Wednesday, April 14, 2010
It seems that every neighborhood across America has one, an eccentric person known only by a nick name. We’ve lived in neighborhoods with a “Pond Lady”, a “Carcass”, a “Cowboy Bob”, and of course, “the Cat Lady”. These are the people that are at the heart of urban legends. They are woven into the American fabric. In our small town is a woman known only as “The Turban Lady”.
The Turban Lady is about 65 or so. Propped on her nose are 1950’s cat eye glasses with tarnished rhinestones. She always appears to be wearing hastily applied bright red lipstick. No one in town that I’ve spoken to has ever seen her without her white turban pulled snuggly onto her head and a pack of dogs by her side. Her house is small, about 600 square feet and is surrounded by million dollar homes. Water stained cardboard boxes cover her windows and trash is piled up high on the front porch. There’s an old camper and an even older car on the back of her lot. Both are completely surrounded by weeds, blackberry bushes and assorted vines. She has a little, old, white Toyota truck with a camper shell on it. She’s frequently seen driving around town in that little truck, always with her turban and always with her dogs.
The Turban Lady seems to be a rather cranky old woman. Years ago I pulled into a parking space that was one space away from the one she had chosen. She leaned out of her little truck and barked “asshole” at me. Then there was the day a few summers ago that my daughter, Karli, pulled in front of her in traffic. It was at one of those spots where two lanes merge into one. The Turban Lady was infuriated. She began screaming at my daughter, flipping her off and tried to run her off of the road. Karli kept driving scared to death and the Turban Lady followed. When Karli came to the turn for our street she drove by it. She was too afraid to let the Turban Lady know where we lived. Karli drove through nearby neighborhoods, down back roads and side streets until she lost her enraged tailgater. There have been similar accounts from people all over our small town. The Turban Lady is not to be messed with.
Today Nikki and I had a wonderful sushi lunch and then went to buy some items for tonight’s dinner. As we pulled into the congested Safeway parking lot we saw the Turban Lady. She was just about to park her little white, dog filled truck. I made sure that I parked several spaces away with a few cars in between my car and hers. Nikki and I waited for her to go into the store before we got out of our car. I wasn’t taking any chances. The woman scares me.
As soon as she disappeared into Safeway, Nikki and I got out of our car and headed for the entrance. Nikki got the basket as I looked at the fruit. We decided on some Gala apples, some bananas and then chose fresh basil and rosemary for tonight’s pizza. I wasn’t going to have time to make pizza sauce from fresh tomatoes so we went down the aisles to find the canned tomato sauce. Nikki and I were chatting away when we turned the corner of the aisle that the sauce was on. My heart stopped. There was the Turban Lady. She was looking at the canned soups.
Nikki and I looked at each other and decided to take a chance. We would get our tomato sauce and tomato paste and be on our way. I warned Nikki not to make eye contact with her, but it’s hard not to stare when you see the woman. We pushed our cart carefully down the aisle. We didn’t want to rattle her. The sauce we wanted was right behind where she was standing. I tried to find what I was looking for while staying a few feet away but I couldn’t see it. I could feel a panic attack coming on. I was going to have to be her presence longer than I wanted. Any sliver of time near her was frightening enough, but a few extra seconds terrified me.
She seemed to be totally involved in choosing her can of soup. She was reading each label and examining each picture on each can. Maybe we were safe. Maybe I would find my sauce and Nikki and I could be on our way before she knew we were there. I slowly walked up behind her. As soon as I had, I wished that I hadn’t. Something hit me in the face. It enveloped my entire body and nearly knocked me out. It was an overpowering smell of pet urine, body odor, garbage and dirty dog, very dirty dog. I tried to hold my breath. The thought of holding in the putrid cloud that had filled my lungs was battling with my body’s desire for fresh, clean air but there was no fresh air. I was getting light headed and dizzy as I reached down and grabbed two cans of tomato sauce. I quickly dropped the cans into the basket. As I let them go I could see Nikki wrinkling her nose. She had been hit too.
I had to get my daughter out. Hell, I had to get myself out. I still hadn’t taken another breath. My vision was becoming blurry. I was seeing spots. I was going to pass out. Shit! We had to get out of that cloud of funk fast. Nikki and I scurried around the corner and stopped to breathe. Holy freaking crap! The smell was there too. We practically ran down the aisle to the next one before we stopped. Then I could feel it coming on. I was going to puke.
I was gagging. My eyes were watering. Mascara was running down my face. Worst of all I knew that the cameras in the store’s ceiling were catching every tear and every wretch. I was sure each employee within shot of the video feed was watching me stand there trying not to lose my lunch. They were probably taking bets on when I would puke all over the floor. I had to get control of myself.
Nikki came up behind me and asked what the smell was. I couldn’t think about it. I had to think of something else and fast. Oh God, I could still smell it. I had to get rid of that odor. Then I remembered the bag of apples that we had put in the basket. I grabbed one and shoved it up to my nose. Ahhhhh, the smell of fresh apples took me away from it all, but only for a second. Nikki was staring at me like I had lobsters coming out of my ears. She asked again what the smell was and again I could feel my stomach rising. “Nikki, stop! I’ll tell you in a minute”. I pushed the apple up to my nose once more, deeply taking in its fresh scent. I tried to take my mind to another place, a clean place. I thought of being on the beaches of Hawaii sipping a Mai Tai with my husband.
I began to calm and was at a point that I thought I could finally speak. I turned to Nikki and she started laughing, laughing at me, laughing at the situation and laughing from relief. The more she laughed the better I felt and I began laughing with her. We were then able to continue our shopping. We cautiously looked down each aisle beforehand and scoped out the check stands before we chose one. We would take no more chance encounters with the Turban Lady. We had escaped another incident in the store, I didn’t puke. My daughter and I had a good laugh. We just had one more thing to do, call Karli and tell her the entire story.