One of the things I love about our community is its small town feel. Friends and acquaintances shout a cheery, "Hello! How are you?" when they see you out and about. Neighbors linger at the fence to talk about the weather. Everybody knows your dog's name. Even strangers nod and say, "Morning," as they pass you on the street. The local Starbucks is generally packed with familiar faces. A trip to our grocery market almost guarantees that you will run into someone you know and you'll stop to chat for a few minutes. You might grab a coffee and linger together near the bakery counter comparing notes on favorite pastries. Or maybe you'll wander along in the aisles, grocery carts side by side, as you inspect the tomatoes and squeeze the Charmin. If you see a pal at the check out, you'll hang on until they're done so you can stroll out to the parking lot together. Yep, our neighborhood is about as sociable as they come.
Except at the drugstore.
The pharmacy is Ground Zero for social avoidance. At the CVS, you'd just as soon be a total stranger, even to your best friends, than run into somebody you know. It's like, uh, oh! There's so-and-so. Glance the other way. Avoid eye contact. Duck behind the travel size toiletries if you have to. Basically, steer clear of everybody. Why? Because you don't want anyone to know what unspeakable health issues you harbor.
Oh, it's not so bad over by the greeting cards or the toothpaste or the shaving cream. If you bump into somebody in these Neutral Zones, you can say, "Hey, how's it goin'?" And it isn't even all that awkward to venture into slightly deeper territory of the, "What are you up to these days?" variety. But that's IT! You extricate from the exchange as fast as you can.
Horrors upon horrors if you should spy somebody you know in the adult incontinence product aisle! If you're lucky, they won't see you, and commando-like, you can scoot into the Kleenex and TP department before you're detected — you know, lest they think, well, you know. Whatever you came in to buy will just have to wait until the next trip because there is NO way you're going up to the cash desk with a package of Poise.
Even worse is bumping into an acquaintance, let's say, over by the Hallowe'en candy display. You chat briefly. "How many kids do you get at your house?" "Oh, that many! Wow! We were down last year. I only bought 300 hundred mini Hershey bars last time and we had left overs. Well, good to see you! Bye!"
But, your excursion today is taking you to the health care aisle — you know, where the icky preparations lurk — where "personal" turns to "intimate." And when you turn toward Deep Drug Store, oh, no, what's happening? She's turning in the same direction! Where is she going? Please don't let it be THAT section!
But it is! She's right behind you! Oh, now what are you going to do? You've missed your chance to dodge out of there. It's too late for guerrilla tactics — you're stuck between Kaopectate and the KY.
You and she side step each other — edgy, agitated. Words between you become brittle and skittish. You try not to notice the products in her cart. But you can't look away!
"Oh, heh, heh, I'm shopping for my elderly neighbor," she says, "Some toenail fungus cream."
"Oh, heh, heh, that's nice of you. I'm just getting something for heartburn," lying, as you grab your Metamucil when she isn't looking and bolt to the check out. You frantically plunge your debit card into the reader and spurt, "I don't need cash back, thanks!" You glance over your shoulder and grab your shopping bag from the girl. You make a dash for the parking lot. You scream out of there, screeching your tires, making the turn out of the driveway on two wheels, like a gangster in a get-away car.
Whew, made it out alive! Do you think she saw? Nah. You congratulate yourself on a successful mission. You clever, nimble Ninja, you!
When you get home, you knock back a stiff cocktail of orange-flavored fiber, and seriously contemplate online shopping from now on. Wearing dark glasses.