It happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but it could have happened any day of the week, of any month, of any year. It's one of those episodes about which we in the newsroom archly comment: "Typically Tahlequah."
Although it was a holiday for us at the paper, too, I was working from home, while another co-worker held down the fort at the office. I often work at home at night, but in my dotage, I can be forgetful - even though I know if I have to use the laptop for more than two hours, the battery is going to die, so I should take the power cord with me. On that Monday, I had again forgotten the cord, and had to drive into town. This is a pain in three ways. First, I hate to drive, and the less I do of it, the better. Second, It's a good 17 miles into town, and even just dropping by the office is going to require at least 45 minutes - a time suck I can ill afford. And third, our GMC Duramax diesel truck gets about 18 miles per gallon, which means every trip into town costs us $5 or more, and I can't afford that any more than the time suck.
Since I had to drive in, anyway, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and pick up my eyelash medication at Walmart. I have madarosis, and without the bimatoprost - generic Latisse - my eyelids would be as hairless as Mr. Clean's pate. We get most of our meds at Reasor's Pharmacy, but my insurance doesn't cover Latisse, and last time I talked with pharmacist Jason Mutz about it, he said the substance would cost over $300. Reasor's doesn't take GoodRx, so I get this teeny bottle of high-dollar guff at Walmart, which with the "coupon" costs about $60 for a three-month supply.
I have a handicap placard because of my psoriatic arthritis, but most days I'm fine, so I leave the parking spaces for people who really need them. That was my plan this day, too, although I noticed all those spaces were taken, anyway - mostly by people with no placards or plates. This is typical in large parking lots, and my handicapped friends know that these days, if they challenge an able-bodied person emerging from a vehicle, they're likely to get cussed out, if not shot. I saw a story Friday about a guy who got dumped from his wheelchair for that very offense.
A trip to a "big box" store is always an experience, especially if you've been trained as a journalist and are observant, whether you want to be or not. Regular readers know that's true of our local Walmart, because almost every day, Asset Protection personnel catch at least one person with sticky fingers, trying to spirit away merch without paying for it. I feel sorry for the AP folks; accusing someone of shoplifting is potentially more dangerous than reporting it in the newspaper.
But in a place draws large crowds, you can be certain some folks in the flock are not your normal, average citizens. And your first encounter with the strange and unusual often occurs outside.
Several years ago, in the afternoon, I watched as a patient store employee tried to convince an obviously inebriated man to leave the shopping cart corral, where he was wobbling and had a tenuous grip on the rails. The man kept confessing to the employee, "I'm a drunk - ya knowit?" The employee would kindly reply, "Yes, sir, I understand, but we sort of need you to move along."
On another occasion, I was following a couple of teenage guys in Tiger letter jackets as they walked from the parking lot. The boys were talking, when suddenly they noticed the braless blonde in buns-baring cutoffs and cowboy boots, pacing near the bench in front of the store where people wait for their rides, and talking on her cell. The boys stopped chatting, stared at the chick for a couple of seconds, then looked at each other, and one pumped his fist in the air and loudly hissed, "YESSSS!" At that exact instant, the would-be Daisy Mae opened her mouth to guffaw, revealing a maw full of black snags that suggested a diagnosis of "meth mouth." It took a split second for the boy to change course and throw his arms out, palms down, in a signal of rejection, and yell, "NO!"
I got a similar treat on MLK Day. As I approached the building, a woman was sitting on a bench, squawking into her phone, "F***in' you better git that sh*t over to me; I need that money NOW!" Then, "I bet you cain't even f***in' git it up!" She didn't explain what the pronoun "it" meant. As I went through the doors, I heard another woman holler, "Hey! Stop it with that foul mouth! Cain't you see we're in PUBLIC?"
I proceeded to the pharmacy counter, where I had to wait behind four people, all on scooters. After hanging back long enough that someone on the hoof cut the line, the woman directly in front of me began backing up, and before I had a chance to react to the "beep-beep-beep!" warning, she ran over my foot. Fortunately, it didn't really hurt, and she at least apologized.
Then, as I was leaving, I heard some more screaming a few aisles away. Two woman were tussling over a bottle of nail polish, yelling things like, "I seen it first! F*** you, b*tch!" (This reminded me of an incident I witnessed in 2018 in a Ross Dress for Less in Chicago, but at least that fight was over glittered Guess sneakers.) I noticed a man watching this pair, with his hand in the left side of his jacket, Napoleon style. I assumed he was packing and was prepared to take action if things got more out of hand than epithets.
I got out as quickly as I could, trembling in trepidation, and held onto the truck handle until I was sure I wasn't going to vomit. Then I drove down Muskogee to the office, and almost sideswiped a woman who pulled out of a parking lot to cross the street, no doubt in haste to get to a fast food joint. The guy in the lane next to me almost hit her, too, and he honked - whereupon she took both hands off the wheel to give us a double one-fingered salute.
It's a miracle I made it home, but when I did, I found two messages from the cat, one from each end. As I said on Facebook shortly thereafter: "It's been a day, and it ain't over yet." Come to think about it, every day in Tahlequah is a "day" - if you get my meaning.