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"Sweetheart, you're the asshole."
Here at the end of the year, the truth hits especially hard
I was planning to write a really great post today. It was going to be called “The Disappointment of Christmas,” and it was going to be all about holiday ennui.
It would have been funny and self-deprecating, with a sweetly relatable story of how my mother has always given the worst gifts. (The punchline would have been the practical yellow sewing kit that waited under the Christmas tree one year instead of the Breyer horse 10-year-old me desperately desired.)
I would have told you how even in northern Illinois, Christmas was never white, only grey and brown. I had a gorgeous thesis statement of a sentence about how, to this day, holiday reality never lives up to my expectations of magic.
And then I had a great photo of Marido tossing our tree out the window just two days after Christmas, and I was planning on telling you how I love undressing the tree far more than decorating it…
But today a thing happened. And it feels more important to write about it than to serve up a cute retelling of my run-of-the-mill holiday malaise.
Context/Backstory: I’m an avowed declutterer. I’ve been toting bags of clothes and household sundries to resale shops and donation bins long before Marie Kondo made it cute or cool or whatever her thing was with the folding and the joy.
It’s a kind of compulsion. One that maybe has to do with the cluttered chaos of the farmhouse I grew up in. But it has nearly as much to do with the fact that, here in San Francisco we live in a smallish house, and if you’re going to fit a new pair of shoes in the closet, you’re going to have to get rid of an old pair to make some space.
So I’ve always been a cleaner-outer, but I’ve really shifted into overdrive this last month or so. Marido has been muttering about shipping containers and going around the house with a tape measure to calculate cubic feet. We’ve had discussions about which pieces of furniture will make the transatlantic crossing and which will not. And even though our official move date is still 6 months out (and not yet set in stone), we’ve begun The Purge.
Storage boxes have been pulled from beneath dusty stairwells, their contents examined and found wanting. Filha has sorted her dragons and stuffies and given up a small cohort. I’ve scoured our closets and bookshelves and made an impressive pile of boxes and garbage bags.
Yesterday, I took a bin of old CDS and DVDS to sell at Amoeba Music. (Farewell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer box set!) I took another bin of books to sell at Green Apple. I took six garbage bags of clothing, shoes, and costumes to donate at Out of the Closet. I even made a list of local Little Free Libraries and drove around, contributing books and poetry that the bookstore didn’t buy. I just had one stop left to get rid of the two boxes of toys that still sat in the backseat, ready to find new homes.
This morning I drove 12 miles to an unfamiliar town, to one of the few Goodwill donation locations that’s open during this latest COVID wave. I pulled up to the front of the store, hauled the heavy boxes from the car and marched inside, only to be unceremoniously turned away.
“The donation center is around back,” the employee said brusquely.
“Um, ok,” I said. “I’ve never been here before, can you tell me how to get there?”
“Go around back. It’s in the back of the building,” he waved me away.
I stuffed the boxes back in the car, got back in, drove around the block, and encountered a very long line of cars. There was no signage, so I wasn’t sure if they were waiting for Goodwill or something else. I parked on the street, pulled out the boxes again, and lugged them down the block, into a parking lot, and around a corner until I saw the donation sign.
As I walked up, arms full of boxes, a guy in an orange vest came over, shaking his head.
“You have to get in line,” he said unceremoniously.
“The line… of cars?” I asked.
“Yes, you have to get in the line of cars. You can’t cut the line.”
“Ok, so I have to take these boxes,” I jiggled my heavy armload, “all the way back and put them back in my car and then sit in line just to… come back here?”
“Yes,” he said.
“I can’t just leave the boxes here, off to the side or something?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Corporate won’t let you.”
Ok, so… I could make a lot of excuses here about how I was tired and stressed and confused and the boxes were heavy and the process was inefficient and the directions unclear, but the truth is that anytime ANYONE says “Corporate won’t let you,” blaring red klaxons go off in my brain.
I could blame my Enneagram 4-ness or my innate bent toward rebellion, but really I just hate the word “corporate” and the idea of “corporate” and the asinine rules that “corporate” makes, and I basically lost my shit, is what I’m saying.
I didn’t go full Karen, but I was definitely treading Karen-lite territory.
I said dumb things. I acted like a jerk. I might have (I did) dropped an F-bomb as I stomped away, past the line of watching people waiting patiently and obediently in their vehicles.
By the time I reached my own car and shoved the battered donation boxes back inside once more, I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. I mean, sure, Fuck Corporate America and all that, but really—would it have been so hard to wheel my car into line like I was told?
At that point, though, I had no choice but to leave. I had been an absolute embarrassment and I couldn’t show my face there again, not even with my COVID mask.
During the 25-minute drive back home I drove in silence and thought about my abominable behavior.
I want to believe I’m the heroine of my story, most of the time. No, all of the time. I want to believe that I am sympathetic and relatable and funny and intelligent and even adorable, sometimes. I want to relay this story in a way that makes you believe in my goodness. I want to believe that I am not, that I do not even have the capacity to ever become a Karen.
Then I thought of the time, more than a decade ago, when I tried to take my dog into a corner store in San Francisco. This was pre-kid and pre-current-dog, even.
Back then my best fur friend was a Boxer lady named LeeLoo. She was a rescue dog with chiclet teeth and a ridiculous underbite, and I loved her dearly.
In the city, it’s fairly common to tie your dog to a parking meter on the sidewalk while you run into a store for a few minutes.
But I had two problems with that. #1: Everyone passing by wanted to pat LeeLoo’s wrinkly noggin (which I don’t blame them for one bit), but LeeLoo, being a rescue dog, didn’t take kindly to strange hands descending upon her from above. She reacted poorly, with lots of growling. #2: At the time, there had been a rash of dog-napping going on. People would tie their dogs to a parking meter, come out 5 minutes later and the doggo would be gone. It was a thing. I didn’t want it to happen. So, LeeLoo and I walked into the store.
The guy behind the counter stood well over 6 feet, hair shaved close to his skull, arms peppered with punk tattoos. He didn’t look like the kind of dude who would stand for any sort of nonsense.
And he didn’t. He immediately ordered me out of his store.
“No dogs in here. You gotta tie it up on the sidewalk.”
I took one step further in. “But I’m just here for a bottle of water.” I pulled a $5 bill from my pocket and flapped it at him. “I’ll just be in and out.”
“I don’t care what you’re here for, you have to leave your dog outside. Health Code says so,” he insisted. “We serve food in here.”
“But,” I sputtered, “I’m going to be so fast. I could have already been in and out by now.”
He pointed a blunt forefinger at the door.
“Nope. Your dog has to go out,” he repeated.
I turned to go, tugging LeeLoo’s leash. “Fine! God! You don’t have to be such an asshole about it!!”
He shook his head as I flounced out. “Sweetheart,” he said calmly, “you’re the asshole.”
You don’t know how many times I’ve thought about that guy. About that moment.
Because he was right. I was the asshole.
I was the asshole back then, and I was the asshole this morning.
I was an entitled brat, deciding that I was more important, more special than anyone else there, that my own selfish agenda overrode all the rules. The city Health Code. Corporate at Goodwill.
There’s no excuse for it. Just the bald truth.
Sometimes, I’m an asshole. Seems best ya’ll know that up front.
Copyright © 2020 LaDonna Witmer