Friday, February 19, 2016

Pliny and the Elders

Let's get a few things straight before I start.

I am not a liar.
I am not a flirt.
I am not a cheater.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, I'll say this:

I smile at strangers.
I'm a bit on the chatty side.
I laugh a lot, sort of loud, and sometimes at inappropriate times. 

This week I got a call and let the answering machine pick it up. A man with a strong accent was calling, saying he was from _______ Market and he was calling for a certain Ernie...

My first thought was that this was the man from the market down the street, The Guy from Nepal. My sister and I met him when she was here, and we've had some contact here and there. Nice guy, strong accent, works at a market, leaving a message, The Guy from Nepal was calling, so I picked it up.

No, it was a different guy, different market, different accent. Mr. Different Market Guy was calling to say that my husband's order of Pliny the Elder came in and he could come and pick it up. I explained that my husband was attending a school all week and may not be able to come in immediately. But right away I knew that was a mistake, because when ______ Market calls to say they have Pliny the Elder, you drop whatever you are doing, get yourself in your vehicle and race to go pick up this most coveted of beers. Personally, I don't know what all the fuss is about, but Ernst and his co-worker Jeff and some of their buddies just love the stuff. 

I was busy and had to work that afternoon, so was not so much in the mood for a beer run. I called Jeff's wife Myra and told her that ______ Market had Pliny and did she feel like picking up some. She went while on errands, and Mr. Market Guy asked her who she was picking up the beer for. Apparently there is a list and if your name is not on Zee List - no beer for you. She said my husband's name, and he sold her two bottles. This beer is not sold in six packs. It's sold in single bottles. They keep it in the back. They don't just sell it to anybody. You must be on Zee List. Myra dropped one bottle off for us. We were two proud wives, excited to show off to our husbands the prized beer we scored for them. 

Then I got an idea. What if I just drove over to ______ Market to see if I could get some more? Like a Pliny Pig. A Beer Hog. The World's Best Wife Ever. Not having any plan of action whatsoever, I just waltzed in the place, cash in my wallet. 

Mr. Market Guy was on the phone, so I smiled at him and smiled at the man in line. The elderly man in line. And I stood there and waited. Older Man started up a conversation. 

"You have such pretty colored hair."
(Gulp) "Thanks."
"Do you color it?"
On the not too exhaustive list of questions a strange man can ask a woman - Do you color your hair? is not on the list. No, stay away from hair color questions guys, don't go there.
"Yes, I do."
"You know, it's so nice to see a woman who smiles. Just this morning I let someone into my lane, and she didn't even smile or wave. It sure is so nice to see a smiling woman."
Oh, if I could just take back that smile, I thought, I think an old man is flirting with me.
"Yep, I agree, there is a definite lack of human kindness in this world, we should all be nicer to each other." I told the stranger with the hair color questions.
So then he brought out his best line ever:
"What is the name of that hair color?"

I laughed too loud, and inappropriately, and was just about to tell him Medium Chestnut Brown that actually went a bit too red on me - because I am super chatty with strangers, when Mr. Market Guy got off the phone. Whew, on to my mission. Scoring some Pliny.

"So I hear you've got Pliny the Elder? Could I have a few bottles?"
"Are you on Zee List?"

Gulp. Oh man, now what? I had no idea this was so serious. Suddenly I'm stuck in an episode of Seinfeld, with a combo plot of the Soup Nazi, Hop Sing from the Chinese restaurant and the store with the good peaches. What do I do? 

So I smiled real nice and gave him the name of my husband. But immediately I was busted. He said another lady had come in, using that same name. Zee List did not lie. He kept staring at Zee List and shaking his head and talking about the other lady.

This was bad. This could really mess up our reputation at _____ Market. The smile hadn't worked, What do I do now?

Rambling. That is my next go-to tactic when smiling hasn't worked. I rambled on and on how Myra's husband and my husband are teachers who work together and they really love Pliny the Elder and what is really funny is that my husband (the nice man on Zee List) is in something called Elder School this week (Get it, Pliny the Elder School?) and it would be so nice if I could surprise him with this special beer and by the way we are in a Romanian congregation and Jeff is an elder too but he is in Chinese and I sure would be happy to get that beer and...

Shut. Up. Jessica.

But by now the Hair Color Man was chiming in about how nice I am, and it sure is nice to meet nice people. Mr. Market Guy was glaring at me. He kept looking at Zee List, and looking at me and trying to process it all. He went and got the beer. He looked at Zee List. He took my money. Then I asked if Myra could just be added to the few, the proud, the Pliny Purchasers. He wrote down her name, said we would get the call next time, but no more breaking the rules. I thanked him, shook his hand and immediately got worried that he was from a culture where smiling chatty women wearing Medium Chestnut Brown hair don't shake hands with strange men. 

I was almost out of the store, thanking Mr. Market Guy profusely, waving goodbye to the Older Flirt - but we were not done. He looked one more time at Zee List. He asked me if I had a picture of my husband. Gulp. I hoped I could find a super respectable photo of my husband on my phone that would get us back in his good graces.  My phone at that very moment lost all power, so no photo for you, Market Man.

Time will only tell if we've been crossed off Zee List forever. If so, there'll be no phone call from ______ Market. No Pliny. No beer for us. Gulp.

It would be easier to just drive to the brewery.