There’s a new man in my life. Yes, I’m still happily married and no it isn’t a child or an animal. He’s a real, honest to goodness man. Well, I don’t know if he’s honest or good, but he is real. And he’s even employed! He’s the greeter at the grocery entrance to my local Walmart and his name is Joe. Joe is the sort of man you would describe as jolly. He has kind, happy eyes, is on the chubby side, is bald but has a white mustache and always has a smile and a wave for you when you walk in the door. He might also be a pervert. Something I never really thought about until recently.
See, Joe and I have been “buddies” for years now. I’d somehow gotten into the habit of looking him directly in the eyes as I’m saying “Hi” or “Good morning” or “Heyhowreyou?”. Even though I never stopped to actually talk to him, for some reason it felt as if I knew him. As if my acknowledgements of his presence were an invitation to friendship that he gladly accepted. I often wondered if he thought I was weird. Or if I might have been some distant relative he didn’t quite remember. I felt like my greetings were THAT familiar. I could almost picture him thinking, “Is that my cousin Margaret’s step daughter’s son’s wife?” and it always kind of bothered me that I hadn’t just stopped one time and put his questions to rest and said, “You don’t know me but you seem kind and I like to smile because I want everyone to like me.” But too much time had passed for that to happen organically. Kind of like when you’re introduced to someone but immediately forget their name and then you’re too embarrassed to ask again so you’re left calling them “You” or “Honey” or “Love” until 6 months goes by and then it’s too late to ever know their name. No, our friend-ship had sailed and there was no looking back now.
Apparently this was not good enough for Joe. The time had come. And one day a few weeks ago he literally put his hand out and stopped my cart as I walked by smiling. Normally this kind of take charge, macho gesture would set my lady parts aflutter, but this is JOE. “Hi Honey, how are you?” he asked. See? Honey. He didn’t have a clue who I was but he didn’t have the common decency to be embarrassed about it and fake it like everyone else did their entire lives. “I’m good.” I said and I guess I must have sounded tired. “What’s wrong?” he ventured as his sausage fingers held tight to my cart. I guess he fancied himself a kind of Walmart Dr. Phil. “Oh, not a thing! I’ve just been working a lot. I make cakes!” I explained. “Oh, do you?” he responded flatly. I could tell he really didn’t care about my occupation. I guess you get what you pay for with Walmart Dr. Phil. He continued with what I suspected was the real reason he stopped me… “I just have to tell you, you make my day every time I see you walk in here. Your smile is beautiful.” and then he proceeded to get off the stool he leans on and give me a big hug. Awwww! I love hugs! Even if this public display of affection was a bit sudden for us. I told him thank you and realized that with his arms around me he had to let go of my cart, so I took my leave and he said, “Bye, Dear.” just like always.
I went home and posted something on Facebook about it because nothing exciting ever happens to me so this is as good as it gets. I did withhold names to protect the innocent, but someone from my hometown knew exactly who I was talking about anyway. She even said that she thought he mentally undresses every woman who walks in there. WHAT? My Joe? I hadn’t really thought about it before she said that. I always likened Joe to Santa Claus in that he always seemed like a harmless, possibly lonely, sweet old man. I don’t think he lives with elves and makes toys for children.
So, the next time I had the occasion to be in Walmart, the fact that Joe might be a pervert was on my mind. And I must say, even if my friend hadn’t planted that seed, I might have still been able to harvest what Joe was sowing. I walked in as normal and there he was. Again he stood from his stool as I passed and pulled me into a tight embrace. My husband’s family had a friend who would always make noise when he hugged you. It was always a bit disconcerting and made you wonder what he was thinking about. Unfortunately, Joe has this same habit. “Mmmmm… Mmmmmmmm… MMMMMMMMMMM!!!!” was the groan that came out of Joe’s mouth and directly into my ear as he hugged me. As I tried not to burst into nervous laughter, Joe released me slightly and I felt his wet lips on my face! Santa KISSED ME! Bad Santa! I was so shocked! I patted him on the shoulder, returned to my cart and wandered through the produce section in a daze wondering what the hell just happened. And just how many ladies does Joe “greet” in this way every day? And then I was thinking about what my friend said about him mentally undressing women. And wondering how long he had been doing that to me. And then I became curious as to what kind of underwear I’m wearing in Joe’s mind. And then I came to the sickening realization that maybe it’s none. I’m wearing no underwear. And finally I was lamenting the fact that now I’ll have to use the “home and pharmacy entrance” from now on even when I just want groceries. And I might have to invest in a burka.
But it didn’t stop there. Like all relationships, mine and Joe’s had been progressing and he was ready to move to the next level. Unbeknownst to me. Last week with cake orders and Easter on my mind I completely forgot to go to the Walmart in the next town while also wearing a disguise and using a fake ID just in case Joe happened to be transferred to that store. Luckily when I walked in and saw Joe he was busy talking to another man so our contact was limited to him reaching his hand out and me taking it for a brief second as I sprinted past. There was his jolly face again. And the man he was talking to was a veteran and my heart kind of melted for a minute. Maybe he WAS the Walmart Dr. Phil who people could tell their troubles to. Probably mostly because he couldn’t go anywhere. I mean, he was paid to stay there by the door and interact with whoever came in. Regardless, Joe’s a good guy I decided. So when I paid for my groceries and headed for the door and noticed that Joe was still talking to the vet, I gave him a quick SIDE hug so as not to interrupt their conversation and told him “Happy Easter”! Joe hugged me hard in return and said, “I love you”.
Well, there you go. In Facebook terms our relationship is complicated. I don’t even know his last name. Yet on some level he loves me and may or may not picture me in or out of my underwear. Even with that last bit, I think Joe is a harmless, grandpa-like fellow who is probably just longing for human contact. With a lady. Just because one grows older and loses one’s hair doesn’t mean you stop feeling things. Maybe at one point in his younger years before he started taking on the appearance of St. Nick, Joe looked awesome in his underwear. Not that he doesn’t now, but I don’t think of him that way. Ever. Even just then when I said that. I was actually picturing Adam Levine. Anyway, my point is we’re all human. (Except maybe Adam Levine. And Henry Cavill. They’re from the planet “Nobody can possibly look like that and be real”.) And okay, he probably shouldn’t make it a habit of accosting shoppers, but I can forgive him. As long as that’s where it stops. If Joe starts getting handsy well then we’ll have to work out some deal with the North Pole so I can get better loot in my stocking. A Walmart discount at the very least.