A little story about a Lidl lonely man

Have you ever noticed that often even the most entertaining of stories have drawn-out-need-to-set-the-stage, read-on-the-pot moments before dropping into the heart of the plot? Just one of the many benefits of this blog, it can be read on any device, in any location… even the bathroom. Eliminates a lot of waste…ed time and provides one less excuse to delay a not-so-riveting 10-30 second read. (Disclaimer: timing approximate depending on eyesight and regularity.)

Let us take a moment…

For those not familiar, Lidl is an international discount store. The chain is a German owned retailer similar to Aldi’s sans the chaos. Not spy-worthy information as this and other tidbits can easily be found on their website. Obviously, a bit of unsolicited Lidl advertisement but a necessary backstory for what is coming.

In the sphere of thought, absurdity and perversity remain the masters of the world, and their dominion is suspended only for brief periods.

Charles Simmons

Routine has become quite jejune, monotonous, tedious even. The pandemic has made life, lifeless. Repetition is undoubtedly the main ingredient for being stir crazy. There is only so much TV you can watch, snacks you can eat and most normal people only have one mailbox to check.

Yet check they do. Ok, check I do…. sometimes several times a day. All the while, knowing the contents, if any, will be minimal and rubbish at best. My bills, notifications, and even magazines are delivered to my email inbox as e- everything. Yet by my own volition, I still check.

How many of us have found ourselves duplicating our actions, thoughtlessly, just to say we did something? So much so that others may view the efforts as strange, stalkerish even… This apparently was the delusions of the local HOA warden as she informed me that waiting at the curb, key in hand, waving like Forrest Gump to Lieutenant Dan, was creeping out mailman Pete.

Boredom or some wicked sense of cougarism are the only explanations for the self appointed postal porter to blurt out that my standing there smiling ear to ear seemed reminiscent to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Who could blame me? When every time the letter boy shoves the up-to-this-point worthless piece of junk mail in the lockbox, I envision opening the winning Publisher’s Clearing House envelope and immediately escaping to some tropical, uninhabited, Covid free, island with a Heath Ledger, pre-joker, look-a-like!

Recognition is key, an obvious realization when for Pete’s sake, he began quickly driving by and throwing mail from the truck’s window. This routine seemed to be evidence that a lack of variety and perpetual inhaling of my own carbon dioxide had catapulted me like so many others into a state of improbable hallucinations.

Admittedly, the unease in Pete’s eyes signified it was time to mask-up and find a new distraction.

Without any pressure, my not so young juvenile and I planned a brief getaway from our makeshift domestic stockade. Face coverings provided the perfect excuse for a no make-up and in her case, obviously no-hair-brushing adventure.

During the short, eight minute drive, passerbyers surely thought we were on our way to a day at an amusement park or more likely making a run from the local psych ward. Windows down, wind blowing my hair (and her tangled mess), singing in the form of what more likely sounded like a banshee yell, we pulled into the post-Teeter (as in Harris Teeter) parking lot. Half expecting or possibly hoping for a scene from the Walking Dead, the newly opened store and it’s parking lot were anything but abandoned. (Admittedly, I was slightly chagrined that Daryl Dixon was not lurking in the shadows, bow at the ready to save the day.)

Here is where that long awaited backstory comes in…

Lidl was definitely blooming, surprisingly mushrooming under the ongoing shitty circumstances in the world. People were filing in and out like dung beetles. Those leaving did so rolling carts filled with a ton of hoarded crap. Some without masks, others with coverings in place hiding what seemed to be smiling faces (easily identifiable by their slitted and somewhat crinkled eyes).

Stopping for just a squirt of hand sanitizer, we easily made our way into the store to gather a Lidl cure for the corona-melancholy of the last few months. There were the typical – bread and other bakery items, some frozen foods and thankfully an international wine aisle.

We were in this aisle when it happened.

My young companion, who is not of legal drinking age, was making purchasing suggestions by bottle shape, size and color. Neither of us connoisseurs, I was trying my best to explain the differences in her recommendations, when I first heard it. Quickly glancing her way, her expression said, yep, she had heard it too. Hearing it again, we were compelled to slowly turn towards the sound.

Did you hear about the guy?

Pivoting, we came face to face with an ordinarily normal looking gentleman. There in the middle of the aisle, this everyday looking Joe leaned in without taking a step asking yet again…

Did you hear about the guy?’ I stood there blinking rapidly and surely looking at him as if he was speaking German. “Did you hear about the guy?” Brief three second pause… …the one in Florida?” His eyebrow raised. Not both eyebrows, just the left one in a fashion that said “hey, I practice this in the mirror almost everyday.”

Speechless, I remained perched there in front of him. I did not need to observe the penetrating gaze coming from next to me. I felt it. Her mental stranger danger chant reverberating between the two of us in waves. She was surely gawking, mouth hanging open as this stranger initiated a conversation with another complete stranger.

He continued….

You didn’t hear about the guy in Florida?” Not knowing what he was referring to, I shook my head denying any knowledge of this guy in Florida. “Yeah, see there is this guy in Florida who was caught stuffing wine down his pants.” I could feel my jaw go slack and knew I was now beginning to gape at his outrageous news flash.

So this guy in a Florida stuffed like seven hundred dollars worth of wine down his pants. Could you imagine?” Although a question, he obviously did not wish an answer as he continued. “I couldn’t imagine. But… this guy in Florida, he stuffed all sorts of wine bottles down his pants! He shoved ‘em in the front, the back, seriously all the way down his pant legs!

His voice began to raise and crack in palpable delirium. “But wait. WAIT! That isn’t even the crazy part! Get this….” He became animated, talking with his hands. “He was able to walk out of the store. He walked out of the store with all that wine, seven hundred dollars worth! He had it stuffed down his pants and made it out of the store before they stopped him. Can you believe he walked right out of the store?!?He paused as if to catch his breath before continuing. “Of course, he was arrested.” During his tale, his voice fluctuated from a whisper to a high pitch of excitement then to somewhat disappointed as he shared the news of the arrest.

Goes to show you when times get tough, people will try about anything.

As if he had not uttered a word he stood silent. He just stood there. Waiting. Unquestionably, he was expecting some reaction.

There was little hope in my hiding the smile on my face as it widened. Even less hope of stifling the giggle that escaped me as I wondered if he was trying to talk me out of a life of wine crime. This thought made me snicker just a bit more as he could surely tell there was no pragmatic way of stuffing anything in my denim pants, leg or otherwise. A blind man could see my jeans provided no excess room as they were completely filled with the newly gained pandemic poundage.

The chuckle made him beam. His smile stretched on what seemed its own accord. He nodded an affirmative and quietly walked away.

My daughter gave me a sideways glance as we watched him saunter away…. “the neon sign on your forehead that says talk to me?” She said unreasonably loudly. “Well, it is apparently tattooed on your butt too! People think it is okay to just walk up and talk to you!”

The ride home as well as many weeks later have been riddled with, “hey, did you hear about the guy from Florida?

Always before, I explained such incidents away as my willingness and rare behavior of looking strangers in the eyes. Therefore, making me appear much more approachable.

But on that day, in that Lidl store, that man was talking proof that Corona has impacted us all.

The lonely man in Lidl shared a piece of the world’s absurdity with no mention of a pandemic, Corona virus or politics. So maybe just maybe, the little story from a Lidl lonely man was simply to weaken the effects of COVID-19, make us forget, and even laugh… if only for a brief moment.

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