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Mountain Home Magazine

It Helps To Be Handy

May 01, 2021 01:50PM ● By Maggie Barnes

“You should put something on your hands.” I was standing at the kitchen counter, rubbing my sandpaper-like hands together as my husband passed through the room.

“They are so dry, I can hear them. Don’t you have lotion or something?”

Oh, I’ve got something. Jars and tubes and bottles and tubs of something. All promising to give me the hands of a nineteen year old, preferably one who has never worked a day in her life. Though the warm breezes of May caressed our hilltop home, my skin was stuck in January. Happens every year. It takes most of the summer for my body to hydrate again and, if I get any sort of warm weather “glow,” it comes in October, when I look as out of place as a green leaf in fall, and people often inquire if I am feverish.

I mostly ignore my hands, even when it gets to the point that the socks from the dryer snag my rough fingers. But one night, I was forced to admit that the situation had gotten...well...out of hand.

The person in front of me at the market had unloaded their groceries onto the checkout conveyor belt, and I started shoving my stuff forward in the cart. I have this unreasonable fear of making the cashier wait, so I try to be very efficient in my grocery movements. This includes getting my rewards card and debit card out of my wallet and at the ready.

While I waited, I checked out the headlines on the tabloids. “Jackie O and Elvis’s Love Child Now Mayor of Hoboken”—they must be proud. “72-Year Old Gives Birth”—her husband must be proud. “Aliens Reject Earth’s Message of Friendship”—we should all be proud. Of the aliens.

I glanced at my cards and realized I had the wrong form of payment. Panic time. Now I had to get the right one out of my wallet and the cashier was already reaching for the last item of the person in front. I scrambled to get my wallet open and find the correct card. When I yanked it out, it slid right through my coarse fingers, glided down the conveyor belt and disappeared under the lip of the mechanism the belt emanates from.

I froze. The cashier was waiting for me to unload my cart, and my primary method of paying for the necessities of life had vanished in this massive machine. Stammering, I told her what happened. She seemed as stunned as I. I asked if there was a way to open the conveyor belt. She had no clue. We stood there, looking at each other, until it occurred to her to that she needed to call someone.

A manager responded with all the enthusiasm of a Bassett hound with a bad tooth. She shrugged when asked about access to the conveyor belt. “Steve is the only one who would know, and he’s gone.”

“Oh yeah, Steve,” the cashier nodded. They both looked at me like I should know of Steve’s mechanical prowess.

“Can we call Steve?” I was getting concerned I was never going to see that card again.

“Oh, you don’t want to call Steve. He lives way out in Ridgebury,” the manager stated.

Again, the three of us stood there like an oil painting. Apparently, it was up to me to move this conversation along.

“Why does the fact Steve lives in Ridgebury nullify the logic of calling him?” I tried.

I think I lost them at “nullify.” Finally, the manager said, “He’ll get mad.”

Steve—the all-knowing-conveyor-belt-guru—must be a jealous guardian of his off hours. Or he’s just a nut. I suddenly felt the need to keep Steve away from my debit card.

By now, the light was off on the cashier’s lane and people had detoured to other lines. The two women continued to look at me, and it was clear the next move was mine.

“Do you have a screwdriver?”

So that’s how I came to be laying on the slimy, crusty floor of a supermarket, underneath the conveyor belt, holding a small flashlight in my teeth and pleading with the rusted screws to turn. I could feel my hair getting matted and I tried not to think about with what. My toes got smashed by two shopping carts of people who, distracted by the aliens’ rejection of Earth, shoved their carts into the lane, despite the lower half of my body blocking it.

After the germs of a thousand pieces of unwashed fruit and the crumbs of countless bakery boxes had fallen on my face, I got the panel opened and snaked my fingers into the curve of the belt to be rewarded with the sweet feel of plastic.

My debit card was undamaged and fully functional, as proven minutes later when I paid for my groceries and reloaded my cart. The manager took the screwdriver back without comment.

“At least we didn’t need to call Steve!” grinned the cashier and the manager nodded in hearty agreement. Me losing my debit card forever caused them no strife whatsoever, but annoying Steve? Whoa Nellie, that was crossing a line that sane-minded people wanted no part of.

So, Steve in Ridgebury, you owe me.

You can start with a manicure.

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