So the only time I usually go to the 7-Eleven is to buy things I shouldn’t eat. Not unlike interactions with a doctor or priest, I’ve always considered the relationship between myself and the person behind the convenience store counter to be at least somewhat sacred. It’s an encounter based on necessity, and I’m not usually looking my best at that particular time of night, or in that craving-induced state of being, so we have an understanding. You stay on your side of the counter, don’t judge, keep your mouth shut and I’ll do my best to get in and get out. No one gets hurt, and I might even leave my pennies in that weird little tray.
Friday night was one of those times when I was really counting on that special relationship. It had been a long day at work, I was out a little later than normal, and there was a situation that only Doritos and Ben & Jerry’s could resolve. I strode through the store with my mission firmly in my mind. I grabbed my loot (stealthily adding a slice of pre-wrapped pound cake to the stash…I’m sure no one saw it) and headed to the front of the store, the finish line in sight.
I didn’t recognize the 20-something guy behind the counter, but I assumed that he had been properly trained in the ‘Way of the Convenience Store’, so my guard was down. I wasn’t at all prepared when he just stood there and looked at my haul, spread across the counter like so much bar-coded illicit treasure. He moved his gaze to my face and left it there.
“How OLD?” he snapped.
“Huh…” I stammered, trying to figure out when the state of Oregon might have started an age restriction on salted caramel OR nacho cheese, “…how old…am I???”
“Yes…50…” he spat, “…51?!?”
It sounded like he was accusing me of something, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out. I recoiled a bit, groping in my purse for my debit card. I just really, really wanted to get my groceries (how’s that for rationale?) and get home!
I handed the bank card to my accuser, and looking into his face it occurred to me that his tone was…familiar? I had a flash back to my first night in Morocco quite a few years ago, when I was overwhelmed by the forceful admiration of a man who almost knocked me to the ground while shouting about my ‘beauty’. I could almost hear the droning of a call to prayer in the background as I realized that my critic was from a part of the world where blondes of any age, size or shape were considered to be a prize.
“Almost 57,” I whispered, “but you’re supposed to guess 40!” (My vanity wasn’t going to take that high of a number lying down!)
“Too much makeup,” he shrugged, handing me back my debit card and receipt.
I grabbed my bag and my bruised ego and made a run for it.
Note to self: next time, stick with a drive-thru. Taco Bell really isn’t so terrible…right?