Toothpaste Expectations

This past week I found myself standing, bewildered, in my local discount pharmacy. Someone has had the temerity to aggressively rearrange and refurbish the whole store without ever asking me.

Gone, is the dim and occasionally flickering light, replaced with bright, white LEDs. Gone, is the friendly collection of commingled out-dated and too early holiday candy and stuffed toys. Their shelf is gone, too.

The bright, white lights illuminate wide and uncluttered aisles; hanging signs helpfully list each aisle’s offerings. The floor is shiny and bright and I can’t find anything. I also don’t want to pull a shopping basket behind me as if I’m about to board a plane. This modern basket’s handle is awkwardly shaped, the basket too wide to carry. I briefly consider boycotting the whole basket option and carrying everything in my arms and assorted coat pockets. The basket bumps my ankle; I imagine TSA agents stalking the shining floors looking for the suspiciously cranky. I keep my hands in view at all times.

The basket whacks my right ankle with each step. The floor gleams. The lights glare; I still can’t find anything.

I wander through the newly unfamiliar aisles, forlornly hunting toothpaste, and run into another lost soul.  We huddle together between conditioner and moisturizer. He is seeking band aids and hasn’t seen toothpaste, either. We stand for a moment, lost together, and talk softly about change and light and make a pact to each keep an eye out for the other’s goals. We laugh and shyly shake hands, sealing our alliance, and part ways.

In this place of too much change, too fast, we can’t find equilibrium, or toothpaste, or band aids by walking alone.  The once-familiar has become distorted and frightening; then strangers become allies and it’s better, together.



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