Midnight found me shopping at Safeway. I was just picking up a couple of items. I had a sudden craving for some fruit yogurt and I grabbed some butter and bagels while I was there. I stepped into the empty checkout lane and set my items down and moved forward past the register. The clerk slid a large wallet from the conveyor belt down in front of my grocery items. Before it really had a chance to click, there was a commotion behind me. I turned to catch the show.
“I can’t Ma’am.” the clerk in the only other open aisle was protesting. “That’s a hundred and fifty two dollars. I can’t just let you walk out.” Her customer was indignant. “Of course you can,” she said. “You know I’m good for it.” The poor clerk was upset. “How would I know that?” The girl in line threw her arms out in exasperation. “Don’t you know who I am?”
She was dressed plainly with no makeup so she could blend in with the public. Her hair was wrinkled and unruly and she wore a scarf over it that made her look a little like an old lady, but I laughed when I looked at her face. I still recognized her. Mýa was checking out in the aisle next to me! “I’m sorry Ma’am, maybe if you could show me some ID…” Mýa couldn’t take it anymore. “I told you I lost my wallet! How am I gonna show you ID?” She was raising her voice a little now.
“Nine forty seven, Miss,” my courtesy clerk said, oblivious to the commotion next door. I handed him a ten and picked up the wallet from the counter. I scooped up the fifty three cents from the change dispenser and threw it into the collection canister for breast cancer. I was starting toward the next aisle, when another girl pushed past me in excitement. “Girl! What you doin’ in town?!” Mýa looked over her way. “Oh hey, C!” she said, stepping away from the register and giving the new girl a big hug. “I’m tryin’ to get me some groceries!” She threw the clerk a dirty look. “But someone here thinks I’m not good for one fifty.”
They chattered for a second, and then the two of them went around with the clerk some more. Mýa’s friend explained to the clerk who she was, but the clerk just kept apologizing. I stood there, mesmerized now by the fact that I was standing this close to Mýa. Finally, the friend said, “You know what? Forget it. Just put it on my credit card.” She started into her purse and then stopped. Mýa’s “Case of the Ex” started playing over the store PA. Her friend dropped her purse on the counter and pointed up. “You hear that? You hear that?” she asked the clerk. “That’s your girl here!” She pointed at Mýa.
The clerk was completely overwhelmed now, but could only apologize one more time. “I’m so sorry, it’s store policy,” she complained. “There’s nothing I can do without a manager.” Mýa’s friend nodded her head. “Yeah, you know what?” she said. “That’s right! You get me a manager! Where’s your manager?” Mýa grabbed her friend’s arm. “Let it go, C. Girl’s just doin’ her job.”
Suddenly, I got over my awe enough to remember what I was holding in my hand. “I’ll get that,” I called over. All three girls turned and looked at me in instant silence. Mýa’s song poetically filled the void. I walked from my aisle to theirs. “A hundred fifty two dollars, right?” I asked the clerk. Mýa stopped me. “There’s no call for that,” she said softly. “C can get this. Thank you.” I smiled and held up the wallet. “I think this should about cover it.”
“Where the hell’d you get that?” Mýa laughed in surprise, taking her wallet from my hand. I shrugged. “I rescued it.” I said. “It was about to get run over by some yogurt.” She gave me a puzzled look. “I had a craving,” I explained. She looked up at the ceiling and back down at me. Up close now, I could easily picture her all fitted with her show makeup on. “Don’t you go anywhere,” she said. She turned and paid for her groceries, while Celia introduced herself to me.
I couldn’t even hear C talking. Mýa had asked me not to leave and my ears were ringing. Mýa! Was it because I didn’t make off with her wallet? Maybe because I didn’t freak out on her in public. She probably wasn’t used to many hassles, so it might have just been that. She finished paying and interrupted my thoughts.
“Fruit on bottom?” I shook my head and shrugged in confusion. “The yogurt that was gonna run my wallet over… fruit on bottom, or stirred?” she clarified. “Oh, fr…” I started to answer, but she interrupted me with a burst of laughter. “Girl, I knew it! I was here for the exact same craving, I just bought a lot more to cover it up!”
Thanks to a sudden desire for some spoiled milk in a plastic cup, Jessi and I witnessed a back stage treat the next night. In between sets, Mýa told a quick story about a courtesy clerk who didn’t recognize her. “This one goes out my girl, Annie, for not havin’ the common sense to say no to a little fruit on the bottom at midnight…”
© 2010 Anne Schilde
Any similarity to Mýa’s actual persona is purely coincidental!