffet table, to dialing down your thermostat, to buying ecological-friendly cars, to time spent on screens and social media?
And, Madame, to packaging ground sirloin.
• Rick Holinger’s poetry and prose has appeared in more than 100 literary journals. He holds a Ph.D. in creative writing from UIC. His poetry book “North of Crivitz” and essay collection “Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences” are available at local bookstores, Amazon or richardholinger.net. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.