Perhaps it was the suede elbow patches on the tweed sport coat. Or maybe the two inch cuffs draping over the top of my Bass wing-tipped Oxford's. It might have been the English wool felt cap 'strategically dipped' to the right. It might even have been the articulate elocution of my banter with the cashier while waiting in the check-out line. The glint of gold on wrist and fingers may have contributed. Probably a combination of all the above added to my overall public demeanor. Whatever it was, it inspired the somewhat faded yet distinguished older gentleman behind me to lean forward and mutter conspiratorially in my ear with a nod and glance to my right: "It's people like us that pay the way for people like them."
To my right was a youngish woman with several children all of whom were gleefully bagging and boxing their purchases. This particular grocery store cuts its prices by not employing people to bag for you. The store provides plastic bags and the cardboard boxes the products come in for toting. Their cart was full of the necessities of their lives. Not so much from a nutritional point of view but from the need to make their food-benefits allowance last through the month. The card that these benefits are purchased with is very conspicuous.
People like us. People like them.
When did I become an 'us'?
I cannot say the woman or her children were particularly tidy or stylish. I can say that they all seemed very cheerful and boisterous. Their zeal may have drowned out the comment. Or, they were so accustomed to hearing such things they had developed the second nature to ignore it. I pray that it was the former rather than the latter.
I heard him. The cashier heard him. It was calculated to be heard.
People like us.
My cart was fairly light and tallying up was quick. I keep cardboard boxes in the trunk so I don't need to bag inside the store. I can sort and load directly from the cart. Something snapped. I am not a reticent person.
I turned to look at my fellow check-out denizen. My chin was elevated allowing me the advantage of looking down my nose. A slow appraisal. "People like 'us'?" I repeated at length. "From looking at you, I would never have guessed that you were an alternatively-oriented tree-hugging socialist! I'm so glad to know there's more than one of 'us'"! I leaned toward him, gave him a big, fondling hug and an embarrassingly loud, wet kiss on the cheek. "Keep the faith!" was my smiling exit line from the store.
I only hope the paramedics arrived in time to be of some assistance.