In the Same Aisle

In the Same Aisle

They're in the same aisle, you know.

Lysol and tomato juice.

Let me back up lest regular visitors to the blog think I've tried to make chili with a common household cleaning supply (not this week—not that I know of, anyway...).

A common hazard of being a writer is the nasty habit one falls into while doing tedious tasks in public places.

Or perhaps this isn't an author hazard. Perhaps it's just me and my squirrel brain trying not to go insane while doing tedious tasks in public places.

The bad habit? Listening in on other people's conversations.

A tidbit here.

A snippet there.

I couldn't care less about the topic. I'm just looking for the next chunk of dialogue for my characters. When you're solely responsible for putting thoughts in the minds and words in the mouths of a dozen or so imaginary people at any given time, any source of new material is fair game.

And the "real-er" and truer to life the material, the better.

Hence the eavesdropping.

I was in our local grocery store. I go at off-peak hours—as much as author me needs a snipet or a tidbit, introverted me wants to go home. (If, given the option, I can stop, drop, and roll on home midway through any event or activity—and take my toys with me, thank you very much.)

Anyway, Kroger.

Early morning.

A mother and her young-enough-to-ride-in-the-cart-and-too-young-to-read daughter crisscross my path through most of the trip. Mostly quiet.

Then we hit the cleaning aisle, where I struggle to find laundry detergent that's not in a five-gallon jug and not five hundred dollars. The mom zigs backward on a dime, apologizing. I wiggle my cart to the side to give her room.

"Why are we going back?" Fair question from the little girl whose hair is half up in a neat pony tail and half frizzing all over the place. I can relate to the hair...

"I forgot the Lysol. And we need tomato juice." A completly understandable and classic case of a discombobulated mom brain. Too many tabs open. Can't read her list. Likely forgot the list to begin with. It's at home. On the counter. With the coupons she wouldn't be able to cash in had she remembered them because her child used the wax from an entire green crayon to mark out the barcodes...

I don't have little ones anymore and still have this issue. Not with the green wax, but the discombobulated brain thing.

Mom reaches the Lysol first and hands the cleaner to the child, who beams brightly, squeals "Tomato juice!" and hugs the bottle to her chest.

"Oh! No, no, no. That's Lysol," and Mom tosses the bottle from the kid's hands into the basket out of reach.

"What's the difference?" Another fair question.

Usually, I can keep quiet during my eavesdropping escapades, but at this point, I'm dying. (You see, I've already made these two humans into characters—complete with waxy green coupons and a too-long-for-the-blog explanation for why the little girl has half her hair in a ponytail and the other half frizzy and loose).

I don't even attempt to stifle my laugh.

The mom looks mortified. "I promise I don't let my child drink Lysol."

"I figured. But they are in the same aisle..." She lightens up with the jesting. And there was absolutely no judgment from me. I'm struggling to buy a jug of detergent, remember?

I do refrain from telling her that this encounter will be memorialized in a blog post. I don’t think she could’ve taken the added stress.

She pushes her cart and child a few feet down the aisle and hands the girl a bottle. "This is tomato juice." (Loud enough, I believe, to let me—a stranger with a possible hair trigger on the CPS phone number—know that she, indeed, does not, will not, nor has even considered allowing her daughter the experience of consuming household cleaners.)

"Oh." The child looks at the bottle, then over her shoulder to the Lysol, epic disappointment on her face. I imagine in that little girl's mind there's an epic battle of comparison happening:

The Lysol bottle has a neat spray nozzle. The tomato juice does not.

The Lysol bottle has bright, colorful fonts. The tomato juice does not.

The Lysol bottle has a cool shape and design. The tomato juice bottle is just a rectangle.

Lysol is more exciting than tomato juice. Disappointment sets in fully because, if her mother and divine providence have their way, the little girl will never know what Lysol tastes like.

I'm thoroughly amused, and writer brain is fully engaged. The best eavesdropping gems are the most relatable, after all.

And though I doubt many of us have considered drinking Lysol, at least not this week, we can relate, yes?

We see or dream of something shiny and new. Something with cool shapes and colors and a font we've not encountered yet. Sometimes, stuff like this just pops into our minds out of the clear blue sky.

We get excited and grasp that something or that dream, and for a moment, we experience... glee. Giddiness. Anticipation.

But then life or divine providence or our mothers scoot us on down the aisle and hand us something more palatable.

Something that won't kill us.

Like tomato juice.

And in hindsight, we learn to be grateful we didn't pull the trigger on ALL the dreams (some of mine would've been more than toxic had I possessed the capability to follow through—like the one where I imagined I had a working pair of wings or the time when I wished I could read people's every thought.).

But man, was it fun for a moment.

I've thought about that little girl quite a bit. I hope she doesn't lose those giddy, albeit misguided, moments.

No matter how much tomato juice she's handed, I hope it doesn't squelch her anticipation of new possibilities.

As she gets older, I hope she learns how to harness the power of dreaming and the reign in the battles of comparison between what she was hoping for and what life gives her. I hope some of her dreams materialize into those glorious moments where imagination and real life collide and actual magic happens...

And I hope that for all of us, too,

I hope we wear our hair half-up and half frizzy and don't care. I hope we expel an entire green crayon's worth of wax onto our mothers' coupons—or the tax returns—and don't give it a second thought.

I hope we grasp our (nontoxic) dreams to our chests in glee and don't let anyone else toss them out of reach.

Go ahead and dream as life pushes your cart around.

Dreams and reality are often in the same aisle.

Love the Blog? Try These!

Compilations of 100 posts, complete with commentary from Little Miss Muse!