I approached the Giant food store, recycled bags in hand, free as a lark with no larklings. As I approached, heading towards the front door, something struck my eye that was fascinating. A woman.. girl... lady? An ageless female, who had clearly and very recently purchased quite a large number of items at said store, was outside with her cart of groceries. And oodles of plastic Giant bags.
Someone had forgotten her recycled bags.
She was pacing. Literally pacing. Hands in her pockets. Back and forth, forth and back, back and forth again, from her own made-up starting line to her turnabout spot, back to the starting line, and repeat. As I approached, I was struck at this shark-like behavior.
For what was she pacing? Was she nervous? Bored? Scared? Were her feet asleep, was she was trying to re-engage them in the world around them? I got so taken in by this steady, pragmatic foot-falling, I completely lost track of myself and wandered into the store, bypassing the carts.
I went back outside. I needed a cart, duh. But the shark, clad in her yellow v-neck and large, dark sunglasses, was impeding the way. I arced widely around her, as I noticed others did.
Other people, strangers to this strange dance, were avoiding her. Her shark infested waters.
How delightfully bizarre! I couldn't get over this conundrum.. people needed carts. She was impeding access to carts simply by pacing back and forth in front of them. I love the study of human behavior. I silently cursed myself for not taking more sociology courses in college, and got a cart. Finally.
Once the cart was gotten, I then needed to go through her pacing path to gain access to the Giant store. I had a twinge of guilt, then sudden excitement as to what her counter-move would be.
She paused in the pacing. Stepped back, tilted her chin slightly down. I, and another lady who didn't share my curiosity, curtly walked past.
I went inside and immediately looked for a window, to gaze out into this other seemingly tormented soul. Or, at least the soles of her shoes.
For my good fortune, and for everyone who later had to deal with me on this important day of my eldest son's 3rd birthday party, there was a Starbucks inside this store. And it was just inside the store, affording me the opportunity to check out the Mystery Pacer's next move.
She was still pacing!! What--in the world, could she be so anxious about? And who was she waiting for? And where were her recycled bags??
Then, I kid you not, what happened next was the most unexpected turn. As I pulled over to a Starbucks table, grappling for my pen/paper to make some blog post notes, as we all know I did, I glanced up.
She turned her head and met my gaze.
I was flabbergasted. The pacer knew her pacing was being tracked. I had the sudden urge to race outside and join in her pacing, up and down, back and forth, just for the pure and simple freedom of it. Freedom Pacers. And also, mostly, to find out why the hell she was pacing.
It was so deliberate. So unnatural. So .. creepily calculated. Every step was purposeful.
And only she, Yellow-Shirted Mystery Pacer, held the key to unlock those steps.
If my toddler had been with me, he would have fallen into step alongside her, looked up, and instantly unlocked the mystery. As he, as a general rule, holds all those keys.
Saturday, June 26, 2010