Thursday, November 08, 2012

{the best thing i have ever witnessed or ever will witness, probably}

I don't overly enjoy grocery shopping.

I heard once that the handles of the shopping carts are germier than public toilet seats. Is that true? Do you think that's true? Because if it is, then the grocery store is just one huge bathroom, right? I mean, I'm not trying to be neurotic but...I just am.

And if you think about it long enough, you will be too.

But the point is not that. Not entirely, anyway.

The point is a little bit that, and a little bit other things.

It's the huge carts and the tiny aisles and the spending of so much money for one week's worth of food and the freezer section and the dumb magazines by the checkout. It's accidentally selecting the leaky milk jug and the carton with the broken egg, and it's forgetting to bring your cloth bags and that coupon for a free pack of yogurt that expired yesterday.

And still, I go. Obviously. Or else everyone in my household would die and that would ultimately be worse than grocery shopping, bacteria-ridden carts or no.

So it was that Monday afternoon found me at the grocery store pushing a full cart to my car and thinking, as usual, about germs. It was then that I witnessed the best thing I have ever witnessed, or ever will witness, I think.

There was an old man with a waxed moustache, white-haired and bespectacled and hunched, pushing his cart to his own car, as slowly and deliberately as if it were a cement block instead of milk and bread and eggs. A few steps back, just as carefully and painfully, an old woman with a cane and a small cloth bag made her way to her car. I saw him notice her, and I saw him smile. I thought that was cute.

And then, an amazing and magical and fantastic and beautiful and weird and awkward and sweet thing happened.

The old man began to sing. To the old woman. At the top of his lungs.

The song was  "Hello! Ma Baby", an old Tin Pan Alley song that I recognized from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. He belted out the first two lines before forgetting the words.

"Hello! Ma baby, hello! Ma honey, hello! ma ragtime girl; send me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!"

Here, he paused, turned, looked at her, one hand on his shopping cart. She blinked at him. He smiled broadly, considered, continued anyway.

"Blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah! Blah blah blah blah blah blahhhhh--"

I stood there, just a few feet away, grinning like an idiot, both hands on my germy shopping cart. At this point, she must have realized that he didn't know any more of the words. She smiled at me, sheepishly. She leaned on her cane, she let the bag rest on the ground, and she started singing too, in harmony with his cheap scats.

"...Oh baby, telephone, and tell me I'm your oooooowwwwwwwwwwwwn!" 

My heart went off like fireworks.

There was a moment of silence then. She picked up her cloth bag. He nodded. "That was wonderful," he said. "You have a beautiful voice."

"Well. I know I shouldn't quit my day job," she said quietly. I think that was a joke, because she looked too old to have a day job.

I, the only audience they had in the empty parking lot, clapped for them. Then we all loaded our groceries into our separate cars and, presumably, went home.

Best grocery shopping trip ever.