The Squeaky Wheel

Last week I headed out to Target to purchase a strange list of items from read/write CD’s to washbins to birthday presents.  I got to the aisle with office supplies and hangers (can’t make this stuff up, folks) and realized I had no idea if a pack of 10 hangers met my husband’s request to, “Please buy more of those fuzzy hangers that keep clothes in place.”

I parallel parked my squeaky-wheeled cart against the side of the aisle and grabbed my phone to text my husband.  That’s when I heard a biting “EXCUSE ME” from behind as a middle-aged lady blew past me, cart free, in the vast expanse between my texting self and the other side of the aisle.  Apparently she was offended that I had broken some unspoken rule about texting while driving a cart.  I looked up to see her giant side-flapped furry-hat wearing head as she yelled, “I DON’T SEE IT!”  From one aisle over I heard the return call of, “BUT HE SAID AISLE 26! YOU’RE IN IT!”

I was intrigued.

I rearranged the stacks of paperclips while waiting for a text back regarding the hangers and watching for the  male version of the furry-hat species to appear.  He jogged into the aisle, nearly breathless, and announced in a near shout, “HERE!  It’s right HERE!  Scotch laminator.”

I have always enjoyed people watching.  My mom and I share a hatred of shopping, but we managed to survive those horrible years of purchasing clothes for my teenage self by scheduling in some sit, eat, and mock time.  I cut my sarcasm teeth on crowds of central Pennsylvania shoppers, each one more interesting than the last.

My people watching has evolved over the years to include specialized games.  One of my favorites, best played at theme parks, I call “I Could Have That Child”.   To play, choose an outside table when you stop for lunch, then watch as two parents engage in intense face-in-the-map arguing, often involving expletives, while their small child wanders away into the crowd.  I like to track how long it takes the parents to realize that they have stopped caring for their child so that they can argue effectively about a lunch location.  The current record is 9 minutes and the missing child was found halfway up a flag pole/flower pot.  I also, of course, watch to make sure the child is safe.   After all, someone needs to pay attention to these children. (disclosure: I have never actually saved these children from their oblivious parents and to date only have two children, both of them my own)

Back to the laminator.  Realizing immediately that my presence in the aisle was glaringly obvious, I looked down at my list and moved to aisle 27 to safely ride out the storm.  There was no chance of missing a single word as the discussion about the laminator escalated.

“It seals ANYTHING and in just ONE MINUTE!”

“You’re making that up.  You show me where it says one minute on the box.  You’re lying to make me buy it for you.”

“One minute!  It just takes one minute!”

“I know far more about laminators than you ever will.  I’ve been laminating for years.  You show me.  You’re lying.”

“I swear it!  I read it on a review!  This is the best one!”

“It’s Scotch.  Scotch products are crap and I’m not buying it.  You spend your own money.  Put it on your credit card.  Go into debt.  See if I care.  If you didn’t spend your money on crap all the time you’d have a bicycle by now or maybe even a Prius.  YOU COULD OWN A PRIUS!!”

“Prius’ are HORRIBLE!  I don’t want a Prius, I want a LAMINATOR!”

Feeling alone in aisle 27, I tweeted this:

I heard the voices trail off as they argued the merits of the Prius.  I gingerly peaked around the corner to find the laminator still in it’s place, right next to where I had parked my cart five minutes earlier.  Grabbing my ten pack of fuzzy hangers, I headed off to complete my shopping, careful not to bump into any lost and wandering children with my squeaky-wheeled cart.



Leave a Reply


  • Are you sure you weren’t in MY WalMart?

    I am laughing so hard over here!

    • I’m guessing this is a national big chain store phenomenon. I didn’t even tell you what I saw int he cafe…

  • Hilarious! I am dying to know which one they went with. but seriously, WHO has been laminating for years? What could their home possibly look like?!

    • My first thought was, “Maybe she’s a teacher!” and then that thought horrified me so much that I had to let it go. I’m fairly sure they walked out of there laminator free!

      • I’m envisioning place mats. Lots and lots of place mats…..

      • I immediately considered her to be a teacher. It’s the only way that “I’ve been laminating for years” makes any logical sense.

        then again…

  • “I cut my sarcasm teeth on crowds of central Pennsylvania shoppers, each one more interesting than the last.”

    I look forward to shopping the Target in Central PA with you someday. We’ll drag Molly up there for a Wednesday lunch.

    • Well, it may not be a Target, but I bet we can find a good Walmart with a post to tie the horses!

  • That is awesome! I love watching public debacles. It entertains me to no end.

    • It seems to me there could be a reality show in here somewhere!

  • People watching is within my top ten favorite hobbies… She’s been laminating for years? I’m afraid. I’m also afraid of her coat. But I love how beautifully you described the two of them 🙂

    • They were straight out of a Nora Ephron movie, for sure. I could have followed them all day long.

  • I have a confession to make – I have a secret love for overhearing little arguments like this in public. It’s the only thing that got me through my time as a cashier at Wally World. You wouldn’t believe some of the things people say in front of you when you’re a cashier. It’s like you’re invisible to some people and the things that come out of their mouths… wowsers. Yep, people watching can become a definite addiction. I do usually try to mind my own business but some people just seem to be begging for an audience. =)