Jul 19, 2017, 06:59AM

What Did the Lady Say to Her?

The things people do.

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Unfortunate scene at the St-Hubert hand-me-down store. Two registers open, two lady customers buying piles of goods, and with each of them there’s a prolonged processing time for reasons I don’t understand—all conversation is in French, and I’m at a distance. There are seven or eight of us on line, behind the rope.

A husky young fellow rushes downstairs to open a third register. But first he’s consulted about the situation involving one of ladies. The cashier asks his advice, and he confers with the cashier and the lady. During this he holds a blouse or apron (I forget which) against his chest, to demonstrate size.

All appear satisfied. He goes to his cash register and gets out the key to open it. But the customer and the cashier are still negotiating about something. The lady gets fed up. She stalks out. First she says something, I can’t hear what, but I see from the reaction of the two cashiers that it’s a bomb.

The cashier she was dealing with appears to be laughing. But no, she’s crying. Hands over mouth, she leaves her post and runs to the back of the store.

I don’t have the nerve to ask what was up. The lady ahead of me, a wiry Quebecois lady who’s very chatty and friendly, says to the lady behind me, “A long day, the work, it’s like that.” Then, when she got the cash register, she said to the young man, “Headache, it’s true?” He replies easily that that’s so.

The two troublesome customers were large, ancient ladies. One of them (not the one who made the remark) was seated on a motorized mini-platform that she steered. The two cashiers were slim and good-looking. The younger one (who cried) was very pretty; the older one had a carved, impassive look. She sounded commanding when she told me, sir, you may come here. I’d been waiting for the lady on the platform to get out of the way.

Now I’m home with three colored pieces of glass to put on my shelves, and with three pairs of pants. One fits me, the other almost does, the third shall go to my upstairs neighbor, if he wants it. And that was my adventure at the used clothing store.

Good God, man. Isaiah Berlin, please step down. From “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” we have: “The natural enemies of this spirit are cleverness and specialisation: hence the contempt so rightly shown for, in the Roman world, experts and technics—the Graeculus esuriens—the remote but unmistakable ancestors of the sharp, wizened figures of the modern Alexandrian Age—the terrible Eighteenth Century—all the écrivasserie et avocasserie—the miserable crew of scribblers and attorneys, with the predatory, sordid, grinning figure of Voltaire at their head, destructive and self-destructive, because blind and deaf to the true Word of God.” Good God, man. We know you don’t mean it, but still.

—Follow C.T. May on Twitter: @CTMay3


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