I enjoy cooking for the holidays. Tofurky roast, my grandmother's stuffing, cranberry sauce. It's fun to plan the menu, and I'm quite happy with my local grocery store. But on the day before Christmas Eve, shopping grew harrowing.
It was so crowded, and I dearly hate people. Some customers careened wildly through the store with their carts, seemingly oblivious to the crowd and the fact that the universe doesn't revolve around them all the time. Or maybe it does--the rest of us got out of their way real quick-like.
Special others blocked traffic in aisles and chatted on cell phones as long lines of gridlocked angry shoppers formed behind them.
Customer's faces were screwed up as if they had bit into a lemon; others were scarred with stringbean frowns. I hurried out of the bakery after I'd been tailgated too long for my liking. And I dodged sullen women as I grabbed at boxes of frozen lima beans.
In front of the beer, I made an effort to reverse the downward trajectory of my own sour countenance should someone make eye contact. My half-hearted attempt to spread cheer met with baleful stares and warning glances.
Compulsively, I watched every single face I passed to see if someone, anyone--perhaps the little old ladies--would look at me and smile. They didn't. They couldn't. They were just plain scared.
My ordeal nearly over, I paid and left. Now--to make it across to the parking lot. I stood by the sidewalk in frigid air, my cart piled high, teetering dangerously. Car after car passed. Finally frostbite threatened and I edged into traffic.
All other planned errands for the day were cancelled immediately. I returned home at once, anxiously watching for careless drivers; optimistic that my husband would enjoy some private time of his own amidst the festive masses.