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Have You Ever had One of Those Days?

by Rose Madeline Mula

Last week when my car's fuel gauge read 'Empty' and I was in a hurry, I decided to pay at the pump. I think my credit card choked on the price of the gas and self-destructed because it never re-emerged. At least I hope it died and that it didn't float out to cyberspace where a hacker snatched it and is now enjoying a luxurious all-expenses paid (by me) romp around the world.

I should have realized that today was going to be still another one of those days when I got up, stubbed my toe on the bathroom door frame and glanced at the mirror. Disaster! I've had more bad hair days than a gaggle of punk rockers, but this morning's 'do' made those others look positively chic by comparison.

Ignoring the omen, I showered (no hot water!), dressed (how did that shirt get so wrinkled in my closet?), and left in a torrential downpour for a round of errands. My first stop was to the drug store for AA batteries — two packs for the price of one, this week only. They were sold out. Surprise. I had to wait ten minutes until a fruitless backroom search produced no cache of batteries and a rain check was eventually proffered. I then handed the cashier (a new young recruit-in-training) another "twofer" deal of the week — multivitamins. Both bottles rang in at full price. A lengthy, high-level managerial conference eventually rectified that problem. But it didn't end there. The adorable little teddy bear I had picked up on a whim as a gift for my grandnephew refused to reveal its price, despite the cashier's multiple desperate scans of its bar code. At this point, I was sure she was seriously questioning her career choice and wondering if she wouldn't be happier elsewhere asking, "Would you like to super-size that?"

My next stop was the drive-up ATM at the bank. Sheets of rain sluiced into the overhang that was futilely trying to protect the machine. I was thankful that I had pulled up close enough to conduct my transaction without having to get out of the car. I punched in a withdrawal request. Usually I have to yank the bills out of the slot which never gives them up without a struggle. This time, however, five twenties exploded from the contraption. A spray of green zipped past my hand and hit the puddled pavement in all directions. And because I had driven smack up against the ATM to avoid getting wet, I couldn't open my car door. I had to pull ahead and then leap out to retrieve the scattered, sodden bills before they were whirled to Oz with the next gust of wind. But at least I wasn't worried about my hair. It couldn't possibly look any worse than it did when I left home.

The post office was my next destination. Four of the five windows were unattended, and the only clerk on duty was serving a customer. Fortunately, I was next. I waited patiently for several minutes, and then waited impatiently for many more as a line grew behind me and the gentleman in front of me at the window showed no signs of completing his business. He wondered what special stamps were available. The clerk showed him several choices. He pondered them carefully. "Are these the only ones?" he asked. "Maybe we have more," she said cheerfully. "I'll check." She disappeared, then returned a few minutes later laden with folders which she spread on the counter before him. "Oh, look!" said he, "This one says 'Happy Birthday'! That's nice." "Hmmm..I like this pelican...but maybe the flowers..? I'm not sure which ones my wife would prefer.." She understood perfectly and smiled sweetly, offering alternate suggestions, until he finally made a choice. He paid her. She gave him change.

Still standing at the window, he carefully — and slowly — stowed it in his wallet, put the wallet in his pocket, and then — equally carefully and slowly — folded up his stamps and put them in another pocket. Oblivious to the growing groans and murmurs from me and the throng behind me, he and the clerk then exchanged leisurely farewell pleasantries as he stooped to pick up his umbrella and two bags of groceries he had put on the floor. He started to leave. But before I could claim the window, he turned. "Wait!" he said. "Maybe I'll take a few of those Cary Grant stamps, too. My wife will like those." "Oh, I'm sure she will!" enthused the clerk, who was much too young to have any idea who Cary Grant was. "And maybe some of the flowers." continued the man as he set down his packages and pulled out his wallet again.

One would think I'd had enough at that point and gone straight home. But, no. I decided to stop at the super market, just for milk. It would be quick. Unfortunately, apparently everyone in town had realized that they, too, were out of milk. The nearest available parking space was on the outer fringe of the vast lot. And, of course, the rain was still cascading like Niagara Falls. But I really did need that milk. I got out of the car, waded to the market and went directly to the dairy case, leaving lake-size puddles in my wake. I grabbed a quart of 2% instead of my usual skim (hey, I needed some solace after all I'd been through) and headed for the check-out lanes.

I pondered anew why all these stores boast at least sixteen cash registers but never seem to have more than three in operation. I joined the shortest of the three lines. Big mistake. The woman in front of me, who was buying only a candy bar, had nothing but a hundred dollar bill. The clerk had to page a manager for authorization. He was on a coffee break-apparently in Colombia with Juan Valdez, judging from the time it took him to respond. The cashier then discovered she didn't have enough money in her drawer to make change. Another emergency page for help. No response. Maybe it had to be delivered by Brinks? She smiled apologetically and paged again.

Meanwhile, in the other two lanes shoppers whose carts overflowed with enough supplies to furnish the next five Everest expeditions were being speedily processed and sent on their way.

I abandoned my milk and fled — to the liquor store next door. Two percent milk was not going to fill the solace bill.

I have a new favorite ad slogan: "Got scotch?"

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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