I think a man tried to pick me up in the 99 cent store.
The city I went to on my days off from work on the mountain was looking rougher all the time. Every time I went down, it seemed like I was seeing more people pushing shopping carts around town, more people popping out from between buildings where they’d obviously spent the night. When I slept in my van in the parking lot of the 24 hour supermarket, other people there were obviously trying to get some shut-eye in their vehicles. All to say either times were increasingly harder in the central California town, or I had started noticing all the people struggling.
In late July, I was in my new favorite place for bargain shopping, the 99 Cents Only store. Of course, some of the items in the store cost more than 99 cents, making the name of the place more than a little confusing, but that’s corporate America for you, always trying to mislead and take advantage of the consumer.
I especially liked the closeout baskets that I’d sometimes find at the front of the store. One morning I’d found the basket full of organic chocolate bars priced at 4 for 99 cents. Another time I’d found bags of fancy sweet potato chips marked at 4 for 99 cents. On a third visit, small cans of sliced jalapeños were going for (you guessed it) 4 for 99 cents. Other great bargains I’d found there included cans of organic refried beans and packages of shelf-stable tofu for 99 cents each.
On the day in question, I was in the back of the store in the produce section. My friend Meg and I were going to make s’morenanners (bananas stuffed with mini marshmallow and chocolate chips, then cooked in the coals of a campfire), and I’d put myself in charge of getting the best price on bananas. The regular bananas at the 99 Cents Only store were 49 cents a pound, which was already cheaper than the going rate on bananas at any other supermarket in town. However, the “extra ripe” bananas were only 33 cents a pound! Score!
It was a hot day outside—probably pushing 100 degrees if not already there. I was wearing a too tight tank top and unflattering cotton pants in an attempt to stay cool. I’m sure my hair was a flat mess, but I (obviously) wasn’t giving much thought to how I looked. I wanted to get my errands done as quickly as possible and get back up the mountain.
After I found a bunch of decent looking extra ripe bananas held together with red tape alerting the world of their bargain status, I texted Meg to let her know my banana mission was accomplished. During my texting, I realized my cart was blocking the entire banana display. Ooops! Then I realized there was a man standing nearby trying to look at the bananas.
Excuse me, I said and wrestled my shopping cart out of the way.
The fellow was in my age group or maybe a little younger and had dark hair. He said, No problem and gave me a big smile before saying, It’s a hot day in paradise.
Oh no! A big smile? We were in Central California, not the Deep South. In my experience, people in Central California do not give each other big smiles in the produce aisle. Besides, I looked like sweaty hell. If this stranger in the 99 Cent Only store was being super nice to me, it had to be because he wanted something. In my experience, men do not hit on fat women in ill-filling clothes with unwashed hair because they (the men) think they (the women) are cute. I had the distinct feeling this guy was up to something, and I wanted nothing to do with whatever scheme or scam he was trying to hatch.
I maneuvered my cart away from the banana display and toward the front of the store. I hope I didn’t damage the smiling man’s self-esteem.
Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/fruits-grocery-bananas-market-4621/.