Tuesday, August 14, 2012


So I’m at Costco with my kids, just hanging out. I just ordered a pizza, and have to wait 50 minutes, so I need to kill time while they’re baking it. I’m pushing the shopping cart, aimlessly wandering around the store, trying to delay my arrival at the book section, where I will read the same back covers of the same books that I examined last week. I did the same thing, then: I ordered a pizza, and hung out inside the air-conditioned store. I could hang out outside, in the food court, where it is literally 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 Celsius) It’s 105 at my house, but the concrete food court here is like a walk-in brick oven.

I see an old guy sitting on a bench. Along with clothing, computers, televisions, vacuum cleaners, camping gear, and food, Costco sells indoor and outdoor furniture. Tired customers think nothing of taking a break on whatever living room sofa or patio bench is on sale. The old guy has a terrible haircut, and has a grumpy look on his face. He is wearing shorts, so his right leg prosthesis is there for all the world to see.

Hm…missing leg…around sixty-something years old…yeah, he’s a Vietnam veteran. Bouncing Betty must have blown his leg off. Betty’s a bitch. Hey, I’ll talk with him about my book, Roadside Rest, a fictional autobiography of a female Army sergeant who loses her leg in Iraq. I’ll chat him up. Get him and his other legless friends interested. Spread the word. Get people to buy my book (It hasn’t been published yet: we’re shooting for October) via word-of-mouth. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. That’s a great idea. So I walk up to him.

“Excuse me, sir. Can I talk with you for a minute?”


“My name is Tom.”

“MY NAME IS CARL.” Carl is loud.

“Hi, Carl. May I ask you a personal question?”


“How’d you lose your leg?”


Ah, shit. He was supposed to say, “Da Nang, 1969. Mortar rounds.” Well, I don’t want to be a rude jerk, so I say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I assumed that it was a war wound. I was interested because I wrote a novel about a soldier who loses her leg in Iraq, and I was interested in whether or not you would be interested in a book like that.”


I’m standing there, looking at my new friend, Carl, and thinking (but not saying out loud!) the following:

Now, Carl, you’re saying things that are causing me to doubt myself. I just spent 2 years writing this book, and now you’re telling me that no one in the universe would be interested in this story that I put a lot of time and energy into. I’m a writer, Carl. Writers are not very self-confident people. We walk around doubting and second-guessing everything we do, and every word that we write. I don’t need you to bludgeon my sensitive artist’s soul, Carl. Please don’t do that to me.

Well, I just need to thank him for his time, and leave him alone. He probably has a complex about not serving his country during the war, and I’ve reminded him of his shortcomings as a man, so I should just go away, and leave the poor soul alone.

I say, “Well, thank you for your time. I’m here with my kids…” I point at my son and daughter, who are playing inside the shopping cart. “…and we’re just browsing while we wait for our pizza that we ordered—”

Carl points at my round belly and proclaims, “YOU DON’T NEED A PIZZA!!!”

“Well, yeah…um…er…uh…it’s coming up on dinner time, and I need to feed them—”

Carl points at my kids and barks, “THEY DON’T NEED A PIZZA!!!”

Oh shit, I’m trapped. I’m stuck with a grumpy diabetic. I need to get away from Carl, and I need to get the hell away from him right now. There are certain people you want to avoid:

1. Ex-smokers. These people make fanatical terrorists look like amateurs. God help you, if you ever light a cigarette, pipe, or a cigar in front of an ex-smoker. They will start frothing at the mouth, and commence berating you for your irresponsible, selfish behavior.

2. Recovering alcoholics: See # 2, above. Exchange the word ‘pipe’ with ‘scotch on the rocks’, and see what happens.

3. Diabetics. Oy vey, they’re the worst. The worst, I tell you. Diabetics are convinced that if you don’t take their unsolicited advice—if you don’t put down that cheeseburger right now—you’re going to come down with a rabid case of diabetes in the next 24 hours. Diabetics are the ultimate diet Nazis.

Here’s the problem: I just had a full work-up. I asked my doctor to do a comprehensive check up on me. Why? Because I work in health care, I’m fat, I’m in my 40s, and I’m a flaming hypochondriac. People who work in health care are the worst hypochondriacs.

Uh oh, there’s a lump under my skin. Oh my God, it’s a tumor. I have a tumor.

Two days later when the tumor turns out to be summer heat rash, the sigh of relief can be heard across town.

What Carl doesn’t know about me is that my blood sugar is awesome, and I have the cholesterol levels of a 22 year old vegan marathon runner. My chest x-ray and abdominal ultrasound are normal.

It’s not fair, it’s not right, but it’s what nature gave me.  But then again, I walk the 1 mile from my house to the train station every morning, and walk home in the afternoon.  Once I get home, I take the Basset Hound for her 1 mile walk at a fast clip.  Before watching TV tonight, I swam 5 laps in our pool (it's not an olympic-sized pool, but hey, cut me some slack).

I could go on and on about this topic, but NCIS is coming on in 5 minutes, my kids are asleep, and there’s a carton of Cherry Vanilla ice cream in the freezer. I need to find that really big spoon I like to use…

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