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Friday, March 17, 2006

Didn't We Meet

More questions remain unanswered in the ask Lois segment. Today I will tackle Michelle and Miss Pickle's question, "How did you meet Mr. Lane?"

This isn't your run-of-the-mill, grab the tissues love story, so if that is what you are looking for today, click next blog, fast. Mr. Lane, who I referred to as Mr. LaMe back in the day, just moved from California and was staying with his sister. She lived two blocks away from where I was living with my parents.

I was 16, going to school, working three jobs and saving for my first apartment. No time for boys in my life. I went into the White Hen Pantry, where I worked nights and he, unbeknownst to me, worked days. His sister knew the owner of the store and got him a job soon after his move to Illinois. I never worked with anyone from the day crew because I had the 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift.

I stopped in the store to buy a cup of coffee while on my way to school. I stood in line for what seemed like forever while the dopey kid behind the counter tried to find the right buttons. When my turn came, he nervously asked, "20 oz or 10?"


He looked up at me, looked at the register helplessly, looked at me again and I said, "3 PLU," which was a pre-entered code for a 20 oz cup of coffee.

"If I can find PLU."

"The big button on your right..."

(long pause, confused look, blank stare at register)

I finally reached over the top of the register and keyed it in myself. I handed him money as he tried to make small talk. "Hey, thanks. How did you know about PLU? I mean, what does that like mean?"

"I work here."

"Oh cool. Maybe we'll like... get to work together... and stuff."

"Doubt it," I took my change and left. Riding my bike seven miles to school gave me a lot of time to think about the idiot behind the counter. "He was slow at best. Could barely count change back, and what the fuck was he wearing anyhow?"

As lame as I thought he was, I did think about him much more than I wanted to. He was wearing a hot pink Ocean Pacific sweatshirt and sky blue surfer shorts. It was late fall and much too cold outside for shorts. Besides, who wears sweatshirts with shorts? He had a Def Leppard painter's hat on and his hair, the bang area, was sticking straight up and hair sprayed to the bill, which was flipped and pointing straight up. "What a loser!"

That night when I went into work, he was my first customer. He was hoping to get free cigarettes because he worked there. He was hoping to get me to sell him beer without checking his ID because he worked there. He tried getting my number.

"You know, all of the employees phone numbers are on a list in the break room. Mine is not to be used."

Trying to make small talk and ignore my last statement, he said, "So... ummm... like... what do you do for fun... and stuff?"

His dopiness was oozing all over the store. "Cleanup on aisle one!" I was thankfully saved by a real customer, whom I made small talk with in hopes of Mr. LaMe getting the hint and going away. Again, let me remind you, he was quite slow. He sat at one of the tables and started reading a magazine. I knew I was in for a long night.

For quite a while, I avoided the store during his shift. He, however, always seemed to run out of cigarettes, soda, magazines or snacks, shortly after my shift began each night, and he always faked surprised to see me there. "Horrible actor. Good thing he left California."

One morning, very early, the phone rang. "Ummm... like... hey are you like, Lois's mom? 'Cuz... I like need to talk to her... like, pretty quick."

My mother handed me the phone and told me there was a "retarded boy" asking to speak to me. Half asleep, I took the phone. I looked at the clock. It was 4:45 a.m. "Who is this?!"

"Hey... I... ummm... totally need the store keys... 'cuz like Kelly or whatever her name is didn't come yet... and like it's really cold out... and like, I ummm... can't get in the store... and stuff."

I knew who it was and I hated him extra. My mom was sure he was retarded and I began wondering myself. I got dressed and went to the store to open the door for him. He stood shivering in his shorts with two customers who, incidentally were cussing him out. I quickly counted the register to get him started faster. I made coffee and apologized to the now 10 or more customers. I was headed for the door and he begged me to stay. "Sorry, I have to get ready for school. But I do have one question for you. How did you know my phone number if you were locked out of the store?"

"Oh... I... I... well... like, I thought... you know... maybe if there was... like an emergency or like... ummm..."

"Never mind. Good luck today. Bye."

I felt bad for leaving him in a lurch but not badly enough to stick around to help him anymore. When I got home I called our boss to let him know Mr. LaMe was by himself. I figured he knew the guy couldn't do a sufficient job alone and would figure something out.

That night, he came back during my shift. He bought a rose off of the counter for a buck 99, and gave it to me. "Thanks for like helping me this morning. You totally saved me and like that was cool and stuff."

"You really should be saving your money to buy some pants. It's going to get a lot colder here pretty soon." I looked at that dopey boy in his sweatshirt and shorts, with his hair done up in a Flock of Seagulls sort of way, and hesitantly said, "Thanks for the flower."

Monday, even though no one really asked, I'll tell you about how he melted my icy teenage heart. Until then, have a great and safe weekend. Happy St. Patrick's Day!