The checker spoke. "Ma'am, are you ready?"
The woman snapped to and began loading her items onto the belt. I waited until she was finished and reached over for the black plastic separator to put between her order and mine. The cover of the tabloid that had so captivated the elderly woman caught my eye. "Obama Divorce" it screeched in bold yellow across unflattering photos of the President and First Lady.
I busied myself with unloading my cart in my usual OCD fashion.
"Oh, I forgot my coffee," the woman in front of me yelled.
The checker offered to hold her order while the bagger offered to fetch the coffee. The woman gestured toward me. "I don't want to make her wait."'
I appreciated that, but I wasn't in a hurry. "Thanks, but don't worry about it. I'm not in a hurry. Get your coffee."
She shrugged at the bagger who asked what kind of coffee to get. "The one on sale for eight dollars and something. But not that dark stuff. I don't like the dark coffee."
I went back to unloading my cart while the woman fussed at the checker for not ringing her up and letting her go get the coffee after she paid. The checker explained how she needed the bar code, but quickly gave up. The customer wasn't interested in explanations.
Another shopper pulled in behind me and noticed the hold up. I gave her a quick smile with an eyebrow raise. She craned her neck to see the other lines, looked back at me and shrugged. "Might as well stay put."
I smiled and pulled the checkbook out of my purse to fill it out while I waited. The bagger still hadn't returned and the woman tugged the sleeve of my jacket.
"Did you see that about that Obama?" she said pointing at the tabloid.
I looked at the tabloid and nodded.
"You know, her parents paid for him to win. That black son of a bitch was educated in Saudi Arabia," she said conspiratorially, incapable of a whisper.
I took a deep breath and turned to slip my checkbook back into my purse to give myself a chance to count ten and not react.
The woman behind me met my eyes and gave me the one eyebrow raise back. Her arms were crossed as she shifted her gaze from me to the woman tugging on my sleeve again. "Those blacks in Chicago rigged the election to put Obama in the White House. He didn't get all those votes."
I glanced at the checker who was clearly alarmed. The checker the next aisle over, a young African American woman had obviously overheard.
The bagger finally returned from Tennessee with three containers of coffee. "I brought you some choices."
The woman made her choice, paid her bill and continued to complain loudly that the checker wouldn't ring her up sooner, that she was unhappy that the Food Lion is closing stores in Georgia (we weren't in a Food Lion at the time), and, how much she hated Obama. Not once did she refer to him as President Obama.
The desire for her to leave was palpable. The checker, the bagger, the woman behind me, the checker across the way and I - we were all aghast. And then the last straw came. The woman tugged her pocketbook up onto her shoulder and turned to me.
"There aren't enough black people in America to elect him. That's how I know the vote was rigged."
I handed my stack of coupons to the checker and smiled. "I voted for him," I said.
"What did she say?"
I turned to the woman who was fiddling with her hearing aid. "I voted for him and I will vote for him again," I said with a smile.
"Ahhh, you're putting me on."
"I never met anyone who voted for him. You're kidding me."
"I'm not. I voted for him."
She drew back and eyed me. "What's wrong with you? Why would you vote for that --? All he does is give away the money of hardworking Americans to no accounts. People who won't get jobs on unemployment, food stamps. Just a bunch of lazy..."
The bagger interrupted. "Can I help you with this?" She gestured toward the woman's shopping cart.
I hoped she'd take the hint. I had no stomach for this pointless conversation. She ignored the bagger. "So what are you? One of them lazy people who won't get a job?"
"I'm one of those hardworking Americans who can't find a job," I said still smiling. I was surprised that I wasn't getting a surge of adrenaline, my heart wasn't racing, my palms weren't sweating and my voice didn't crack. I'd realize later that the medication I'm taking really does work well.
"Uh huh. That's what I thought. You're on welfare," she spat out.
The woman behind me shifted and bumped into my cart. When I turned to see what the problem was, she was glaring at the old woman.
"Actually, I'm not on welfare, not that it's any of your business. I was getting unemployment, but that's run out," I don't know why I felt compelled to keep talking, but I did. "Let me ask you this - do you get Social Security? Medicare?"
"Hey, my husband worked his whole life and paid for those things," she snapped.
"Well, that's true, but you're probably taking out more than he paid in. And what's more, I - me - I worked for twenty-five years paying into unemployment in case I needed it. So before you go fussing about what other people are getting, you should consider that you're part of the system, too."
"Well, it ain't welfare."
"No, it's not. But you know how you're upset that the Food Lion is closing stores? I can guarantee you if people didn't have food stamps, you'd see a lot more stores closing. And I don't know what kind of world you want to live in, but I don't want to live in one where people go hungry."
She opened her mouth to speak, but said nothing. I made an apologetic gesture to the checker as the old lady marched away hollering at the bagger about how rude I was.
I filled out my check and marveled at the fact that my hands weren't shaking. I felt so calm.
"You handled that well," the checker said to me.
I took the receipt from her. "Thanks. I really hate to talk politics. I know my views aren't very popular around here."
"Well, maybe she learned something from you. I know I did," she said with a smile.
The woman behind me cleared her throat. "I'm glad you were the one dealing with her because I would have whipped out my EBT card and shoved it down her throat."