I was in the plus-size department of the thrift store, minding my own business. I was paging through the blue shirts — royal blue, navy blue, powder blue. The thrift store works to make the shopping experience as pleasant as possible. For instance, the store is clean and well-lit. It provides dressing rooms where customers can try on clothes, and it plays popular music for the shoppers’ enjoyment. The song that was currently playing was “Stairway to Heaven.”
I was alone in the long aisle. I hadn’t always been plus-sized, but middle age had set in and I’d gained about 40 pounds which I couldn’t shake. “OOO,” I said to myself, finding a beautiful royal blue shirt in my size — 16W.
Suddenly, I was joined in my shopping experience by a tall, big, older lady wearing a crossing guard vest. It was about 10:30 am. It seemed that she was done with work for the morning and could come to the thrift store. And then, in the afternoon, she’d return to her crossing guard job. She seemed as though she’d be great with little kids. The woman was very smiley and outgoing. She was singing “Stairway to Heaven.”
I have to admit I was a bit annoyed. The lady’s voice wasn’t pitch perfect, and she sang loudly; I felt as if she was intruding in my personal space. “Stairway to Heaven” ended, and “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” came on. Well, that song really made the woman sing.
“I’ve got friends in low places,” she crooned. “I’m a happy person,” she interjected. “I like to be happy. It makes me happy to sing.”
“Get this idiot out of here,” I thought to myself. “She’s a nuisance to the public peace of the whole operation. This lady is disturbing the peace. My peace.”
The lady didn’t catch my disapproving vibe even though I frowned at her.
What should I do? I wondered. I’ve got to get away from this spectacle. I decided to move to the Boys’ department, where I’d search for size 18 winter shirts for my 12-year-old son.
But even in the Boys’ department, which was two aisles over, I could hear Miss Crossing Guard… “I’ve got friends in low places…”
“Be quiet, lady,” I muttered under my breath.
“Well,” I thought, “it’s a free country.” I could feel myself mellowing. Then, I started to chuckle. It was on her. Her strange behavior was on her. If she wanted to make a fool out of herself, fine.
Looking at the boys’ shirts, I found a beautiful rugby shirt in Tommy’s size, and it was half-price. Score one for me!
And then, something happened. The music changed. “Good Morning Starshine” came on. This was one of my favorite songs. “Good Morning Starshine,” I began to hum. The feeling just came over me; I wanted to sing out, to sing loudly because I too was happy. So I did — “Good Morning Starshine.”
I was doing exactly what I disliked in the stranger; I was singing freely. And I wasn’t ashamed.
There was nothing wrong with singing in public. Especially at a thrift store. Not the most formal of places. Nobody really cares what you do at a thrift store. There was one guy who came in and bought bras for himself all the time. How do I know they were for him? He slipped them on over his clothes. And women brought along their huge families of children who raced around unattended and played with the used toys, blocking the aisles. Old men sat on the bench and gabbed for hours without buying a thing.
The place was pretty laid back. It was a place where you could sing your heart out.
“How could I have been so judgmental?” I thought. Don’t judge, because the minute you judge someone you might find yourself in their used high heels.
And you never know when your song will come on the loudspeaker.