“Wanna buy some cookies?”

She’s standing with her mom at the entrance to the grocery store, snugly bundled against the rain, reminding me that it’s Girl Scout cookie season. Stacks and stacks of cookie boxes weigh down her table and an artfully handmade sign–COOKEZ 4 SAIL!–proclaims that she’s open for business.

I gulp and stiffen the ol’ backbone. I don’t need ANY cookies, not even those peanut-buttery ones, or the sweetly tangy lemon–STOP IT CYNTHIA!

Besides, my neighborhood scout-lettes will eagerly sell me a box or dozen. Buying cookies from the neighborhood is mandatory where I live; I’d probably have to sneak strangers’ cookies in under cover of darkness.

Little miss wanna-buy-some-cookies is gonna be disappointed, shivering there in wet, looking wistfully in my direction…

I can feel my resolve slipping. “Hi!” I call cheerily, grabbing a cart, “It’s sure chilly tonight, isn’t it?” I don’t wait for an answer, but stride purposefully–and quickly–into the store, past the crestfallen cookie vendor.

Immediately, I know I’ll be paying for that. And I’m barely past the bakery counter when a shopping cart nails me from behind. I stop–beside the cookies, of course–and turn.

A woman glares at me. “I’m TRYING to get through,” she snarls, whacking me again as she pushes past. I notice that she has a hooked nose and–I’m not kidding–a big, hairy mole on her chin.

Remember fairy tales where the poor old lady whines for help but the clueless older sisters/brothers/princes ignore her? Then the gormless youngest sibling shares his last crumb with the wheezing old bat and–presto–wins the girl/guy/pot of gold/kingdom/whatever? While the older ones get dragged to death by wild horses?

This is what’s probably happening to me, minus the wild horses. Instantly, all my early California training–the whole New Age wiccan-empowered women vortexy don’t-squash-that-bug-it-might-be-grandpa bit–flies right out the window. Deep-seated racial memory screams “WICKED WITCH! RUN!”

Fortunately, political correctness (in Jiminy Cricket’s day they used to call it a “conscience”) kicks in, telling me I should be ashamed of myself. The nasty sweet old bat can’t help the way she looks and she probably didn’t realize she actually hit me with her cart.

I send the sweet old bat a forgiving smile. She slams to a stop in front of the grapes and flips me off. She plucks a handful Thompsons, pops one in her mouth and sneers, shoves the rest in her pocket. Then she careens her cart across the aisle and sideswipes a lady’s purse.

“Old witch!” I growl, only this time I don’t say “witch.”

It’s maybe a little louder than I intended, and she looks up. Clearly, she’s heard me, and her eyes narrow. And so we play dodgecart for the entire length of the store.

It’s just past dinnertime, and so the store is practically deserted, so she can focus entirely on me. By the time we reach the dairy case I’ve gotten pretty good at sidestepping, but I swear, that crusty old bag isn’t kidding about taking me down. I skip aisles, backtrack…and meet up with her every time.

There are cart tracks over my shoe, two more dents in my purse, and my attempts to reason with her, i.e., “HEY, would you CUT THAT OUT?” have been met with steely glares.

I’ve had enough; I head for the check-out. Only one aisle is open and as I join the line…there she is. Her mouth turns up in a slow, happy smile. It is not a kind smile, and I can see the wheels turning in her head. She’s gonna follow me out of the store, whack me in the parking lot. Follow me home…

“Wanna buy some cookies?”

The old bat turns around, and sees my timid little cookie vendor, standing there while her mom arranges cookies on the table (apparently they got tired of getting wet).

“Excuse me,” the girl tries again, “Wanna buy some cookies, ma’am?”

“Forget it,” snarls the witch, paying for her groceries. She glares at the kid, and Mom straightens up slowly.

“Oh, but they’re WONDERFUL cookies,” she says pleasantly, plucking at the old bat’s sleeve, “I have some samples right here for you to try.” And she hands her a cookie. “Samoa,” she assures her, “Our most popular variety.”

The old lady stares at the cookie in her hand, and for the first time, looks uncertain. She takes a bite.

“It’s pretty good,” she admits, through the crumbs, “but we can’t eat a whole box of these. Too rich.”

“They freeze really, really well,” says Mom, “And they make EXCELLENT cookie crumb crusts, too. So MANY things you can do with a box of Samoas…” She goes on and on; it would appear that Samoas can do everything but walk the dog.

The crusty old bag is poleaxed, drifting over to the cookie table with her bags. “I’ll just set a box aside for you, they go sooooo fast,” coos Mom, “And have you ever tried…Thin Mints?”

Thin Mints, the Girl Scout’s secret weapon.

Napoleon would have given up France for a thin mint. People have probably spent the national debt on those things. Thin Mints always make me wonder why Girl Scouts aren’t richer than Warren Buffet.*

Mom holds out a Thin Mint and the old lady takes it, lifts it slowly to her mouth…

…and I get busy. I shove my purchases toward the checkout girl; she rings me up like a shot. I grab my bags and flee. The doors slide open with a whooooosh, and the old bat doesn’t even look up; she’s reaching for a second Thin Mint. Mom holds it just out of reach, and the old lady goes for her purse while I start the car.

I promise I’ll go back tomorrow and buy a couple of boxes from the little scout. Just for luck.


*I mean, I’m not trying to diss the Girl Scouts, for heavens’ sake, I’m sure that the leadership isn’t off buying yachts and walnut-sized rubies with cookie money or anything, but what DO they spend all those cookie profits on? It sure as heck doesn’t go toward buying down the cost of all the Girl Scout paraphernalia required to BE a girl scout–uniforms, badges, pins, caps, camping stuff–which my friend Karen-of-the-four-daughters says costs about as much as a year at college.