December 19th, 2007

I'm Going to Start Asking Strangers for Autographs

I don’t know much about sports. I know even less about the professionals who play them. Every now and then I recognize a name, but I certainly don’t know what any of them look like. (I couldn’t pick Becks out of a lineup, I swear.) Which is why the following scenario was pretty much an inevitability.


So yesterday I was in Big Lots buying wrapping paper. (I am not too proud to shop at Big Lots. Where else can you get 200 yards of festive paper for $4.50?) And because I apparently forgot who I was dealing with (me), I decided I certainly did not need a cart just to grab a couple of rolls.


But a couple of rolls evolved into about 10. And then I had to grab a bag of ribbons, and a couple of spools of ribbon. And some to-from stickers. And then I toddled over to the register, where I proceeded to be just fine—until the wrapping paper realized who it was dealing with, and started slithering out of my arms. First one roll, then two spools (one of which rolled halfway down the store), then another roll and then another.


There was a man in line ahead of me, and he turned and started to pick up all my stuff. (At the time I thought it was quite odd—you don’t see that many men in Big Lots. And certainly not in suits.)


“Don’t bother,” I told him. “It’s only going to keep falling.” (By this time, I had remembered who I was dealing with.)


He didn’t say anything—just kept stooping and picking up.


Luckily the line moved swiftly, and soon we were both near the counter. He shifted over the three metal stars he was buying so I could settle the ribbon on the counter, and then he helped me prop up the wrapping paper so I could trot after the ribbon that had rolled away. When I got back in line, I naturally knocked something out of the cart of the woman behind me. “Oh, now you’re throwing my stuff around,” she said. And we all laughed. (It is the holiday season, you know.)


Then she said this: “You know what I want for Christmas? I want blah-blah-blah back on the Angels.” (She did sound a little bit like a grown-up in a Charlie Brown cartoon.)


“Where did that come from?” I wondered. But I chuckled as though I knew what she was talking about, and the man ahead of me turned and said, “Yeah, that’d be great—but it’s just not going to happen.”


So then I wisely said to myself, “She must think he’s cute, or something.” And indeed, she did follow up her original remark with another one that I understood as minimally as the first. The man finished paying for his stars, and I started wrangling my wrapping paper up onto the counter. The woman behind me leaned toward me confidentially and said, “I only said that because I thought he might overhear me.”


“I am so good,” I thought to myself. “Too bad I was standing in between them, or maybe the conversation could have moved a little farther along.”


I was watching the clerk carefully tie up my wrapping paper in a big bag (he had evidently observed my earlier wrestling match), and putting away my credit card, and wondering how I was going to get all this stuff to the car (without the cart that I so clearly needed), when the woman behind me leaned toward me again.


“Now you can tell all your friends that Mike Scioscia helped you pick up your wrapping paper!! Isn’t that exciting?


I laughed weakly and nodded. And it is exciting. And so I share it with you. And I add a moral for good measure: don’t mock Big Lots. You never know who you might bump into. (And think of the implications! I could have had run-ins with two or three celebrities at the dollar store last week, and not even known it!)

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