Day 105: Potato po-tah-toe

"Potatoes trapeze" at The Potato Museum
"Potatoes trapeze" at The Potato Museum

Today was a grey day in every way (sorry, didn’t mean to turn into Dr. Seuss there). I’m not sure if it was the change in the weather or the heartbreaking knowledge that there was no chocolate in the house, but I definitely felt down in the dumps, out of sorts, off-kilter — you catch my general drift.

Nothing was going smoothly so I thought I’d try to snap out of it by walking over to the grocery store. My idea was to put a few quarters in a few shopping cart locks so shoppers wouldn’t have to find a spare coin to use. (I also hoped these same people might be so tickled to find an unlocked cart, they’d return it unlocked for the next person.)

I unlocked two carts but when I put the quarter in the next one, the chain wouldn’t release. I’m not mechanically inclined at the best of times but being stymied by a grocery cart lock seemed particularly pathetic.

I threw up my hands in defeat and retreated into the store. “I can’t even do a good deed properly today,” I whimpered to myself.

What followed you probably won’t believe, but I swear this is exactly what happened next.

Browsing in the produce aisle, I noticed a lady standing beside the potatoes who looked distressed. She was in her 60s, smartly dressed in a cap, cropped jacked and fashionable jeans.

This woman nervously moved her arms, alternately putting her hands on her hips then slapping her sides as though frustrated. She was also sighing loudly and looking around worriedly. Now there was a time when this type of behaviour in a fellow shopper would have sent me running, if not for the hills then at least to the frozen foods section.

I can’t explain why, but I didn’t feel afraid of her odd behaviour like I once would have. I did sincerely want to help if I could.

I asked her if everything was okay and she told me that the potatoes had been picked over and there were only two decent ones left — one she’d put in her shopping basket but the other had rolled under the shelves.

I bent down and looked and it had rolled far out of reach.

“Sorry, that one’s a goner,” I said, thinking I was helping. “You’ll have to settle for one of those on the shelf.”

“Oh no,” she said, growing agitated. “No, it has to be that one.”

The runaway potato may have looked just like all the others to me, but it obviously really mattered to her. I had a rare moment of inspiration.

“Hey,” I said. “I’ll use my umbrella.”

“Yes, why didn’t I think of that,” she said, looking at the one in her hand.

I crouched down, slid my long umbrella beneath the shelves, hooked the spud with the handle and pulled it out.

I thought she was going to hug me. She didn’t, but she did thank me warmly. What did I learn? Sometimes, a potato is more than just a potato.

And you know, when I left the store, the day didn’t look so grey after all….


P.S. While looking for a potato image, I came across a great website for The Potato Museum in Albuquerque, N.M. If you have any Irish heritage at all, or just like fries, check this site out. On their home page, I found this classic clip from The Johnny Carson Show (one of my all-time favourite interviews). Grab a bag of Ms. Vickie’s and enjoy!


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