"You beat me!" the man said in a light Russian accent, his pale round face vaguely familiar.
I turned to look at the 50-something fellow behind me. Where do I know this guy from?
I had been busy staring at the packed-to-the-brim shopping cart ahead of me. Moments ago, a woman strategically cut me off from the only short line I'd ever seen at a Trader Joe's. I was still stewing about being stuck behind Madame Buys-Too-Much when he interrupted my reverie.
"Yes," I replied, smiling, but still wondering why he looked familiar. Earlier, I'd run into him in the produce aisle, but something about his messy hair, deep-set eyes and lined face bespoke another connection.
He commented on something in my basket and it clicked. Ah yes, Mikhail Baryshnikov as Alek from Sex and the City. There it is! The leather jacket cinched it for me.
Immediately I felt better about putting my puzzle together until I realized Alek was busy pumping me for information. Something about his persistent questioning about everything from my cart's contents to my living location to what I wanted for Christmas set off my creep-o-meter.
I pondered exit strategies: Pretend I forgot something and go back into the store, risking the chance that he might follow, or worse, wait for me in the parking lot? Play megabitch and just ignore him? (Impossible in polite society.) Answer his questions honestly and risk getting stalked at school, captured, tortured and dumped in a corn field? (Someone *might* have watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds over Thanksgiving... P.S. I don't think there are corn fields in Arizona.) I opted for a highly unfamiliar path: I lied my ass off.
Historically, I've found it hard not to tell the truth when talking to strangers. If someone asks me a question, I tend to answer it, especially when the content seems innocuous. Once I started to get uncomfortable though, I practiced my best Pinnochio impression.
Here are some of my favorites:
1. "Ohhhh, you like sweets?" Lie: Not especially. Those [Candy Cane Joe-Joe's] are for my HUSBAND*.
2. So you're from California... what part? Lie: Have you heard of Fresno? (Hard to say that with a straight face, but it got no flicker of recognition from Alek.)
3. Oh, you're one of those spoiled little Californians? Lie: Totally. (Said with best Valley Girl impression. Obviously someone really hasn't heard of Fresno.)
4. So you're a student, what do you study? Lie: Nursing. (Ha! Don't know why that popped into my head. I'd be Nurse Ratchet for sure.)
5. Do you have a brothers and sisters? Lie: Nope, only child. (Did NOT feel like sharing my personal details so I erased my sibs for a few minutes. Sorry guys.)
Such a weird, weird conversation. Or should I say interrogation. Fifteen rapid fire questions preceded the ones above and we were only in line for five minutes. Absolutely bizarre. I want to tell myself that he was a harmless Chatty Cathy, but something about his questions set off my inner warning bells.
How do you balance wanting to believe that people are inherently good with the reality that some people are just creepy and the paranoia associated with watching too many TV shows about serial killers? Advice would be welcomed. ;)
* Does that mean I actually have to share??
Labels: Cactus Land, Randomness, self-reflection, Strangers