Shortly after the first of February, in the checkout line at Costco, I found myself reliving the Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s diaphragm flies out of her purse in public for all the world to see. Elaine quickly becomes defensive, in a humorous way, justifying the fact that most women probably carry around birth control with them and that there is truly nothing to be embarrassed about.
Although in my case it wasn’t acting, it wasn’t a diaphragm, and it happened in front of about fifty other onlookers. As usual, I was running late and had half a cart full of things we needed. The other half of the cart was full of crap we didn’t need, but that’s how you roll at Costco. I am pretty certain their marketing plan includes ways to be sure that 100% of folks who enter their doors leave with stuff they didn’t even know they needed until they saw it on the shelf. I count myself among their target market, we types who convince ourselves that $18.99 plastic tubs of 48 jumbo-sized chocolate chip cookies are worth every penny.
I was second in line, and started to gather myself for checking out. Frazzled, I momentarily could not find my Costco card, and quickly became panicked that I had dropped it along my route through the warehouse. Without thinking, I abruptly reached into my coat pocket, thinking I had put it there after showing it to the lady at the door on my way in.
Before I knew it, I looked up to see the world’s largest maxi pad go flying at least ten yards in the air out of my pocket and land next to an older gentleman who would have believed it was an incontinence pad if I’d told him so. It was that big. In the maxi-pad world, this was an air bus. If they ever recategorize feminine products, this one would fall into the “beyond maxi” category. It had to be half a yard in length, and had generous wings on the side to boot. I was so shocked at my gaffe that for a moment everything around me looked to be taking place in slow motion. I am certain a few women gasped, while others turned away, thinking, “Nooo, I did not just witness that” as if I’d just smashed a $400 crystal vase on the ground before their very eyes. I am also certain most of the men didn’t really know what was going on except my cashier (who was about 30 and rather handsome, but had a certain bit of cockiness about him). I quickly scanned the crowd to be sure there was nobody there I knew.
I instantly felt my cheeks burning, like the middle-schooler I once was who was rejected by the boy I liked when I asked him to come to the Sadie Hawkins dance with me. I didn’t know what to do next, so making a point to focus on absolutely no one, I quickly went over and picked it up. I handled it in the same way I do while scooping up my dog’s poop into a bag while out on a walk, hoping my body language gave off an air of confidence: “All set folks. Nothing to see here at all.” I was anxious to stuff the pad right back where it came from as soon as possible. I was so self-conscious by now that it felt as big as a twin-sized mattress. I shoved it in, folding it, mangling it, and forced my zipper shut, as if I’d just corralled an unruly jack-in-the-box.
When my turn came to pay, I couldn’t make eye contact with my cashier. Within a few moments though I had mentally regrouped a bit and started imagining what I might say if I had the courage to stand trial in my own maxi-pad defense case:
“Listen, dude, you have no idea the sh*t I go through every month. I’m past having kids, not that you could probably tell, thanks to the 120-ounce jar of night cream you just sold me for $8.99. I have to deal with the lame reality of still hosting this monthly visitor who serves me absolutely no purpose except to put me in a foul mood and cause me to overload on carbs and sugar for the better part of a week. Are you scanning the 8-pack granny pants in my cart thinking this is all coming together for you? Listen big boy, don’t judge me. I’ve got a seven-seater van in the parking lot and I am going places fast. Don’t you even think of casting a this-lady-is-so-random glance in my direction because I am a major bitch right now and I will find you. Got it? Now, I’d like you to tell me my total and give me a few of those cardboard crackers boxes over there so I can pack up my shit and get out of here.”
When I got to the car, I had a brief moment of not knowing what the hell to think about what had just happened. Then I burst out laughing at myself and the entire episode, fired up the van, and got out of dodge.
Like a fine wine, I get better with age. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.