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all content 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Suburban Island

The Newspaper Lady
Monday, Aug. 04, 2003, 8:54 a.m.

QUESTION: Why is it some people don't know a joke when they hear one?

WHAT I LEARNED: At least reapply your lipstick.

Upon entering the local grocery store recently I was accosted by a efficient looking young woman dressed for success and ready to sell newspaper subscriptions to the riff-raff straggling in through the electronic doors. In we all came, some rushing and some loitering, some dressed in their going-somewhere clothes and others drifting in wearing faded T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. Humanity in possible need of a newspaper.

Why is it that I am always wearing the T-shirt, with hair escaping every which way from a big clip stuck randomly at the back of my head, and no make-up to speak of, when the perky professional assails me? She catches my eye and queries - Do you know about our outstanding newspaper offer?

I wanted to say - I don't care for your amazingly biased newspaper - it annoys me and I'd prefer to subscribe to your competitor's paper - but that seemed kind of mean even if it was true. I wanted to say - I am such a busy woman that I simply find I don't have time to read your paper - and seeing how I looked like I didn't even have time to throw on some fancy going-shopping clothes and do my hair and make-up, she might just believe me - but I didn't. Instead I blurted out - Oh no thanks, I barely have the time to keep up with The National Enquirer.

Her look of frozen shock remained for an instant, which allowed her to provide me with a perfunctory polite smile, before morphing into a supercilious smirk - Oh, my God, I could hear her saying inside that perfectly coiffed head of hers as she stood rigid behind her little cardboard counter - This woman thinks the National Enquirer is a newspaper. Wait until I tell the kids back at the mothership.

It was a joke, missy. It was a joke - my brain was screaming the words but I straightened my slightly rumpled T-shirt, gave a toss of my tumbled-down pony tail, and flip-flopped away. I seemed to have made her day - why ruin it?

Moving on past the newspaper gauntlet and the fruit and vegetable aisle, I can't help but notice that there are a few key kinds of shoppers:

  • Those who rush in for sodas, or ice, or perhaps a bag of charcoal - these are the shoppers who have a mission and perhaps a few shrimp on the barbie (as they say in one particular steak house) at that very moment;
  • Those who clutch lists and coupons in hand - these are the shoppers who are armed to do battle with the grocery store from a price and time angle - no impulse shopping here;
  • And finally, those who shop list-free, drifting from aisle to aisle reading cans and boxes, and without any of the right coupons on them - impulse shopping is their middle name.

I'm a hybrid. Sometimes I'm a dasher, rushing in for a missing something, but then most of the world is a grocery store dasher sometimes. I dream of lists by aisle and coupons in a special coupon wallet sorted by type but mostly the way it winds up, I have two coupons, half a list, and can be seen ambling down aisles reading the sides of containers and boxes as if they might hold the key to the universe in their list of ingredients.

Oh, yeah, and the last thing I put on the check-out counter was The National Enquirer.

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