I entered a grocery store on a rainy night (common setting for many of my most vivid dreams) to meet my mother inside, whom, I hoped, had already finished shopping and was already in a checkout lane. The store appeared to be the Hikes Point Kroger in Louisville, the main grocery for much of my childhood, prior to the remodeling that took place sometime in the early 1980s. I was an adult in the dream however. My mother’s age in the dream was indeterminate.
My mother was, in fact, in the process of unloading her cart onto the conveyor belt as I walked into the store. As I headed toward her to help her unload, I noticed the bag boy in the next aisle. He was approximately seventeen years old, chubby-cheeked, sloppily dressed, with a curly frat-fro. He was also red-faced from exertion because he had his feet hooked into the bag holder at the end of the checkout line and was hanging upside down from it, like a kid on a jungle gym.
Unable to do his job from that position, he instead heckled customers as they left the store. “Enjoy your foods, fatty,” he yelled at an older man. “Pepsi, pepsi, pepsico,” he chanted as a woman with two young children nervously walked past him. This behavior greatly angered me for some reason, so I reached down and delivered a sharp slap across his face and firmly said, “No.” Everyone in the store stopped and watched as bagboy laboriously tried to pull himself up and unhook his feet from the bag holder. After what seemed like minutes of trying, he finally managed to get loose and roll onto the floor. Trembling with rage as he stood up, he grabbed a can of cream corn (another puzzling recurring dream element for me) and reared back as if to throw it at me. I responded with, “Don’t you…”, as I prepared to throw what I had been holding all along, two helium filled, foil balloons that said “Get Well”. Bagboy found the prospect of getting popped with gift balloons unpleasant enough to stay his hand.
At this point, I demanded that the cashier call the store manager. The manager, who resembled a short Daniel Stern, escorted me to the gumball machines and asked me to explain what had happened. “He was hanging upside down,” was my only response. As I said this, I noticed that at least a dozen other patrons had crowded closely around us, all waiting to ask the manager grocery related questions. I looked at the silently staring crowd and said, “Do you mind?” while gently pushing them away. The store manager had changed into a pleasant-faced, portly woman. She gestured to the bagboy, who continued to glare at me in the distance, and explained, “Thing is, I’m taking him to a party tonight.” Somehow, this statement made me realize that the bagboy was a “special needs” person. And I had slapped his face in public.
As we left the store, my mother glared at me as if this wasn’t the first time I’d publicly shamed her in this manner.