Everyone stared as I pushed my shopping cart through the store … ker-thump, ker-thump, ker-thump. You know, foreign automakers should start building shopping carts if only to force the American cart industry into upgrading that one bad wheel.
But it wasn’t the thumpy wheel or that I was trying not to be seen that made people stare like they recognized me from some Internet police database. People were watching because, despite all the beef jerky, beer, and drill bits bouncing around the basket, they knew I was really at the store to buy feminine napkins.
It was my fault. I was the one who initiated the phone call. I was the one who entered into the conversation instead of breathing heavily like I usually do. I was the one who said, “Hi, honey. Do you need anything from the store?” Yeah, it was totally my fault.
“We need milk and apples,” she said happily, using a classic move from Sun-Tzu’s “The Art of War,” lulling me into complacency before she struck. I should have recognized this move, but it works so darned well. “Four bananas, bread … oh, and pads. Number three strength with wings.”
“Milk, apples, bananas, bread,” I repeated as I scratched out a shopping list. “Pads …”
My hand locked, gripping the pen as it hovered over the “s.” There’s very little that will make a man’s ego vault into a fetal position faster than helping a woman maintain her plumbing.
“Pads?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Pads. Number three strength with wings. You got it?”
I nodded dumbly and, as I hung up the phone, mumbled something that might have been good-bye, I love you, or an ancient Druidic curse. I don’t remember.
“What is ‘number three strength?’” I wondered. “Am I buying her a +3 Sanitary Napkin of Absorption? Does she play Dungeons and Dragons when she’s on her period?
And wings? Do these things fly? Should I pick up kite string, too?”
The cart shimmied as I pushed it into the health and beauty section. I’d already picked up the milk and fruit and eaten so many free samples the little free samples lady threatened to call the cops unless I bought something. Like any real man, I’d saved the hardest thing for last. Some part of my brain must have clung to the hope that if I stalled long enough my wife’s period would be over and I could just go home.
Guys, a word of advice—that particular brand of thinking is called Stupid Logic. It’s the same type of logic employed when we join a softball team only to realize we’re now old and fat.
Ker-thump. I pushed the cart down one aisle then the next until …
Oh, dear lord. A wall loomed before me. Package upon package of pads and liners and Tampons stacked like ancient stone masonry, rose to form ramparts and parapets. Were amazons lurking behind the walls of this castle, ready to assault me with a barrage of feminine napkins, creams, and assorted goos? Would I limp home clean and dry, smelling like a spring rain?
Do you know how many brands and styles of pads exist? No one does. Every company that ever existed must have suddenly decided to stop making chili/farm equipment/antibiotics/electricity and started making feminine napkins. Other than the fact that the world needs chili, it’s a sound business model—half the population of the world will buy your product every month.
“Sir,” a nearby voice, soft and comforting, said to me. I didn’t really hear her, not that I couldn’t, but any more sensory input would have thrown me off balance. “Sir,” the voice said again. “Do you need help buying napkins?”
No, I do not. Napkins come in big packages of 250- to 500-count. They’re square, sometimes decorated with little blue chickens and ears of corn, and you tuck one in the front of your shirt when you eat. I don’t know what these things are, but they’re not napkins.
I turned to find a college-aged girl in a blue smock smiling at me like I was a toddler who’d just done something cute … and by “cute” I mean embarrassing.
“Yes,” I said, pointing to the words on my shopping list, “Pads. Number three strength with wings. Oh, God, somebody please help me. Yes I do.”
She found the package in seconds and plucked it from the castle wall. I thanked her and left with the knowledge that everyone in the store was not only staring at me, they were laughing, too.
But I’ll pay my wife back. One day I’ll have jock itch or hemorrhoids, then guess who’s going to the store? Not me, baby. Not me.
Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or tsup.truman.edu. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com, for his other books.