Close Encounters of the Walgreen's Kind
Countdown to Daughter #2: Two days!
I wasn't imagining things.
The woman was definitely staring at me, right there in the middle of the Alameda Walgreen's.
You know that creepy feeling you get sometimes, when you suspect that you're being watched by someone you don't know? The prickly sensation across the top of your scalp? That sense of weird "psychic itchiness?" I'd been experiencing it ever since we walked into the drugstore, late Saturday afternoon: the feeling that somebody, somewhere nearby, was observing my every move.
(I would SUCK as a "Big Brother" contestant. Internet journaler? Sure. Admitting to the cyber universe that I pee my pants when I cough? You betcha. Cameras trained on me from all sides as I exfoliate? Not on your life.)
We were there at Walgreen's picking up a roll of pictures we'd shot earlier in the day. Lots of touristy stuff. Kyle and Mom in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Kyle and Mom watching an impromptu parade in the Richmond District. Kyle in front of the Civil War cannon at Fort Point. Kyle and Mom standing in front of Neiman-Marcus with several bazillion dollars' worth of school clothes. While David paid for the photos, I was loading up my basket with all of the essentials: Maybelline, chocolate, People Magazine, a package of plastic combs. Kyle loitered restlessly nearby, waiting for Mom to finish shopping so we could go pick out that rental movie.
And that's when I got that *itchy* feeling that I was being watched.
I whirled around ... and there she was.
A young, pretty woman with strawberry-blonde hair, standing directly behind me in the check-out line, staring intently at my purse.
Or more specifically: staring at the beads hanging from the strap of my purse.
I bought them in Chinatown last year: five small white letter-beads, spelling out the name "S E C R A," plus one bead with a stick figure of a woman painted on it and another with a tiny footprint on it. They are strung together on a leather cord that dangles from my purse, along with a beaded rave bracelet that Daughter #2 made for me and a delightfully tacky 'floating squid' keychain, purchased in Monterey earlier this summer. I figured, OK, she's all mesmerized and stuff by the *whimsical charm* of my beads. (But if she doesn't quit staring at me, she's gonna be WEARING those beads. In her NOSE.)
But then she spoke to me.
"I'm sorry to just come up to you, out of the blue like this," she said haltingly ... clearly uncomfortable about approaching a total stranger in a drugstore. "You're Secra, right? I read your website."
My first fan encounter!
It turns out that her name is Carrie,* and that she moved to Alameda from the South earlier this year. A friend of hers gave her the URL to *FootNotes* a few weeks back ("The first entry I read was ... umm ... the one about the doctor's appointment," she said, looking at David and blushing), and she's been reading ever since. She'd been watching the three of us walking around in the drugstore and thought she recognized us from pictures on the website ... "but then I saw your beads," she said, "and I knew it was you."
(Yeah? Wait'll we get those groovy new *FootNotes* sun visors!)
I introduced her to David, who immediately offered to run out to the Subaru and get the camera and record the event for posterity. (We both declined, citing Bad Hair Days: now I regret the missed opportunity.) I also introduced her to "Son #Only," who -- astonishingly -- seemed unimpressed with his mother's vast reserves of fame and fabulousness.
I gave her a preview of the photos we'd taken that day. I snuck a peek into her shopping basket.
While the grumpy little sales clerk changed the paper roll in the cash register, we chatted for a bit, all about the shared experience of moving to the Bay Area from other parts of the country ... about Executive Assitude in general (and Franz in particular: I even shared with her the secret of Franz' real name!) ... and, mostly, about the peculiarly intimate nature of Internet journaling. She confessed that it was strange to be standing there talking to me, not really knowing me, but still KNOWING so many personal details of my life.
"I started the website for revenge," I admitted. "Eventually it took on a life of its own."
She said that she and her friend Karen had talked about the likelihood of running into me one of these days, somewhere on the island ... maybe while I was returning an armload of overdue Elizabeth Berg novels to the Alameda Public Library, or while David and I were shopping for Bed Picnic Bruschetta ingredients at the public fruit stand ...
... or while I was stocking up on Tobler Chocolate Oranges and Maybelline at Walgreen's on a Saturday night.
And here we were.
"Karen is going to be so peeved that she wasn't here!" Carrie said. And she whipped out a small notebook and pen from her purse. "Would you mind writing her a note?"
Holy shidt! My first autograph request!
I scribbled Karen a quick little *howdy* -- something about how it was too bad she wasn't there at Walgreen's to join in all of the fun, and congratulations on her new job, and how I hope she gets rid of her headaches and feels better soon -- and then Carrie and I hugged, and I told her to write to me so I would have her e-mail address, and we said goodbye in a glorious burst of warm fuzziness.
The whole encounter left me feeling creatively and emotionally reinforced. I'm convinced, once again, that I'm on the right track with this journal. (I confess that I still have daily -- sometimes hourly -- moments of doubt. In some ways it was easier when I had all of these dark, ulterior motives compelling me. Being a force for good and not evil is lots more work.)
As for the thrill of being recognized for my art: what can I tell you? It's a good thing the Subaru comes equipped with a sun roof.
There's no way we would have gotten my BIG HEAD home that night, otherwise.