November 30, 2010

Unsolicited conversation in a Sam's Club parking lot

(Above: Hyperbole and a Half)


Sunday night, T and I are walking out of Sam's Club after picking up a gargantuan bag of Pupperoni (Slim-Jims for dogs!) and the 1 millionth package of cucumbers we've purchased in the last two months (because SOMEONE who is NOT ME keeps "forgetting to eat them" and letting them go bad) when it happens.

We're almost home free. We've unloaded our wares into the car, and I'm pushing the cart into the corral when I hear T say "Pardon?"

I look over, and a smoking couple (by which I mean they were smoking cigarettes in the parking lot, not that they were smoking hot -- they really, really weren't) is calling something to him from their car a few spaces away. I can't hear what they're saying, but I hear the word "vibe" and can see that tell-tale "Awkward!" look on T's face.

Oh, crap. Are we being propositioned by swingers in a Sam's Club parking lot?!

I debate escaping back into the safety of Sam's, but I can't just abandon my poor husband. I walk over.

"...yeah, it's a good little car," Smoking Man is saying. "Like I said, we got rid of our first one, and we always regretted it."

"Yep," Smoking Wife agrees, ashing her cigarette on the pavement.

I look at T. He has a pained look on his face that I don't quite understand, now that it's become clear the Smokers aren't trying to lure us back to their love dungeon. We make eye contact briefly and he gives me one of those "OMG, I can't say it out loud, but we need to get out of here" looks.

"Like I was telling your husband," Smoking Man says, addressing me directly now, "our son had a Pontiac Vibe (aha! I knew I'd heard the word "vibe"!) just like yours. Really good car. We all really loved it. Really loved it. And then he died."

Wait. What?

"Now the car we had after that, THAT was a story," Smoking Man says, chuckling.

This went on for the next 20 minutes.

It appeared that Smoking Couple had, tragically, lost their son a few years back. Which is a horrible, horrible thing to happen to anyone.

I'm just still not sure how they ended up talking about it with us, total strangers, in a Sam's Club parking lot. And it's not a conversation you can just end with a "Wow, that's really rough. Well, our ice cream is melting. See ya!"

And, you know. It's not their job to make me feel comfortable. Why SHOULDN'T they be able to tell random strangers about losing their son, and expect some compassion in return? Was it really so important that we get home RIGHT then to put our cucumbers in the fridge, where they will probably spoil yet again before someone eats them? Was it so awful that we spent a few awkward moments possibly helping someone voice their grief?

I...don't have a clever end to this post. It was just one of those strange things -- a conversation that left me feeling both uncomfortable (why are you telling me this again?) and sad. I kind of wanted to hug them; in the end we just said a goodbye as awkward as the conversation we'd just had.

How would you have handled this?

9 backtalk:

wrestling kitties said...

Wow, they must have needed someone to talk to and I bet you made them feel good just listening/talking to them for a little bit. To lose a son, how horrible.

We have this client where I work who is very open and honest and going through some REALLY horrible stuff right now. Between a divorce from his wife, some horrible stuff happening to his mentally challenged son, things with his business not going well....and a few of us in the office have been there when he calls and he shares it. At first we were surprised JUST how open with us secretaries he was being and it was uncomfortable a bit at first. Then it was like with all this crap he is going through he obviously needs to talk about it and you know sometimes strangers are a good option.

I think all you can do is listen when something like that happens. You never know how just taking a few minutes to listen to someone may help them and it is just a kind thing to do!

Summer said...

Wow. How is it that these things seem to happen to you?! It sounds like you handled it beautifully and I doubt that there would have been any way to avoid the awkwardness.

Having just lost my Mom, though, I understand triggers. I wonder if the car completely triggered their memories. It is interesting, though, that they turned to you to share with. . . rather than each other.

You and T? Good, good people.

Wendy said...

I attract weirdos like a flies on you-know-what, so I can totally relate. I have to do a lot of mmmhmmm'ing and oh isn't THAT interesting to keep the over-sharers from thinking I'm rude. I have a fear that I'll be a bitch to them and then karma will come back and give it to me. So I'm the sucker that stands there and listens to the poor saps tell their horrible life stories. I just listen. And then reflect that although it sucks that my kids' bus was late this morning and I had to rush to work because of it, at least I have kids to love, they are getting quality education, and I have a job TO drive to.

I suffer in silence through other people's drama stories to remind myself that my life is pretty damn good. Because, I figure, if they're over-sharing with strangers they truly just need someone to vent to. And my life isn't all that important that I can't stop for five minutes to listen.

Mickey D. said...

I'm sorry for their loss. I would have been equally awkward back because I'm just not good in those situations.

Now, I don't know your life, but perhaps you should stop buying the jumbo pack of cucumbers from Sam's and start small with just one cuke from Kroger. Just a thought from another habitual cucumber tosser.

Ky • said...


Yeah, that's not where I expected this post to go...

How terribly sad for them. :(

(However, this line made me laugh out loud: "Oh, crap. Are we being propositioned by swingers in a Sam's Club parking lot?!" You wrote it in such a way that I figured you two get propositioned in that way often.)

Trophy Life said...

of course i enjoyed your funny antics leading up to the point of the (somewhat sad) tale.

when you asked the question "what would you have done" - my IMMEDIATE thought was "exactly what T and S did". truly. i mean, i would have felt weird but continued as best i could and supported and chuckled, when appropriate, as best i could.

oh, friend, take it as a note from the Universe (since we aren't getting ours lately). i think one of our notes last week said something about "every long line...." etc, is put into your life to make you a better you. perhaps this was to make you a better you?

you're pretty fantastic already.

Nadja said...

The point from Summer about "triggers" really made sense. I think that right there will make me forever more understanding.

I would have listened until they stopped. That's how I am. I can get stuck in an awkward conversation for days.

Chill out on buying cucumbers in bulk or make some soup. Jeez.

Iris Took said...

You DID have swinger-type groceries - cucumbers, beef jerky of sorts, ice sort of brought it on yourself.

GEEZ! So awkward. I think you handled it well. If that was us, D. would have dragged my by the hand to the vibe and told me not to look back. Your husband is a patient man.

Ky • said...

(Am laughing at Iris' comment.)

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