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Encounter at the Arts and Craft Store

David Nunez
David Nunez
5 min read

There is a Hobby Lobby and a Michaels both within a few miles of where I live (and a Lowe’s and a Home Depot, for that matter).

I’ve been finding myself spending a lot of time lately at all of those establishments for my various project-related supplies.

Today I had a pretty adventurous encounter.Interesting tidbit: Someone once told me that the Hobby Lobby chain is owned/managed by extremist Christian fundamentalists… or at the very least Baptists. She worked there for several years and said she, as a non-Christian, always felt somewhat unaccepted… subtle ways- like corporate memos that used the phrase “Praise Be” and “On High” a lot. That’s why Hobby Lobby is never open on Sundays. Although that does not explain their very tolerant return and pricing policy, “Hmmm.. that wooden box doesn’t have a price tag on it… how much would you LIKE to pay? Oh, and don’t forget this 90%-off-everything coupon!!!”

Of course, the person that told me this information also relished in stories about her time in rehab… I digress.

I spent some time at Michael’s today just to browse the aisles. (It’s hard for a guy to feel masculine while slowly wheeling his shopping cart down the cute fuzzies of the Scrapbooking aisle… to make up for it, I spent equal time at Home Depot in the power tools section).

They have art supplies and things, and while the selection is decent enough for someone of my skill level, the UT Bookstore, for example, has much more diversity.

So I was minding my own business, seeing how much a styrofoam ostrich egg costs, when I saw her.

Actually, I don’t think I saw her as much as I heard her.

See, she was clearly a little disappointed that “y’all ain’t got none of them there curla-queues.”

Those were her words… I’m not embellishing. This is Texas, mind you… dangerously close to the “country”… at an arts & crafts store… in the quiltin’ section.

Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that she wasn’t politely inquiring as to the whereabouts of the “curla-queues.” No, no… instead she was screaming loudly enough at this mousy teenage employee, to make myself and every other shopper in the entire store turn and look. This poor girl’s face, surrounded by a sea of Shirley Temple curls, flinched as if she was about to be devoured whole by a grizzly bear.

Now it ordinarily wouldn’t be important to the story, but I thought I should point out that the woman was rather large. Not Gilbert Grape’s mom kind-of-large, not “female” body builder large, but somewhere in between. Big and husky and strong. Of course, I wouldn’t hold that against her if it wasn’t for the fact that it would take about 6 of the teenage girl employees or 3 of me to make one of her… See, what I’m getting at, is that one swipe from her paws would easily knock me out, causing severe bone breakage and kill the girl.

This woman lumbered even closer to the employee, all the while screaming about her “curla-queues” and how she had been coming to “this very here store goin’ on fideen year and them curla-queues always been riiiight here-a.”

Never mind that this particular store probably didn’t exist fifteen years ago… nonetheless, this woman expected to find her “curla-queues” exactly where she imagined they could go.

I noticed a small boy in the woman’s shopping cart, stoicly devouring one of those super-sized, rainbow lollipops, his freckled face and orange hair gleaming with the syrupy remains of misplaced sweets; clearly oblivious to his mother’s diatribe, he had obviously developed a defense mechanism: “ignore the crazy woman and they won’t think she’s with you.”

Her 3-carton-a-day-since-she-was-thirteen shrieks grated even louder and her arms began to animate up and down; those mitts were coming dangerously close to Shirley, and the grammar was getting increasingly awful enough to make (insert popular white rap star here) cringe on a non-courtroom day.

I felt a chilverous compulsion to intervene. I don’t know for the life of me what I was thinking. In retrospect, there really was nothing I could have done. This was obviously a case for trained professionals… with tasers.

Nonetheless, I wheeled my cart up to the pair and interupted, hoping to give the teenage girl a way out.

“Excuse me miss, could you please show me where you all have the acrylic paints,” knowing full well that the paints were on the opposite side of the store.

Stereotypical-mid-day-talk-show-guest felt offended, “WHAAA?!? I WAS HERE FIRS’!!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t even notice you were there,” as I smiled with saccharine sarcasm.

“I been axing this here bitch…”

Yes, she used that word with the girl standing right there… and yes, my jaw hit the floor. It was also then that I realized it would have been much safer for me to have stayed in the fetal position, hidden behind my shopping cart back in the floral arrangement section.

“…where the damn curla-queues is!!”

I suddenly realized I was alone. When this altercation first began, mothers had wisely retreated with their children to sections of the store with much less a ruckus… The girl, who I was counting on to let this lunatic have it, was staring at the floor, moments from bursting into tears.

I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t prepared to have a yelling match in the middle of the store with this lady, who, incidentally, was large, remember?

“OHHH!! The Curly-Q’s! Yeah, they’re over there by the paints!”

“Thanky! Lease summon know sumpin’ round here. C’mon Cleet,” she told her oblivious boy as she spun her cart around, narrowly missing the pyramid of glass vases in the middle of the aisle.

“Cleet”. As in “Cleetus.” The name of her boy. I mean, could it BE any more perfect?

I turned to the employee who’s face was now flush and not nearly as relieved as I would have expected, “Are you ok.”

Employee: “yeah.”

Me: “Maybe you should call security on that lady?”

Employee: “No…”

Me: “Well, you shouldn’t have to put up with that.”

Employee: “I know.”

Me: “I feel sad for her son!”

Employee: “yeah. I gotta get back to work now.”

Me: (disappointed not to get a “thank you” at least) “ok, but I think you should tell someone what happened so they kick her out of the store.”

Employee: “I can’t.”

Me: “Why not?”

Employee: “That was my mom.”


If I EVER complain about ANYTHING again, please remind me to “look for the curla-queues.” I don’t have it that bad.

Oh, and remind me to mind my own business from now on. The Fates have determined I’m not the heroic type.


David Nunez Twitter

Dir of Technology at the MIT Museum • Writing about emerging tech's impact on your life • Speculative insights on the intersection of humanity and technology 🤖


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