By Karen Jones,

commissaryAll types of hairdos walk through this maze of aisles, bins, and end-cap displays: the tightly curled, the heavily-shellacked, the Easter egg-colored, the pigtailed, and even the bald. These captains of hair commandeer their vessels as soon as they file through the automatic glass doors. The cargo ship is launched and guided through the vast selection of human staples and non-essentials. All the while, the ship’s bowels are loaded with planning and purpose; but, at times, seemingly without a single thought or any sense at all.

This place can be risky, too. All day long it holds dear the most perilous combination of “traffic impeders”—the very young and the very old (and their handlers). Additionally, these polarized sub-groups can have the most interesting of hair styles known to mankind and they can butt heads like nobody’s business.

Welcome to inside the commissary, or in layman’s terms, the military’s grocery store. Upon entry, one should be issued full-body padding and a hand paddle that reads, “Sorry!” on one side and “Excuse me,” on the other. I say this not only because you will constantly bump into your fellow shoppers, but you will also rapidly tire of saying those apologetic phrases over and over again.

Silent “severe storm alerts” fill the gulf and are unheeded. Even the produce section may sound out a simulated thunder clap followed by rain sprinkles. Such troubled waters bring out the worst in people and I can attest to that personally.

When my son was two-years-old, he was cursed with the ailment of daily tantrums. (I know that is highly unusual for that age bracket, but I digress.) But, since I am his mother, I knew best how to get his bursts of ill temper to pass more quickly—completely ignore his screams, cries, and flailing limbs. As I slighted his latest fit, I breezily inspected the navel oranges. (My cart was maybe six feet away. I didn’t want to look like I was “with him”, but I didn’t want to get stopped for child neglect either.) On deck with me at the oranges was a petite, senior woman.

I acknowledged her with a smile and she just glared back. I began to wonder if her helmet-hair was too heavy to keep her responsive. But, she broke her hush with a saucy, “I hope I don’t have to hear that [my son] the whole time I’m in here.”

A little miffed, I softly responded, “Well, I hope you don’t either.”

Despite that, she forged ahead with, “You should take him outside!”

Whoa, Gussy! This made me start to waffle and scramble, but then my right arm swung around to almost hit her between the eyes, with my index finger extended outward.As I stood for all mothers who suffered in stores with their embarrassingly loud children, I shouted, “Why don’t you mind your own business, lady?!”

That emphatic statement left the old bat speechless, but me in a near nervous breakdown.

I returned to my son, who had fallen asleep upright, and wheeled towards the condiments. I wanted to go home.  But, now, I had a napping toddler and I needed to complete filling my vessel with—something.

The explosion was heard ’round the shipyard. On my way out, I was stopped by well-wishers with “high-fives” or by others who gave me looks of reproach. With no hair out-of-place, I retreated to the cashier’s line soaking in the incident and its fallout. Maybe straight-jackets should be issued at embarkation as well.

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2 Responses to “A Leviathan with a Hook And a Line”

  1. I have been in a lot of Commissaries, both while on active duty and as a veteran, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I may have missed it a time or two but fitful babies, cranky mothers and nosy old ladies aren’t confined to Commissaries.  In fact, the only time it came close was when I happened to go to the Commissary at Pax River, Md.(had to be on a dare!)in 1969.  I saw some young’uns running loose but it didn’t take Mom long to get them in tow.  LOL… is life just everywhere all the time, isn’t it?

  2. I think this story is an exception. I haven’t had a problem or seen this happen since. It was totally ridiculous. It polarized the women that day—women who felt for me and women who thought I was a lousy mom.