It started out so well.
I woke up before my daughter and had a nice strong cup of coffee. The mail contained a ten-day shutoff notice, mailed on Friday, for a bill we managed to already pay over the weekend– I call the surge of relief when I throw out an averted shutoff notice “poor people skydiving.” Rosie got a free book of puzzles she’d sent away for from Highlights magazine. There was money in the bank and EBT on the EBT card. It was time for the monthly Wal Mart stock-up.
I remembered my cloth bags, essential for schlepping groceries on the bus. I remembered to brush Rose’s hair and zip up her jacket. I didn’t remember a jacket for myself, but I figured I wouldn’t be outside for more than a minute.
We sprinted to the bus stop, just a couple houses down; the driver was one of the friendly ones I like. The radio station she was listening to was pleasant. The bus was the one that didn’t smell.
“We have one hour to finish and catch the bus,” I reminded Rose when we arrived. The bus that came in one hour would be the last bus on our route before the two o’clock hour, where the four city buses all go downtown to the high school and don’t come back to Wal Mart until late afternoon.
There was a sale on frozen vegetables; I got several bags. I got a bulk-sized bag of mixed frozen fruit for stirring into economical large cartons of yogurt. I got sacks of bony chicken and a huge log of the cheapest hamburger– nice, inexpensive, nourishing food in bulk, the very picture of what a respectable poor person puts in her shopping cart. Nice, cheap, nourishing food bought in bulk is also extremely heavy to carry, as you’ll see presently.
I got Chex for Rose. I got Boost for myself, because it seems to help my chronic fatigue when I drink it for breakfast. I got some succulent, soft nectarines for a treat. I got bananas because they looked so economical. I got a spaghetti squash. I got a quart-sized bottle of Bolthouse Green Goodness juice, with healthful algae and odorless garlic in it. I got new pajamas and church shoes for Rose, who has needed them. I got dish detergent and shampoo.
I realized it was getting late, and the cart was quite full.
“Time to check out,” I said.
“Can we look at the toys?” she asked. “Corduroy has a birthday party today.”
Bicentennial Corduroy is the name of Rose’s favorite teddy bear. I hastily explained that bears didn’t need birthday presents; then, like the spendthrift fool I am, I darted to the cheapest part of the toy section and threw a three-dollar stretchy rubber Captain America figure into the cart. I am what’s wrong with this country.
We had ten minutes until the bus arrived. I went to the self-checkout, intending to save time.
“Unexpected item in bagging area,” said the self-checkout before I’d even begun.
“That’s not an unexpected item,” I said. “Those are my cloth bags.”
I tried to find the “brought my own bags” button.
“Unexpected item in bagging area,” persisted the machine.
“These are CLOTH BAGS,” I grumbled. “I am TRYING to save the ENVIRONMENT.”
But the self checkout did not care about the environment. The self checkout only cared about the fact that it hadn’t expected cloth bags.
Finally, I found the right key to appease it; I started scanning.“Hurry, Mommy,” said Rose.
“Doing the best I can,” I assured her. “Just keep handing me things.”
“Unexpected item in the bagging area,” said the self-checkout several more times at random.
“Shut your mouth,” I told the self-checkout. “Shut your electronic mouth.”
I should not have insulted it. From that moment, every time the self-checkout believed there was an unexpected item in the bagging area, it sulkily paused for at least thirty seconds before allowing me to scan another item. Every time I typed in the PLU number on my produce, it complained that I hadn’t typed in the letters of the item’s name instead.
“Hurry,” said Rose.
“Unexpected item in the bagging area,” said the self-checkout.
“I will kill you,” I said to the self-checkout. “Your mother was a ditto machine.”
Then I spilled my bag of nectarines.
The self-checkout’s next trick was to refuse to acknowledge the existence of my spaghetti squash. I gave up and stuffed it onto the shelf with the impulse purchase candy.
“Excuse me, Ma’am,” said a respectable lady next to me. “Is this yours?”
One of my nectarines had rolled all the way to her checkout till.
The very last item was the bottle of Bolthouse Green Goodness, which I scanned and then stuffed in my purse.
I hefted our purchases back into my cart; immediately I felt the shock of a fibromyalgia attack, shooting from my thumb up my arm. My nerves don’t like me any more than the self-checkout does, and when I carry heavy things they object.
We got out of Wal Mart one minute after the bus left.
The only other bus back from Wal Mart before the high school run was twenty minutes later, and didn’t stop very near my house. Rose and I waited for twenty minutes in the cold drizzle– she munching fruit and I shivering without my jacket, nursing my sore hand and arm. I dragged five overstuffed cloth bags and three overstuffed plastic bags onto the bus with the help of a friendly young lady with purple hair and a nose ring. I texted my husband to meet me at the other bus’s stop and bring the wheeled market basket, which he did.
We loaded everything into the basket and set off on foot.
It was about half a mile, through the worst part of the neighborhood with the worst sidewalks, from the bus stop to my house. Thirty feet from the stop, one wheel of the market basket caught in a rut and snapped in half like a Popsicle stick.
Somehow, Michael pushed the dilapidated basket home on three wheels. By then I was in agony; I went to bed. Michael was the one who discovered that most of the nectarines were dented, and that the hanger from Rose’s pajamas had punctured the wrapping on the giant log of hamburger.
It was hours later that I realized I’d left the bottle of perishable and expensive Bolthouse Green Goodness in my purse.
I drank it at room temperature, with one throbbing arm on the heating pad, exhausted, swearing under my breath.
Somehow, a trip to the grocery store had eaten my entire day and triggered a fibro attack.
Truly horrible, tragic days aren’t funny to write about, but there’s comical poetry in a moderately awful day where everything goes wrong in succession. God doesn’t send tragic or moderately awful days, but He uses them, along with the good days, to make saints.
Pray for me that I stay out of His way, because somehow sainthood hasn’t taken yet.
And do remember my medical conditions in your prayers as well.
(image via Pixabay)