I once saw a bumper sticker that proudly proclaimed If Crafting is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right! Let’s just say…it made me chuckle.
Crafting is not one of my gifts, but as the director of the annual school play for the last 15 years at the middle school where I teach, I often find myself needing to go to craft stores. I assure you that these places are no less foreign to me now than they were when I first starting visiting them over a decade and a half ago. You see…I have very little patience or stamina when it comes to having to cut, fold, glue, paint, sprinkle, peel, bunch, trace, measure, wrap, or God forbid…sew. If I’m being honest, I’m also not a huge fan of cooking since it involves many of the same skills, but that’s not technically a craft. Or is it? Honestly, I have no idea.
Either way, that fact, combined with my general lack of awareness 99.9% of the time, has more than once proven to be a recipe for disaster. At one particular craft store, try as I might, I simply cannot win over one of the clerks who, God bless her soul, has had to put up with me and my ridiculous (albeit unintentional) antics for years. This woman senses my fear. She makes me sweat. My knees have actually buckled in her presence on occasion, and I’m not going to lie, there have even been times that I’ve felt light headed around her. There’s no doubt in my mind that if she knew my name, she would greet me as Seinfeld always greeted Newman. “Hello, Karyn.”
It might have been the time I claimed to have desperately searched every single inch of the store for cow print fabric before having to resort to bothering her, only to find that as I was asking her for help, I was, quite literally, standing in front of a giant display of cow print fabric large enough to be seen from space. Her response was a very dramatic roll of her eyes, a sharp point in the direction of the fabric which truly was only inches from my face, and a frustrated blurt… “If it was a dog, it woulda bit ya!” Though I thought about it, I decided it best not point out that if she were the kind of person who could see the glass as half full, then she just might have given me credit for at least being in the right aisle.
Of course, it might also have been the time that I accidentally bought 20 yards of fabric when I only needed 2 and then tried to return it the next day. (Incidentally, if anyone ever needs 18 yards of fabric with the world’s strangest neon pink and green turtles floating every which way, I can totally hook you up.)
Finally, it could have been the time she caught me looking perplexed at a rack of Lindt chocolate rabbits that looked exactly like dinosaurs from just the right angle, and asked me if I was okay, only to be baffled by hearing me say, “Yes, but I could have sworn those rabbits were dinosaurs just two seconds ago.”
Yup. Any or all of those experiences could have turned her against me, but in the end, one thing is clear…the woman thinks I’m a lunatic, and frankly, I don’t blame her.
There’s only been one occasion when I’ve had a visit to the store go somewhat smoothly, and when all was said and done, even that didn’t end well. I’d found myself in the position of having to make a quick trip into the store, and for some reason that night I just felt confident. I could feel it in my bones that things were going to go my way. I walked in and went straight to the aisle where the mini wooden clothespins appeared to be waiting just for me to purchase them. Feeling slightly giddy from that accomplishment, I set my sights on the checkout line so I could make a quick escape. That’s when I heard the melodious voice of my nemesis, who perhaps not shockingly, appeared to be in the middle of a heated discussion as she explained to another customer the precise reasons why the navy blue fleece was 50% off but the light blue fleece was, in fact, full price. I waited patiently, feeling only slightly guilty that I was comforted by the fact that perhaps it’s not just me who is so often the victim of this woman’s scorn.
While the battle with the irrationally angry customer drew to a close, I prepared myself to approach the register. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that The Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld wasn’t far from my thoughts. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter, bade my most sincere hello, made a little joke about the fact that I found what I needed all by myself which actually made her chuckle, and then began the process of paying. As has so often happened in the past because of the terror she instills in me, not once did she need to wait for me to find my debit card. Not once did she need to bark a reminder to enter my pin number. And not once did I drop all the change out of the open zipper of my wallet causing her to huff and puff at me in disgust while I scurried around on the floor collecting my coins like a dog chasing its tail. I don’t want to brag, but I was on fire. My newfound confidence paid off and the transaction was flawless.
Before I put away the pack of gum that I’d also purchased, I asked her if she wanted a piece and was gifted with yet another smile. Oh yes, I could taste the triumph. As I walked to the door feeling like a goddess of victory, mentally congratulating myself for having finally won the woman over, I heard her commanding voice bellow, “Hey Darlin!” This, I was convinced, was the moment I’d been waiting for my whole life. I was absolutely sure she was going to say something like, “Welcome back,” or “It was great to see you!” as this was the way it had played out so many times in my dreams. Instead, when I turned around and said, “Yes?” I instantly panicked because I noticed she’d put her game face back on. She squinted her beady eyes at me and declared, “You were a whole lot better lookin’ when you had some meat on your bones.”
Having recently lost a significant amount of weight, I could only figure that it was her way of complimenting me, and deciding to choose my battles, I simply smiled, nodded my head, and said, “Noted,” before I disappeared through the door and out into the parking lot.
That was around Halloween, and though my next encounter with her wasn’t in her store, it was still memorable. The next time I saw her I was doing some grocery shopping for a Christmas party that I was hosting when I spotted her in the frozen foods aisle.
I’ll say it again. It was Christmas time. I came across her in the frozen food section of the grocery store.
The similarities to “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogleberg, one of my all time favorite songs, were almost more than I could bear. As I continued my shopping I found myself rewriting the lyrics of the song in my head…
“Met my craft store nemesis in the grocery store
Though it wasn’t quite Christmas Eve
I first noticed her in the frozen foods
But I dared not touch her on the sleeve
She didn’t recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She didn’t hug me and I prayed she wouldn’t curse”
Before I could go any further with my remake, a curious thing happened. I saw her standing in the checkout line right next to me (as the song goes). You can’t imagine my horror when she spotted me, and after a great deal of effort, stood up on her tip toes to look over the barrier between the two aisles. Looking like a bobblehead hovering over a row of Mentos and TicTacs, she asked if I was the one who’d posted something about her on ‘that Facebook.’ Before I could answer, her head disappeared, I heard a minor crash, and then she came puffing around the corner rubbing her knee. Once she was standing directly in front of me she explained (between breaths) that in the past couple of months she’d had two different people try to take her picture with their telephones. Though I desperately wanted to ask her if they were rotary or hand cranked telephones, I kept my wits together, and because I had, in fact, posted about my encounters with her on Facebook, I began apologizing profusely. Just when I thought she might start talking lawsuits she said, “Why are you apologizing? I got a huge kick out of it, but I’ll tell you this…nobody’s gettin’ my pick-cha!” I’ve never been so relieved in all my life. The best part of the whole experience was that right before she left the store, she turned around, winked at me, and said, “Merry Christmas Darlin’!”
It was truly a Christmas miracle.
It’s been over a year since that night, and I’m proud to say that I’ve not only kept “the meat off my bones”, but up until recently, I’ve kept a low profile in her store. My visits have pretty much been incident free.
However, as we all know, all good things must come to an end, and my spree of good luck came to an abrupt halt a few weeks ago when I walked into her store to purchase some zebra print fabric. I went immediately to the fleece fabric by mistake, but then, ever so cautiously, made my way to the regular fabric section. By the time I found myself standing in front of the black and white prints, I was feeling a real sense of accomplishment for 1. having been greeted by my tormentor who, smiling brightly, said, “Must be play time!” as she passed me in one of the aisles, and 2. finding my way to the zebra print fabric without needing to be directed…I found it all on my own. All that was left to do was to take it to the cutting area, ask for the 2 yards that I needed, and then get the heck out of Dodge.
As luck would have it, she was there, working the cutting desk by the time I arrived. As I waited in line, I held the fabric in my hands and mentally rehearsed what I would say (no, I’m not kidding). I would ask for my 2 yards, but since she appeared to be especially chipper, I thought I might begin by joking about not being able to decide if I needed 2 yards or 20. All that changed, however, when I noticed that the line was getting longer behind me and she was all business again. Instead of joking around, I placed my fabric down in front of her and politely asked for 2 yards. That’s when she did something rather unexpected. She asked me how the play was coming along and then followed up by asking what the title of the show was. I told her the title was “Night of the Living Beauty Pageant” about a couple of hucksters trying to make money quickly. I added that the zebra print fabric I was buying was for one of the contestants named Miss Wildlife.
That, my friends, is when the fairy tale came to an end.
After a look of sheer confusion swept across her face, she looked down at the fabric, looked back to me, and then looked back at the fabric several times in succession. It was now my turn to ask her if she was okay. Her response? “Well Darlin’, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that you and I have different ideas about what a zebra is.”
Much to my despair, I looked down and realized that I was holding the wrong fabric.
Yes. I’d found the fabric I desired without needing 7 people to help lead me in the right direction. Yes. I’d remembered to take the fabric to have it cut in the cutting area and had not just taken the whole darn roll up to the register as I’d done countless times in the past. But, no. I had not grabbed the right fabric. (In my defense, isn’t a giraffe yellow and brown? ISN’T IT?)
There aren’t enough words in the English Language to describe the horror of that moment, but, being a seasoned scene maker in that store, I forced myself to remain calm. I could feel my face burning up. I could feel my palms beginning to sweat. But somehow, by the grace of God, my mouth, which had gone completely dry, managed to form the words, “Dear God, it looks like I grabbed the wrong roll of fabric.”
That’s when things really fell apart.
She looked deep into my eyes, not a smile or even a semblance of a smirk to be found, and bellowed, “Bolt!”
I felt the first tingles of panic begin to run down my spine. Fearing I might pee my pants, I crossed my legs and then raised my hand, held three fingers in the air (Girl Scout style) and solemnly swore to her that I would leave as quickly as humanly possible the second I went back to the shelf and got the roll of fabric that I really needed.
Having only become more irritated by my plea, which very clearly had fallen on deaf ears, she leaned close enough to me so that I could feel her breath, and eyes bulging, responded as she had just moments before. “Bolt!”
I stood in disbelief while I pondered the fact that after all my years of crafting debacles, this…THIS is what had finally pushed her over the edge.
I was being kicked out of the store.
Unable to mask my humiliation, I scanned the line that was now at least 10 people deep, and asked, “You seriously want me to leave the store?”
That did it. She rolled her eyes, picked up her walkie-talkie, radioed the front counter for help, looked right at me, and veins popping, hollered, “It’s a BOLT of fabric, not a ROLL of fabric!” Turning her attention to the lady in line behind me, who herself was making no attempt to suppress her chuckles, she pointed at me and proclaimed, “This one’s gonna do me in one day, I’m tellin’ ya! She’s gonna be the death of me one a these days!”
I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English. I have a Master’s Degree in Middle Level Education. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life teaching English to eighth graders. Much of that time is spent working on vocabulary. When we do our vocabulary work in class, we often discuss how words can, and often do, have more than one meaning. And yet…none of that seemed to come into play as I stood there motionless, having just convinced myself that she was having me removed from the store once and for all by telling me to bolt.
The relief that I felt when she rounded the corner of the counter on her way to personally escort me back to the zebra print fabric was rivaled only by the relief I felt by making the realization that she had not been calling security on her walkie-talkie to have me removed from the premises.
Did I get my zebra print fabric? You bet. Did I have to go to the end of the line and wait another 20 minutes to get it cut? Sure I did. Did I make another trip back into that store during the next two weeks before the show went up? Not on your life. Even if it meant I’d have to personally cut, fold, glue, paint, trace, measure, sprinkle, bunch, peel, wrap and/or weave zebra print fabric out of straw at a spinning wheel after meeting deep in the woods with Rumplestiltskin himself…I would not go back anytime soon.
If Crafting is Right, I’m Always Going to be Wrong. ALWAYS. How’s that for a bumper sticker?