She had just had a foot massage.
A life-changing foot massage.
She said the masseuse was some kind of healer.
She talked fast. Everything that crossed her mind tumbled out between her lips. She rushed around the shop, asking twice for help.
At the checkout counter, she asked if she could apply her mascara in the store rather than inside her car.
The young clerk knew the Wiggly Piggly was empty. "I’ve never watched anyone closely do that,” he said. “I wonder how it works.”
She paid for her items.
“Is there a good mirror in here?" she asked.
He wasn't sure.
The woman dropped her open purse and keys on the counter then stalked the aisles. "You should have one somewhere..."
The clerk sprung around the counter and headed to the back of the store. "Do we have any mirrors... on the wall?" he muttered. "Maybe the cosmetics section? Mirrors. Mirrors. Where's a mirror?”
A moment later he heard, “Here they are!” She grabbed a vanity mirror off the wall of beauty appliances. “If you’re gonna work in retail, you've gotta know your stock.”
He felt so minimum wage.
"I wonder how many layers I'll need." She cradled the mascara with one hand and held out the mirror with the other. She turned to him after she put a layer over her right eye. Suddenly, he knew how mascara worked.
She caked three layers onto each eyelash, paying so little attention to her movements he worried she’d accidentally put the goop in her eye.
As he watched, her face began to scare him. The bones in her cheeks and forehead protruded and suddenly she looked much older. He decided it was the face of an aging smoker.
Awkwardly, he backed up a few short paces and leaned against a shelf.
She said she got the foot massage in the Mission on Valencia Street.
"I go to a meditation group at a church near there," he said.
“What kind of meditation are you into?”
"Buddhist mindfulness practice."
“That’s so great! I’m a yoga teacher. I know all about meditation. I’m into lots of different spiritual practices. I try to see the oneness in everything and everyone. Meditation is like… everything!”
The clerk nodded along with a smirk. A "professional" meditator, he thought. She has those California Big Eyes -- locked on you, unwavering and set above a permanent smile. They're a symptom of the spiritual agenda which, paradoxically, keeps so-called new-agers blind to most of reality's organic ugliness.
"There's a spiritualist church near here," she continued. "On Wednesday nights I go to this chanting group which calls upon dead spirits. You should give it a try..."
He said he wasn’t interested in that stuff.
Then a young Asian man walked into the store. The clerk looked his way and nodded.
A minute later the customer was waiting at the register. The clerk spun around to help him. “Hey, how’s it going, man?"
The woman quickly came over to collect her things at the counter.
"You probably think I'm crazy!" she said. "Sorry for taking all of his attention," she spoke to the other customer.
He seemed uneasy.
"You're probably thinking won't this crazy lady just get out of here already..." He didn't respond. Then she left.
The clerk thought maybe she hadn't wanted him to leave her abruptly like that. He imagined her sitting in her car, putting on more mascara in the parking lot, then driving off toward a "better" Friday night.
The clerk glanced at the customer looking down at the credit card machine. “We take all kinds here, man,” he said.
"I thought you knew her," the customer said.
“I knew her tonight.”
They shared a smile.
When he was alone again, the clerk thought about why it seemed like he knew this wild woman. He'd found her attractive at first then they started connecting spiritually.
Maybe I am friendly with some customers too quickly? Assuming since they all have their Wiggly Piggly cards, they really do belong in the same club.
He sighed and smiled. Then he resumed straightening the shelves.
*Tales of the Wiggly Piggly ~ Crazy things happen in retail, especially in San Francisco. These are my stories as a checkout clerk at a local drug store, under the pseudonym Wiggly Piggly.