I turned away from the manicurist and looked out at the throngs lined up at registers, cashing out groceries to the din of hundreds of shopping carts. The sprightly manicurist's pseudo-professional explanation was still ringing in my ears.
"Ma'am, I can fix only the two nails that are messed up bad, I am sorry," she had said. Her Daisy Duck voice grated my frayed nerves. I am never coming back to this nail salon, I vowed to myself, as I looked into her eyes, searching for the faintest hint of remorse. A tactic best used on my children, not on nail salon workers, not the ones in Walmart.
"Have a seat over there, ma'am and I'll take care of you in a few minutes," was how she rendered my pressing matter into an almost trivial request. So, while she tended to the redhead in a Waffle House uniform who had arrived before me, I sat in my assigned seat and fumed over why I did not have the gumption to make a real scene. I mulled over whether to take over a pedicure massage chair and launch the plethora of buttons. At the very least, they could offer an unhappy customer a free massage. Was I a pushover? Would I never grow tired of being the everlasting obliging, respectful human being in this lifetime? Was this kind of substandard service to be expected from retail stores inside Walmart 24-hour Supercenters, I wondered?
Then I caught sight of the towering expanse of his body. His back was towards me, and he leaned like the tower of Pisa, his face turned towards a boy and a girl just beyond him, tussling at a self-checkout register. My eyes fastened on the girl, the marked aggression in her movements (a hasty snatch, a careless shove); and the boy, a lumbering bit of a lad, with a fat pimple-ridden face, who now sidled along the aisle towards the leaning tower, his father; his tail between his legs. The girl, well experienced at executing such time-out procedures, continued scanning groceries, methodically placing them in the shopping cart. Her face bore an expression of indulgent resolve, as if she was accustomed to having her way every day.
By now, the boy was complaining about the girl; witness the slouch in his shoulders, the palm of his free hand raised upward in hopeless plea, disloyal lips forming confabulations of a sister's acts. He hashed through them, pointing needlessly, before reaching for his father’s arm, the pressure behind his motion was startling in its force. He went for the arm in the desperate way I clutched at my two-year old, years ago, when he made a run between two parked cars onto a busy street. The man wrenched his arm away; the look on the boys face remains seared in my memory to this day. Something was amiss. This trio was a disconcerting distraction; in their bland coordinates of pre-washed cotton, and faded khaki put together for comfort, not style.
And as the girl, her task complete, now approached with the cart, the man inclined his head towards her. She smoothly rammed the cart into her brother while surreptitiously slipping a cellular phone into their father’s pocket. Then, completely ignoring the boy’s protestations grabbed their father’s now free arm and propelled him forward.
That was when I noticed the man’s dark sunglasses and his cane. He was blind.