Tuesday, March 16, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #3: Care Packages, Letters and Trans-Pacific Mail

There are five people in line in front of me, and as I shift the heavy blue plastic basket from one arm to the next I notice a thin red mark slithering across my skin; a grooved, handle shaped impression. The clock above the register reads 9:30PM. How did it get so late? I let out a slow, deep breath and will the check out girl to move faster.

The man in front of me turns around, I assume to judge the length of the line behind him, and I catch him do a double take into my basket. He narrows his eyes and purses his lips, and then quickly looks up at my face. I smile. I catch him look downward, presumably to see if my otherwise normal face is eclipsed by a six hundred pound frame, and when he realizes that I am not some physical enormity, he hesitates. Then he turns back around. Nestled snuggly between some peanut butter, a flashlight, and a can of Lysol, are enough jellybeans and gummy candies to send the Easter Bunny into a diabetic coma. I can see his shoulders tense; I imagine that he is upset, assuming that Haribo Gold Gummy Bears are the newest ingredient in crystal meth. I almost consider asking him if he will hold my place while I run toward the back to stock up on Sudafed and Draino. But it is too late for that, and the woman behind me leans over my shoulder and says:

“Wow! Easter shopping so soon? And so much candy!! You must have some very lucky children.”

I am confused at first and then I laugh. “Oh, no, no, gosh no, I don’t have any kids! These are for my husband.” And then I think to add, “He’s twenty seven.”

Of course, just as the ‘seven’ exits my mouth, I knock the basket over and my very cheesy Hallmark greeting card falls out, flittering in the air, and eventually landing face down and open on the floor. I just had to select the musical card, too, so as it falls gently to the ground the entire shopping center is filled with the sounds of laughing cartoon bunnies and the Chicken Dance. As an aside: What do laughing cartoon bunnies sound like, one might ask? The answer as I could best describe: Richard Simmons in a rhinestone encrusted leotard, huffing sparkly paint while simultaneously doing a leg lift. I don’t know; this is just how sounds translate to images in my head. “Is this real life? Is this gonna be for-ev-errr?”

“Oh, haha,” she chuckles, (slightly uncomfortable?) “Well, ummm, that’s…special, er, especially nice.”

“He’s a Marine, stationed abroad,” I add, gesturing to the other sundries that fill my basket.

At my feet, the bunnies are still laughing; the Chicken Dance is still playing. I’ve probably given her a slightly odd view of the Marine Corps, seeing as when most people think of a Marine, they think: rifleman, hero, patriot, the bravest of the brave, the toughest of the tough.

Thanks to me, there’s one woman out there who will now associate them with giggling cartoon bunnies, pink jellybeans, and irregularly large dancing chickens.

The man in front of me turns yet again and raises his eyebrow at me as if to say, “you are the opposite of cool”. Of course, I could have been misinterpreting this, as thick black sunglasses mostly obscure his face. I understand, those fluorescent light bulbs can be notoriously bright, and Chicago is known to have blaring sunshine in the middle of March. He most certainly does not offer to help me when I try to bend over and grab the card and send three chocolate eggs and a can of Sugarless Red Bull flying across the floor. As I scramble to pick up the eggs that have rolled and settled near his feet, (would it have been so hard, guy, to help?), I notice that he is carrying a rather large box of Ex Lax. I smile to myself. I see that God has preemptively struck in the Karma department.

When I finally reach the check out lady, hurl my basket onto the counter with an apologetic stare, I watch as she robotically runs item after item across the scanner. As she attempts to lift the plastic bag off the metal handles and into my arms, she stops: “Honey, I’m gonna need to double bag these chocolates. They may be too heavy for you to carry.”

I never thought I’d hear that phrase, and I am suddenly overcome with a shivering panic. I feel cold sweats coming on; my breath quickens. I am married, living in the Midwest without my husband, and a bagger has now taken pity on my pathetic arm to muscle ratio by suggesting that I double bag the five hundred thousand pounds of candy I am purchasing. And oh Lord, I actually like it; I’m actually excited by my purchase. Is it all Laz-E-Boys, wife-beaters and Chef Boyardee from here? And I’m talking about me, not my husband; he’d never be caught dead in a stained wife beater on a Laz-E-Boy. I, however, may be encouraged to do so if TLC is airing one of those bizarre and freakish: my legs are the size of tree-trunks/I didn’t know I was pregnant until I sat on the toilet horrendous recreation/midget cowboy jello wrestling show marathons.

And then she adds, “You look tired.” Pin. Balloon. Deflated.

Gee, thanks. After all, everyone knows the, “you look tired,” observation is a euphemism for, “you look like a homeless bag lady who hides cats in her jacket.”

Seeing as I very much maintain a full time job, I am only typically free to communicate with my husband, run errands, and mail packages during the bewitching hours. Of course, the mail service has adamantly refused to make an exception to stay open for me, (the nerve) so I find myself forced to dash to the nearest mailing center during my newly found lunch break, (something I have never before taken, for fear of leaving the office leaves me with an anxiety that I am somehow going to miss something important and get scooped).

So off I go to mail my package at a said mailing establishment, which also happens to be one of the busiest in the Midwest. It makes perfect sense then that I would choose to make my trip at 12:30PM. Seconds after stepping into the office, I am greeted by a line that wraps around the city block. I briefly wonder if I’ve accidentally wandered into the Department of Motor Vehicles when I hear a woman shouting from behind a desk at a customer over a label.

And then I realize I have no idea what to do. There are seemingly hundreds of forms that I could fill out, but none of them say anything about an APO address. I try to get one employees attention by smiling and looking confused, but I am met only with an angry stare as she barks demands at me. All at once I feel like a lost foreigner in New York City who has tried to ask for directions and instead is shuffled out of the way and into the door of a TGI Fridays. The air reeks of fear and frustration, as the man in front of me sternly shakes his head, throws a label in the air and walks out. This makes me even more nervous, and I clutch my box of cookies closer to my chest, afraid that one wrong move will get me kicked out of the unmoving line.

I try to explain where I am sending the box, and one employee, who majored in customer service at The University of Hades, grabs a stack of labels and attempts to toss them at or around my face. I try to thank her politely, and am roughly five seconds from commenting on her lovely face tattoo when my phone rings.

Box in right hand, I dive my left hand into my purse to check the caller ID. It is the call I have been waiting for all morning, a true character that runs a business in Miami with an interesting and expensive product for sale. Male Escorts handpicked for the very wealthy and financially generous women of America. I launch into a discussion right away, placing the box at my feet, shuffling it along with every movement in line.

I ask him about the women, the escorts, the rates, the packages, and then…I realize I can actually hear myself talking. The customer service women has stopped barking orders, the lady three people ahead of me has stopped a conversation she was having with a man who was trying to shove five t-shirts, six DVD’s, and something that looked suspiciously like a goldfish into an envelope, and the agents are all frozen behind the counter. How loud have I been speaking? What have I been saying? Quickly, I recount the conversation as I put the escort on hold. I suppose asking him at least three times if the ESCORTS provided more than just platonic FAVORS to confirm the credibility of said company may have raised more than a few eyebrows.

Face tattooed customer server agent glares at me. “You’re sending this to a Marine Corps base? To your husband? Who is currently deployed?”

Uh oh. I know where she’s going with this, another first: judgment from a woman who has a tiger paw and the word VIXIN (notice I didn’t write ‘vixen’) inked across her face. I look around the room at all the odd people populating the space and realize that they are all looking at me. And now I am the crazy one. Which is saying a lot, because even the homeless man hiding in the corner eating Styrofoam peanuts has stopped to give me a leering stare. I quickly tell the CEO I will return his phone call once I exit the postal service. I laugh uncomfortably. After what seems like three days, I finally exit the store into the Chicago March and slide on my oversized sunglasses. I have accomplished a very important task: I have sent my husband a care package from home.

I wonder what will happen to my package en route to Japan? Will it arrive safely in the hands of my husband? Will it be held at customs due to an abnormally large amount of jellybeans? Will it land in my hubby’s hands before the summer is over and he is packing the jets to return? I certainly hope so. Will my musical card somehow find a way to open up during transit and will the postal worker in Japan be forced to listen to a chicken polka while simultaneously making judgments about Americans? Anything is possible.

Oh, and just one final note for you, honey: if you find a letter in your care package nestled among chocolate eggs and sundries warning you about the lascivious activities of your darling wife, please, please remember to take it with a grain of salt.

And a handful of sugar.


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