If It Weren’t for Bad Luck…


Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Calvinist and don’t believe in luck. But you know you’re in for a bad day of standing in line everywhere once you discover:

  • your driver’s license is going to expire tomorrow;
  • your car registration is also going to expire tomorrow;
  • your train home from vacation on the 21st will arrive about an hour after the primary election polls close;
  • there is no good food in the house;
  • a torrential downpour is about to start.

This was my day yesterday. And, based on that list above, it ran true to form. But I had A PLAN. I even made A LIST. I was ready for this day.

And then I made the mistake of leaving the house.

I figured I’d hit the DMV first and get the painful part out of the way. Plus, that license was going to expire no matter what. I could fudge on the no-food-in-the-house thing, but not on that deadline. I parked way too far from the entrance (of course) and barely kept halfway dry under the umbrella (of course), before walking into the DMV to find it virtually empty. Had my luck changed?

A bunch of folks were walking out of the DMV, though, looking disgusted. This is a fairly typical look for anyone going to the DMV, so I didn’t think much of it.

Till the guy at the counter turned me away. “Sorry, we’re closed. Our computers are down. Come back tomorrow.”

woman holding red and gray umbrella while raising it
Artist’s rendering of what I DON’T look like in the rain  Photo by Bhupendra Singh on Pexels.com

Great. I was now soaking wet. The photo camera card was drenched. I had to swim through three puddles to get from my car to the door. And your computers are down. 

By the time I got back to my car, I realized I wouldn’t make it to the courthouse in time to get my absentee ballot, so I ignored that second item on my to-do list and skipped right to the third one: grocery shopping. I was near the Walmart already, so I zipped over there just as the rain was letting up. Perhaps this part of my Day of Errands would go well.

Sometimes I laugh at my own naivete.

I was shocked to find a decent parking place. I stunned myself by efficiently loading the cart with items from my list… the list I somehow hadn’t forgotten at home this time.

Yes, things were really starting to go my way! I was focused. I was ruthless. I zoomed through the store, picking up not only groceries but various and sundry items such as toothpaste, flower pots, bird seed, guinea pig food, and pantiliners. No item left behind!

And I like to buy most things in bulk, so the toothpaste was a 3-pack, the bird seed and the guinea pig food were both big, heavy bags, and the pantiliners came in a box of 92. I was a lean, mean, money-saving machine.


And then, what was this miracle? The checkout area was virtually deserted! How had my luck changed so drastically? I stopped second-guessing my good fortune and dashed forward with glee.


Whenever I must purchase what I call “girly items,” I try to find a checkout manned by a female. (Well, should I call it “womanned by a female” instead? The whole gender thing is beyond my age group demographic, so let me apologize for all the ignorant terminology right now.) I just didn’t want to go through the checkout with a 16-year-old boy manhandling my pantiliners. Is that so wrong?

I found a checkout with a young woman at the helm and headed her way. There was NOBODY in front of me, so I quickly began dumping items onto the conveyor belt. As she was busily scanning each item, I reached deep into the shopping cart to grab a few canned goods. (I admit it: I like to put things onto the belt in the order I want them bagged, with heavier things first so they’ll be at the bottom of the cart when I load the bags back in.)

In my haste, the lightweight box of 92 pantiliners toppled off the canned goods in my hand and landed on a few other items, which popped the lid of the box open. I watched in horror as 92 pantiliners went flying all over the cart, which still had half my grocery items in it. There were now pantiliners strewn amid the bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s, the can of Bush’s baked beans, the oversized bag of shredded cheddar cheese, and the large bag of potting soil. And the 3-pack of toothpaste.

Meanwhile, the checkout girl was caught up with the things I’d already put on the belt, and she was looking at me expectantly. I tried to explain what had just happened, but, well, you know…

She just chuckled condescendingly. Yeah? Laugh it up, missy. Don’t make me call a manager over here.

Who was I kidding? The last thing I wanted was a manager here watching me try to scoop dozens of pantiliners back into a box. I had foolishly chosen the ultra-long ones, and those things were not cooperating—bending in half backwards, going all perpendicular on me so they wouldn’t fit back in the box. I gave up and started manically stuffing them back into the box any way I could… when I saw a man headed for my checkout line.

In my haste (part 2), one of the pantiliners flew up over the side of the cart and landed on the floor near the candy display. Now I had a moral dilemma on my hands. Should I stoop down and pick that one up, knowing I’d never want to use it now that it had been on the Walmart floor? Or… wait, what was my other option? Oh yeah. I could push it under the candy display with the toe of my shoe.

I’ll let you decide which option I chose, but let’s just say I got a good price for those 91 pantiliners.

The man coming toward me hadn’t seen anything incriminating, so I relaxed a little and continued placing items onto the conveyor belt (more gently this time). At one point I grabbed the clear plastic container of cherry tomatoes… which popped open, spilling cherry tomatoes all over the conveyor belt.


The cashier was now laughing out loud, and I was ready to start tossing those loose tomatoes at her. Clearly she needed an attitude adjustment. Well, one of us did. I just assumed it was her.

She then asked me—with a straight face—if I wanted that 10 pounds of bird seed in a bag. You know, one of those flimsy plastic Walmart bags that you can see through because they’re about 2 molecules thick. I laughed and laughed.

As I headed out the door with my cart full of groceries, including the pantiliner box with the lid still wide open, the torrential rain started up again.

Of course it did. Because there’s nothing quite like feeling a little Carefree in the rain.


Postscript: Today—in delightful 80-degree sunny weather—I did all of the following in under one hour, including the drive time:

  • renewed my driver’s license (I was in the DMV for literally 5 minutes);
  • absentee-ballot voted in my local primary (I was in the election bureau for literally 5 minutes);
  • deposited a check at the bank drive-thru (I was in the drive-thru lane for literally 2 minutes).

Clearly someone thought I had suffered enough yesterday. Amen to that.

agriculture clouds colors countryside
Photo by Alturas Homes on Pexels.com


Random Grocery Lists

aluminum black and white business cart
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I admit I have one weird habit. (Okay, maybe more than one. Let’s not quibble.)

When I’m grocery shopping, I like to find a previous shopper’s grocery list in the shopping cart I’m using. I grab the list and bring it home. I try to imagine what situation at home forced them to make a list with these particular items on it.

Now, before you gripe, yes, I realize there is usually not  a direct line of cause-and-effect between the items on a random grocery list and whatever is going on at home. Heck, my own grocery lists are two columns wide, are ordered by aisle as found in the store, and make up more than a week’s worth of items that are running low.

But those short lists seem to mean something. Like, someone was in the middle of a project and realized they needed a few things to keep going. So, they wisely jotted down what they still needed and made a quick dash to the store… so quick that they left the list in the cart and hurried back to their cars.

In the past month I’ve found two of these little lists. What stories do these lists tell?


quart milk
Sobee – 6
Corn – Sun.
Smucker’s: Natural creamy PB
Couple of Benefuls


Soft Scrub
Clorox toilet
Baking soda

There’s a simple reason I grab these little lists when I find them. I’m going to continue taking random grocery lists until I get one that looks like it came from a serial killer (“axe, chainsaw, bleach, large plastic tote, latex gloves“). Because writers see stories everywhere. Do you?