I had an inkling. That tiny voice in my head said something like, “This guy is a ringer! Watch your step! Look out! Steer clear!”
But I reined myself in – the guy looked like a Boy Scout! A 30-year-old Boy Scout.
Really. He wore a khaki uniform. Khaki shirt and khaki pants. Creased. A black canvas belt and black shoes.
“Leave It to Beaver” on his way to a Den meeting.
But in retrospect, I should have known.
We made a transfer of carts there in front of the grocery store. He was just coming out with his granola and organic bananas. Probably some quinoa. Chia seeds. Coconut milk.
I was just walking up. On my way for a rotisserie chicken and a tub of scalloped potatoes.
I was innocent, I tell you! And healthy!
He smiled at me. Oh! I should have known.
He gestured as he pulled his bags from the cart: “Here!” he seemed to be saying. “Want this one? It’ll save you all that effort of pulling a different cart from the jammed up stack of carts where the common people go.
“I’m a gentleman and you’re a lady. Don’t we all get along so well? Aren’t we civilized? Gentile?!”
I should have known right then. What a sucker I was!
Honestly, I almost stopped at that station inside the door, the one with the sanitizing wipes. I’ve done it on lesser provocation.
Say it’s rainy outside, or someone in the general vicinity coughed one of those Dracula coughs into her elbow. Oh yeah. I’d go to the sanitation station like any nut who is obsessed with defeating bacteria and give everything a frantic wipe down.
And I was healthy, did I mention?
But he hesitated right there as I took the cart. Maybe he was watching me. I didn’t want to offend him after all. A Boy Scout!
So I took the radioactive cart and steered it into the store, ignoring my instincts and the wiggy wheel. I wrestled it around the cold cuts and the dairy section while his bacteria marched up my sleeve.
And now look at me! A sudden flush. A wave of goose bumps. Then a temperature of 101! All night and all day! No one in the house wants to talk to me or bring me some soup!
OK. No one’s home right now, but still.
Some might say how do you know it was that guy? How can you be sure he is the offender?
Oh he was the guy, all right. Typhoid Larry. With his hair combed over just so. He was the guy.
He was too well-groomed for one thing. He went around the store with his ambience, touching the bleu cheese and the tortillas. I’ll bet he took someone’s arm ever so gently in the produce aisle, ostensibly steering her away from a fender-bender with the avocado end-cap. In reality, guiding her toward malaise.
But that’s OK. No worries.
Once bitten. I won't be fooled again.
It will take some planning. I wouldn’t want him to see me coming.
But I’ll be on the lookout for him. I’m not saying I’ve saved one of my germ-laden tissues for him or anything like that. But I won’t be traveling unarmed.
I’ll run right smack into him if I have to. I don’t care. You don’t knock me off my feet and then glide away scot free!
It will be subtle. Misdirection is the ticket. I’ll set up the collision course and then just turn my head and plow into him. I’ll grip his hand and apologize to him until he apologizes to me while I make strategic deposits of microbes on his cuff, on his sleeve, on the handle of his cart.
Don’t think I won’t do it.
If I could only be there to witness the onset! He’ll get home and sit down with his wife. Halfway through dinner he might think the thermostat is up too high and tug at his collar. Then he’ll feel confused when a chill washes over him. He’ll turn in early and wake up at midnight with the sheets drenched.
Turnabout’s fair play.