Years ago I fell for this gorgeous redhead while I was waiting in line at a grocery store. She stood ahead of me, digging for coupons. I thought to myself, Sweet stardust, that’s one sexy lady!
A bored checkout clerk slid her groceries over the beeping glass. He would be the liaison for my seduction. I leaned across the conveyor belt and whispered like a tornado in a drainpipe, “Hey, do you see the woman over there? The one digging for coupons?”
My eyes darted suggestively femaleward. Yes, just like two little round darts.
“Uh,” the clerk hesitated, wondering whether he should warn me about my volume control.
“That’s right,” I said. “The pretty one. The one you are currently ringing up. There is no other girl anywhere near us. I suppose you’ll be giving her a receipt soon.”
“Yeah,” he intoned. Oh, did he intone.
“Do you think I’ve got a chance with her? I mean, do you think she’d ever go to dinner with me?”
“Hm,” uttered the clerk. He needed to utter something cleverer than that. I was sinking here and I couldn’t do this alone.
Then he said, “Well she mostly bought frozen dinners, so she may be hard up for a decent meal.”
That’s more like it.
“Good point,” I said. “I’ll have to take her somewhere nice. But she’s a knockout. Just look at her. She probably has a boyfriend, huh?”
I could hear her chuckling into her purse.
Our clerk said, “Maybe. No wedding ring, though. And I don’t get the feeling she’s shopping for two.” He was really starting to get into this.
“Well I’m going to go for it,” I said. “Damn the torpedoes. Listen, I’m a little shy when it comes to talking with women. What do you say you let me write my phone number on the receipt before you hand it to her? Can you do that? Does it break any transaction laws?”
“I could lose my job,” he said with all seriousness, scanning three coupons in succession.
“Maybe, but this could be the real thing. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life wondering if you let something as silly as minimum wage get in the way of true love.”
“You make a strong case.” Our clerk rang up the total. I still remember that magic number, $27.44.
I waited in silence, fidgeting with my can of honey-roasted peanuts and a bag of carrots. I could have gone through the express lane that day, but for some reason I just didn’t. It wasn’t even the thought: who needs express lanes, or anything like that. I’d simply stepped into the regular lane and there she was.
She paid by check. The clerk glanced at her ID. “Thank you, Miss,” he said coyly. Then he yawned, stretched, and with the sort of mock secrecy that is painfully obvious, tore her receipt from the register and handed it to me.
I scrawled down my name and number.
“I think there’s been some mistake,” I said, surreptitiously handing the receipt back to him. “This isn’t mine.”
“You’re right,” he said. “How stupid of me.”
The clerk gave the receipt to the woman. She turned toward me and without a word offered me her grocery bags. I donned the cap of chivalry and carried them to her car, leaving my peanuts and carrots behind. She opened the passenger door and I set her bags on brown vinyl covered in white dog hair. “You have a dog?” I asked.
“He’s an Airedale,” she said.
I watched her put the receipt in her purse. Then there was a lot of coy glancing and awkward shifting of weight. She parted her lips and for some reason I thought she was about to start singing. “You should call me sometime,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. But I didn’t have her number; she had mine. As she got in her car and drove away I decided it would not have been a horrible idea to point that out.”