The lady in front of us looked to be around 80 years old. To the clerk at the checkout counter we heard her say, “I’m here to pick up my order.” The clerk, wearing a blue vest and dark-rimmed glasses, instructed the lady to move to the side; her order would be brought to the front of the store shortly. She then turned to my two girls and I and motioned us forward. It was our turn to check out.
Moving toward the check-out counter of the cavernous Ocean State Job Lot, an east coast discount retailer known for selling household goods and apparel, my two oldest daughters and I placed our items in front of the clerk. Suddenly, turning her head toward the woman waiting for her order, the clerk asked, “What was your order?”
“Two mandolins,” came the response.
As my daughters and I exited the store, my nine-year-old asked me, “Papa, what’s a ‘mandolin’?”
“Well, it’s like a small guitar,” I answered, placing my arm around her shoulder as we crossed the parking lot toward our car.
From there, the questions came flooding out from all three of us: Since when did Ocean State Job Lot sell… mandolins? And why would an 80-year-old woman be ordering two of them? What would she do with two mandolins? Who were the mandolins for? Such a mystery!
Driving away from the store, my daughters and I began to laugh and laugh and laugh. The questions continued, tumbling out one by one: Was the old lady a music teacher? Were the mandolins for her grandchildren, perhaps? But the biggest question resurfaced over and over: Why was she buying musical instruments at Ocean State Job Lot?
A few dozen more questions must have escaped our lips as we made our drive home that day. As we walked in the front door of our house, my daughters both agreed this would be a shopping trip none of us would ever forget.
EPILOGUE: Later that evening, my wife explained that a MANDOLINE was a kitchen device used for slicing.