My car creeps cautiously toward the New York border crossing. Though I remembered to evict the family of Cubans living in my trunk, I always feared that the U.S. Department of Immigration, Interrogation and Digital Insertion would find something to warrant a body cavity search.
"Mr.Varty, I'm going to have to ask you to pull your car over to the side where one of our Immigration personnel will inspect your car."
"Mr.Varty, we've found some contraband in your car and we're seizing your vehicle. Step away from the car."
"What could you have possibly have found?", I queried.
"You'll be charged under the Agricultural Importation Act for smuggling unlawful tubers. We've got the evidence in this baggy...take a look."
"That's a week old McFrench fry!", I scream incredulously.
"You have to declare all agricultural products when entering the United States of America sir. You failed to declare this item, therefore you're going to have to pay dearly for your crime."
"How much do I owe you?, I bleat out.
"Oh, we don't take your money, just your dignity. Please remove your belt sir."
They can be quite ruthless to the lowly, spud-smuggling leisurologist. Now, if you're an opera singer with an O-1, they'll treat you like a Kennedy. An O-1 is a special document that allows you to work in the United States. Wendy has one. An O-1 is a piece of paper that recognizes people of outstanding ability. It all but guarantees the bearer's entry into the U.S. for the purpose of employment, even if they're eating fries and juggling Florida oranges. People in my profession aren't given an O-1.
Typically, when Wendy enters the U.S. and shows them her O-1, they lighten up. When they find out she's an opera singer, the rubber gloves are taken off and champagne is served. Opera singers are treated like novelty acts by the red-necked, Dixie Chick loving border guards. One time when crossing into the U.S., the border dude said to me "hey, did you know that your wife has an outstanding ability?" I nodded in agreement, then muttered under my breath that the mindless man in the uniform overlooked my obvious talent.
I do have an outstanding ability, there's no question.
I have the outstanding ability of always picking the worst line-up at any grocery store checkout in the western hemisphere. I'm the Pavarotti of poor picks, the Domingo of dumb decisions. I can size up any grocery store situation with cunning acuity, yet I always end up in the line with the lady who wants to write a cheque. Of course she doesn't have ID. If she does have ID, then she'd surely have a bag of Tasty Taters with a tattered bar code label. There's always something.
Yesterday was no exception. There were two groups of people ahead of me, I'll refer to them as carts. The cart in the pole position was being unloaded by a couple of questionable ethnic origin. They may have been Tamil tigers or Rothesay rogues, I wasn't sure. I didn't snoop in their cart, as I normally do, because I was overwhelmed by the mountain of items they were attempting to purchase. It was like they were feeding a small army. The cart immediately ahead of me was actually a basket containing just a few pairs of socks. The woman buying the socks was on vacation. Apparently she forgot to pack hoof gloves for someone in her flock so she was making amends.
Irma, our cashier, was aptly named in the same way that Bessie is a good name for a cow. She was neither sleek of hand, nor quick of wit. I don't mind a slow cashier, if they're careful. Irma was slow for the sake of being slow. This wasn't helpful, given that the first cart purchased $500.27 worth of items. They couldn't fit all of the their purchases back onto the cart so we had to wait while they found some cloth grocery store bags to purchase. I urged the cart behind me to cut her losses and find another aisle. She did.
Cart number one tried to pay for their groceries by credit card. PINGGGGGG! The cash register bucked and kicked, bells went off. Irma looked befuddled. The woman with $15 worth of socks started doing back bends. I took mental pictures, as one might do when witnessing a train wreck. Irma caught the eye of the store manager and all was rectified in a matter of minutes.
At this point a large commotion erupted outside as Galen Weston's jet landed in the parking lot. He entered the store and presented cart number one with the Loblaw's Cup, a trophy for the largest grocery purchase ever made in a 21st century, Weston owned grocery store. Hands were shaken, pictures were taken. Now cart number two and I were both doing back bends and chanting om, om, om. The poor woman just wanted to buy a few pairs of socks, instead she had spent half her vacation in a Superstore line-up. To compound matters, the weekly tabloids didn't have much to offer in terms of quality reading...not a stitch about the Olsen twins.
I drove away from the Superstore, chuckling as the ethnic family were still loading their purchases onto the back of a semi. The sock lady was screaming at her bare-footed children who had been waiting patiently in their rental car. I almost got broadsided by Galen's jet as he was taxiing out past the garden centre in preparation for take-off. What a morning!
It was almost lunch time so I pulled into the drive-thru of a fast food chain. I ordered a burger, fries and a bottle of water (pop is bad for you). As I was driving home, Galen's jet roared frighteningly overhead causing me to spill my fries. I managed to clean most of them up, I think.