Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Busted at Fred Meyer

Portland is a small enough city that I find myself continually running into friends and acquaintances when I’m out and about. Today, while at Fred Meyer today I ran into not one but two people I know. And I realized that I don’t necessarily want people seeing what happens to be in my cart. The second person I ran into was one of my former yoga instructors. And what was I doing when she approached? I was wrangling with a pair of tights that I had (perhaps unlawfully) removed from their little cardboard sheath for closer examination and was trying to stuff them back in. I was making a hash of it.

Now this yoga instructor is a very nice person—a very yogic and virtuous person. But for some reason I have never been able to “connect” with her. It’s like I’ll say something and I’ll just get a blank stare from her—a smiling blank stare, but nonetheless a blank stare. She does not pick up the conversational ball and run with it unless asked a direct question. So when this happens I get all flustered and start blathering and blithering and spluttering in order to avoid "dead air." After blurting out that I hadn’t taken a yoga class since September (look of shocked dismay), I moved right on to the topic of the tights—just to prevent awkward silences. I went on and on about them—how they looked black at first but how I now realized that they were brown and consequently no longer wished to buy them. And how that even if they had been black they’re the largest possible size they’re still freakin’ tiny—like they wouldn’t even fit a 10-year-old. Look at that tiny waistband!

Ugh. I hate that. Just the most inane stuff. And while I blathered on, I noticed her eyes wandering over to my cart and zeroing in on a package of bacon and two bottles of wine. I totally felt like I’d been caught committing a crime of some nebulous description. Like I should have had a cart brimming with life-affirming/life-prolonging cruciferous vegetables. I could just see her mentally judging me for my blatant disregard of ahimsa. I also got this sort of defensive urge to reach into my cart and pull out the fresh mushrooms (packed with selenium!) and fresh leeks (bursting with iron!) and say, “See I’m not a total bacon-gobbling, wine-swilling hedonist who blows off yoga and opens packages of tights when, technically, she probably shouldn’t. Look at this stuff—healthy!”

You know, probably she wasn’t judging me at all, but I guess I like to project or pretend to project this image of healthy/conscious living, that I pretty much fall short of most of the time. Something to think about the next time I go grocery shopping: Am I buying food that I’d be ashamed/embarrassed to have other people see? And if so, why?

But—no—wait that's not really it. There's nothing that shameful/embarrassing about bacon and wine—it's not like I had a cart piled high with Hostess Ding-Dongs and Preparation H. I think the chief issue is that I resent being in the dodgy position of making small talk with a person who won't meet me halfway. I know entirely too many people like that. Whenever I encounter them I spew endless bibble-babble or attempt to draw them out with questions (that get one-word answers) all the while frantically trying to formulate a polite yet believeable exit strategy. I inevitably walk away feeling like I've made an utter fool of myself. I'm trying to envision what would happen if the next time I find myself face to face with one of these nonstarters, I just say "Hi" and wait (silently) to see what (if any) kind of blundering attempts at chit-chat they make. It would be nice for once not to be the one trying singlehandedly to prop up a conversation that doesn't even need to be taking place.


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