Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No. 408 – Who’s Cryin Now

Performer: Journey
Songwriters: Jonathan Cain, Steve Perry
Original Release: Escape
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: Greatest Hits Live, 1998

As I mentioned, soon after beginning work at Food World my senior year in high school, when Journey owned the radio, I found that the job had fringe benefits—a lot of hot women came into the store. I mean, it’s a grocery store. Everyone has to eat, so everyone has to buy groceries.

I remember several, but there was one in particular who really caught my eye. She was a strawberry blonde with a nice body and classic beauty. She looked like a blonde Gibson girl and not just in appearance but also style. She wore her hair in a bun and had what can best be described as granny glasses.

That just made her hotter in my opinion. I imagined she was a model who was trying to cover it up and not draw too much attention. I further imagined her hair coming undone and cascading down over her shoulders like the proverbial naughty librarian in a music video. Hot!

She appeared to be about my age, but she didn’t go to Upper Arlington. When she came into the store, she was always with a parent and seemingly her little sister.

Not that it would’ve made a difference if she had come in on her own. There was no way I was going to talk to her. I had been well-drilled by the social caste at UA about where I stood in the pecking order of things. This girl was way out of my league, and I couldn’t have been more intimidated by her if she had been Christie Brinkley.

For a while during spring 1982 she came into the store a lot. It was almost as though I could set my watch to her appearance just before the dinner hour, and it was always the best part of my workday. Once in a while, I even found her alone in an aisle, but I was such a chicken, I couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I mean, what could I say? She didn’t go to my school, and I was so painfully fearful of looking like an idiot, I never said anything … which made me look like an idiot.

After a while, I noticed her parents come into the store by themselves or with maybe just the younger girl. I supposed to a certain extent I had something to do with that, that my attraction to the older girl was obvious but my complete social dysfunctionality made it so she finally didn’t want to come into the store and be around that creepy guy who never says anything.

The Sunday shift at Food World was great, because you didn’t have to get up too early, and the store closed early, at 8. But there was a trade-off:  Only two baggers were scheduled the entire day, so there never was any downtime. You always were up front, going in and out of the store, bagging huge orders, just busy for all eight hours.

Being the low guy on the totem pole most of the school year, I got a lot of Sunday shifts. One Sunday in June 1982, as I came off my break, I was in a particularly good mood. I had been on a high since graduation—I couldn’t wait to get away from UA and get off to college. Plus, it was my second break, late in the afternoon. The end of the workday was in sight. I don’t recall any particular plans, but whatever they were were better than being at work.

I remember chatting with one of the stockers as I heard the inevitable intercom bell ringing me up front. I don’t remember what he said, but it was something funny, and I had a smile on my face as I headed down an aisle towards the front … and there was the blonde again. In fact, I almost ran into her. Without a concern in the world, I gave her a quick smile and “Hi” before heading up front.

Within minutes, she was in the checkout line with her mother, standing right by me. I hadn’t seen her in maybe two months at this point, yet as casual as can be, I just asked her how she was doing, as if we had been long-lost friends.

I don’t know whether it took me being done with UA or whatever it was that the stocker and I discussed to loosen my lips, but what had been impossible for months suddenly was easy. I wasn’t at all nervous, and we chatted while I bagged the order. Then it was time for me to take it out to the car.

Food World was old school when it came to service: The baggers bagged, and if the order was large enough, we took it out to the car and loaded it in, for free. Tips not only weren’t encouraged, they weren’t accepted. It wasn’t a big deal to cart out the groceries; it was part of the job.

And on that fateful June day, it was a Godsend. Now I had extra time under the guise of work to talk with this beautiful girl as I loaded the paper bags of groceries into her family’s massive Suburban.

Her name was Beth. She lived just down the road. I learned that she wasn’t a model; she was, however, a candy-striper at Riverside, which was equally hot in my teen-age eyes.

She was sophomore at Watterson, the closest Catholic high school. Sophomore going to be a junior or going to be a sophomore? Going to be a sophomore. Huh boy. That meant she couldn’t have been 16. I was 18, and three years is a lot when you’re young.

Well, I wasn’t about to let a little thing like age get in the way of my attraction, so I asked Beth for a date the following weekend. She said yes. YES!! I got her number and said I’d call her to make plans in a day or two.

By now, I don’t know how long I had been outside chatting up Beth, but I was aware that it had been awhile, which meant that I had left Patty, the other bagger, to basically run the show. When I saw out of the corner of my eye Patty come out for about the sixth straight time, I knew I’d have to make it up to Patty somehow, but I wasn’t sorry.

I took my leave, floating about six inches off the ground. Two hours ago, I didn’t know her name. Now I had a date with Beth. She said yes … to me. Wow!

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