Yesterday was another snow day. My in-laws are in town, and my husband, Ed, had taken the day off work to spend time with them.
He was having a little trouble getting motivated to do anything. I don’t know what he had planned to do with his parents, but the snow, which had turned to rain by mid-morning, seemed to have ruined both his plans and his mood.
Ed lay in bed looking at his phone. His parents were in the living room. His father showed me videos of Ed’s little nieces on his iPad and his mother did Sudoku. She told me that the book she was using came from Taiwan. Her brother lives there, and you can get much harder Sudoku books in Taiwan than you can in the United States. She has her brother send her his books after he is finished with them, and then she erases his answers.
After the topics of the grandchildren and Soduku were pretty much exhausted, I went back in the bedroom to see if I could rouse Ed.
“We could walk around the mall,” I suggested. It was cold and rainy, but that would give us some exercise.
“Nah,” he said.
“What about a movie?”
This he was willing to consider, but he checked the listings of the theater closest to our apartment and found nothing he was willing to see.
“We could go to a different theater.”
Around two o’clock, I decided I’d go to the grocery store. With four people in the apartment, we were running low on a lot of things, and I needed to buy some things to fix dinner. We’d had Italian food at the mall the night they arrived, and Ed had picked up Chinese food the night after that. I figured I should cook for them at least once while they are in town.
I asked if anyone wanted anything from the store. Ed’s mother asked if I could buy some more fruit. His father wanted some Diet Coke. I asked if Coke Zero was okay, and he said it didn’t matter.
Ed said he didn’t want anything, and then as I was making the list, he said, “Oh! Could you buy me some chalk?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I spilled olive oil on one of my shirts. I read on Slate that if you put chalk on the stain, it will absorb the oil.”
At Wegmans, I picked up the fish and some squash for dinner. I selected apples, clementines and bananas. I put Coke Zero in the cart.
I went to the stationery aisle to look for the chalk. It took me a minute to find it and it was in my hand before I realized that it was colored chalk. I opened the box and peeked inside. Not a single stick of white.
I hung the box back on the rack and scanned the area for white chalk. None.
“Well,” I thought. “I can just nip into Target on the way home.”
I paid for the groceries, loaded up the car, and drove across the street to Target. Really, I could have walked to Target, but I was worried about the groceries, particularly the fish. The sun was out and I’d had to leave the groceries in the passenger compartment because my husband had forgotten a bag of garbage in the trunk.
The Target by Wegmans is not my usual Target. I was on a mission, but I didn’t know where I was going. Finally, I found the stationery aisle, and the place where the white chalk should have been, but they were out of white chalk.
I had passed the toy section earlier. I decided to look there. I found packages of sidewalk chalk–I found tie-die chalk and glitter chalk, but no white chalk. I rummaged through the rack found a package of three fat sticks of white–but no! It was glow-in-the-dark chalk. It had a vaguely greenish tint. I was sorely tempted to buy it, but I was afraid it would stain the shirt.
I found a Target associate and asked him where I would find needles and thread.
“C36,” he said almost immediately. “Go up to those pillows and turn left.”
I was impressed. As I sped past the pillows, I wondered if he had just made that up to get rid of me, but no, aisle C36 had a small sewing section. The small sewing section offered sewing machine oil, but no sewing chalk.
I decided to go back to the stationery section and take a quick look through the clearance section. I didn’t find any chalk but I did find two nice binders marked down from $5.00 to $1.48.
“You are on a chalk mission, ” I said to myself sternly.
“Yes,” I thought back. “But we just ran out of binders in the library and students have been asking for them a lot lately.”
“Send them to guidance.” I told myself.
I was on my way out of the store when a package in the party section caught my eye. It was an egg decorating kit, with black paint and four pieces of chalk. One of them was white.
“Ah-ha!” I may have said out loud.
I picked up the kit. It was three dollars. Perhaps Mimi, my mother-in-law, and I could decorate some eggs. But I loathe hard boiled eggs. If we used hollowed out ones, we could paint them with the black paint, but surely they would break if we tried to draw on them with chalk.
I decided to look around the party section a little more, and lo-and-behold! There was an entire section devoted to chalkboard party decorations. I stepped over to it. I found the white chalk. I picked up a package.
Three dollars for six pieces of white chalk.
Clearly Target assumes that people who decorate for parties with chalkboard are idiots.
It is safe to say that I had forgotten all about the groceries, the fifteen dollars of fresh fish, in the car. I was just tired of looking at chalk.
“If you buy this, you can go home,” I said to myself.
Just a few aisles over the listed price for a box of sixteen pieces of chalk was $1.72.
“That chalk is sold out,” I reminded myself.
I hesitated, and then decided to look one more place–the seasonal section. You could put chalk in an Easter basket.
With the three-dollar chalk still in my hand, I walked back there and looked around for a few minutes. Chalk!
It was the same assortment of tie-die, glitter and glow-in-the-dark chalk I had seen in the toy section. But wait! There was some Crayola chalk as well. Darn! It was the same box of colored chalk they had had at Wegmans.
I carefully looked through the Crayola chalk to make sure I had not overlooked a box of white. On the bottom aisle, I found a box of sixteen fat pieces of sidewalk chalk. One of them was white. I didn’t know what I would do with the additional fifteen pieces but I didn’t care.
“Wait,” I said to myself. “This could be more than three dollars.”
I found a price check scanner. Two teenage girls with a shopping cart slipped in front of me. One of them picked up a teddy bear, fumbled around to find the barcode on the tag and scanned the it. She considered the bear for a few seconds and put it back in the cart. Her friend picked up another item, looked for the barcode, and scanned it. She said something to her friend, who was rummaging through the cart for yet another item.
I looked around saw another scanner down the aisle. I started walking towards it.
“Sorry!” called the second girl.
“It’s okay.” I said as I walked away. “Take your time.” I hadn’t intended to sound nasty but I heard the irritation in my voice.
I scanned the chalk. Normally $2.49. On sale for $1.99.
I walked back up to the party section and replaced the three-dollar chalk. I swung into the school supply section and picked up those binders for my students. I felt guilty about being curt with the girls.
I went to the checkout. My bill came to $5.25. I had a five-dollar promotional gift card and dug a quarter out from the bottom of my purse. Perfect.
I drove home and carried the chalk and the groceries up the steps to the apartment. My asthma unexpectedly kicked in a little as I climbed the last few steps. I put away the groceries and set the chalk on the counter.
Ed came over to the kitchen.
“Why’d you buy all this chalk?”