From nearly twisting it out the socket as I pat myself on the back.
The congratulations I offer myself for my stunning intellect and dexterity are, of course, completely out of proportion with the actual good deed that was done, but I shan’t let that stop me. (We are going to dismiss as irrelevant the fact that Koko the gorilla would look like a genius to most of the people who frequent Wal-Mart.)
Ok, the set up: I am in Wal-Mart, returning a movie and purchasing a bag of lettuce and some breadsticks. It is 7pm, and all the lines are at least 6 people long. Temporarily forgetting that I will, unwaveringly, ALWAYS pick the line that takes the longest, I congratulated myself on finding a line with only one person ahead of me, and this person was already paying at the self-check out ATM. (I’m not kidding, you know. It never fails. It doesn’t matter if it’s the shortest line or the longest, my line will always take the most time. In fact, friends who shop with me will deliberately place me in a different line so they can get their stuff paid for faster. I could probably make millions by offering myself as a research subject, proving paranormal phenomena.)
Ok, where was I? Oh yes. Shortest line. I push my cart ahead, nearly ramming a poor aging gentleman with 4 cans of beer. Considerate person that I am, I allow him to precede me.
Only to find out that the woman in front of us is not leaving. She has dropped an earring, and it has fallen into the depthless chasm of The Machine, escaping to dark places that only the undersides of conveyer belts ever see. So, as one might imagine, she has called for help. The young employee who comes over looks down the canyon, pushes various panels, and tries to pry open, by hand, a panel which clearly has two screws attaching it.
I say nothing.
The gentleman ahead of me tries valiantly to stick a hand in the gap, but even his pinky is too wide. The employee goes for a screwdriver. The lady protests, saying the earring did not cost that much and was not worth his time to go to so much effort. The courtesies go on for about 3 minutes, during which time a screwdriver is not being fetched, nor is my lettuce getting any closer to being paid for. (The scene fascinates the anthropologist in me, as it neatly demonstates gender and age roles as well as societal expectations of offering and receiving assistance, but I am not fascinated enough to let it continue endlessly. As I mentioned, the lettuce is not getting any closer to my tummy.)
The earring itself appears to be forgotten. Curious person that I am, I lean over and peer into the gap. There, lying about a foot down on a little metal ledge, is a silvered hoop earring about an inch an a half in diameter.
I reach for my purse and think quickly. I am amazed at the rush of thoughts. I have duct tape and a pencil. Would the pencil be too short for the distance? I don’t want to give this more than one try, for I would look foolish, nor would there be time, if the lady were truly preparing to abandon her jewelry. I open said purse and see my MP3 player, my trusty "Pseudo-pod." Earbuds are still attached.
The appropriateness and irony of an earbud saving an earring from certain exile is too good for me to pass up. I pull out an earbud. Working quickly now, as the lady is trying to distract me with protests of, "Oh no, it’s ok, really," I drop the heavy earbud into the pit of Doom. We now have a crowd, and the many menfolk gathered are telling me, as gently as they can, no doubt, that what I am attempting will never work, but it’s a nice thought to try. The earring, is it agreed, is lost forever.
I agree to nothing. "Give me just a sec," I murmur. Thanks to years of video games, my eye-hand coordination is at its peak, and I neatly place the earbud in the dead center of the earring’s hoop. I drag the bud along the ledge by its wire, and the lip of the earbud, as hoped, catches the earring. I lift slowly. "Just a sec," I repeat, unwilling to take my eyes off the bud and earring as they rise together from the depths of the grimy abyss.
Within seconds of conceiving the idea, I dangle the earring above its Doom, sparkling silver and shining in the glow of florescent bulbs. I am aware of gasps of disbelief from my audience. "How did you do that?" I can’t believe you got it!" "Are you using headphones?" And one faint "Oh wow, thank you!" as the hoop is snatched off my tiny speakers.
"You’re welcome," I say softly, humbly. The lady leaves. The aged man gets his beer. I purchase my lettuce and breadsticks.
As our heroine leaves the scene of her triumph, only one thought echoes in the her mind, repeating itself over and over like a mantra.
"I am fricking brilliant."
(Cross-posted from my myspace page)