This past weekend I got to enjoy four days off as our nation took part in its annual celebration of the day it won its independence from British rule, or as is more commonly known by our friends across the water – the day they finally acknowledged, “Okay, we get it. You don’t like tea.”
Although the holiday weekend for me consisted mainly of swearing repeatedly at the how the A/C unit had shut down again, bombarding my senses with movies on Blu-Ray, getting chased by bears through the old west, and other obligations, Saturday afternoon at least offered a change of pace. That was the moment that I finally acknowledged what my trousers had been so frequently trying to tell me for the past several months – gravity will always win versus pants when you no longer have the extra girth to keep them up.
So, in celebration of having gone from a size forty-four to a size forty waist, my wife and I disregarded our own safety and ventured where we normally dare not to tread – that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Wal-Mart.
There are two reasons for risking the chance that we may one day find ourselves on peopleofwalmart.com – one is that for affordability and variety when it comes to buying myself pants and shorts in our Virginia town, there is no rival. Well okay, there is… but I had already checked Target earlier that day and they didn’t have what I wanted.
The other reason for braving the evil Kingdom of Smilies is that sometimes, on occasion, amongst the hoardes of zombie consumers just milling about to find that toaster that’s three cents cheaper, you may come across an interesting stranger or two – which is exactly what happened to me during our excursion on Saturday.
I was carefully meandering about the carefully strewn mess of the men’s department, looking for a pair of work pants and two pairs of shorts to fit my new slender frame when this absolutely fascinating twosome entered stage right. I had already heard their approach before I even laid eyes on them, as the first thing that greeted me was a very robust rendition of “Love Potion Number 9″ – the male half of this exhibit was crooning it along with the store’s sound system. There was a flourish to the way this man sang the tune. In fact, as I would soon come to find out, there was a flourish to everything this man would say and do.
As the duo came into view, it would be the melodious one that would grab my attention first, as his appearance stood out more. He appeared to be a gentleman in his early fifties, with a pencil-thin mustache. He wore a straw or wicker fedora, a green and white plaid button down, and a pair of khaki shorts. He immediately gave off the impression of being from a carnival – surely this man has beckoned many a gullible youth to look yonder at the snake man, or casually apologized to the frustrated baseball tosser when his last ball failed to knock over all of the bottles on the table. Or maybe he spends his time traveling all over the country peddling cure-alls and potions that can fix whatever ails you.
Either way, that flourish that I mentioned earlier permeated through every ounce of his being. It was in his speech, the grand gestures of his mannerisms, and especially in the way he put on airs – a perfect irony, considering the fact that he was currently shopping in a Wal-Mart.
I haven’t even gotten to his companion, and for a valid reason. For as extroverted as this man was, she was the exact opposite – almost unnoticeable. She appeared to be quite a bit older than he was, plainly dressed. She didn’t say much during the entire scene that unfolded in front of me, and what she did say was very quiet and subdued, partly because the gentleman’s nature almost completely overwhelmed hers. I’m quite sure she was his mother, mainly because that is how he refered to her at the end of everything he said:
“No, mother – these aren’t the right size.”
“This price is too much, mother.”
“I don’t like the pockets on the side, mother. I don’t like the pockets on the side, mother!”
This life-play continued to unfold in front of me for another five minutes as I stood nearby, transfixed and unable to continue my own shopping activities. One thing that surprised me was how uncreeped out I was by the whole thing. Normally, such odd, loud, and overbearing behaviour puts me in an awkward state. But not this time. Instead, I found myself growing more and more fascinated by these real life characters that had allowed me a moment to sample a small chapter of their lives.
Five minutes later, the performers moved on – perhaps off to entertain other patrons unawares. I couldn’t help but allow myself a chuckle over the last words I heard as the pair disappeared from view: “We’re going over to the underwears, mother! The underwears! We need to go over to the underwears!” It was at that moment that I realized what I had witnessed was very akin to the kind of comical duo I might see on an episode of Bewitched or I Love Lucy – characters whose main purpose was to get themselves into comical situations and play off that energy with their actions and banter. And there it was on display, living and breathing, right in front of me.
As I finally refocused my attention on the matter at hand, one last thought occurred to me – in the spirit of what I had just witnessed, this would be the perfect time for my shorts to decide my belt wasn’t cinched tight enough and head straight for the floor. And there I’d be, providing comedic entertainment for someone else distracted in the men’s department.
Cue the laugh track, then cut to commercial.
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