[Prompt: Use these seven words in your story: aptitude, slog, manifest, persnickety, capsule, lovesick, teaspoon ]
I have a special aptitude for attracting idiots. No matter what the venue: grocery store, theater, carpool lane, they surround me like a ravenous pack of wolves would an elk. Sometimes I wonder if I emit a special scent or magical aura, anything to explain how these particular people manage to find their way to me. I don’t announce my arrival, or invite with a smile, and my hostile glare does nothing to dissuade their approach. Today wasn’t proving to be an anomaly.
The line of the DMV slogged forward at a snail’s pace. As I glanced down at the watch on my wrist, I was dismayed to find that I had only taken three steps forward in the last seven minutes. My internal grumbling was interrupted by something stomping on my foot.
The bright eyes of a young boy shone up from below, his mischievous grin was almost adorable until he brought his foot down on top of mine for a second time. As children do, the little imp didn’t break eye contact as he assaulted my helpless right foot. The narrowing of my eyes did little to deter him. He let out a giggle and raised his foot again, daring me to make him stop.
I think most people have had the urge to discipline a complete stranger’s child at some point in their life. The tantrum thrower in the frozen food aisle, the bully in the park. We’ve all seen them. But it’s an unspoken rule not to intervene when it comes to other people’s children. That’s what the parents are there for, after all. Even if I scolded the little shit in front of me now, it would do little for his future if his mom didn’t take command and make him mind for an extended period of time. Scare tactics only work for so long.
As the boy stared at me with his annoying, crooked-toothed smile and raised foot, I ground my teeth in frustration. His mother was oblivious to his actions, she was busy checking Facebook on her phone. I cleared my throat in a wasted attempt to get her attention. The little punk brought his foot down once more onto mine.
“Excuse me.” I relented and poked the woman gently on the shoulder. An obvious mistake.
“What?” The woman spat the word and didn’t even look up from her phone as she turned her body slightly, presenting an illusion of response.
“You’re son is stepping on my foot.”
The woman granted me a moment of her annoyed stare out of the corner of her eye, “Then move your foot.” She turned her back to me before I could object.
I looked down at the monster staring up at me with a victorious grin. A number of inappropriate phrases and actions crossed my mind, but I knew better than to act on them. Sighing, I stepped out of the line and moved to the back of another.
I looked down at my watch again and cursed time for moving so slowly. Closing my eyes, I imagined myself at the front of the line, being helped by a courteous clerk in a timely manner. Maybe if I concentrated hard enough my mind could construct a new reality. My frustration manifested as I groaned aloud, opening my eyes I was still stuck in the same time warp.
As another person walked to the counter, I was able to take another three steps forward. I heard someone approach me from behind, and knew I was no longer the tail of the line. Shifting my weight from one side to the other, I hunched my shoulders in an attempt to dissolve into my surroundings, hoping the new arrival would be discouraged with engaging me.
“Long line, huh? How long have you been waiting?”
The gruff voice made me cringe inside. A perfectly polite request for information caused my skin to crawl. I just wanted to wait in line with my irritation, sans any small talk. But my mother had raised me to be respectful, and my conscience refused to allow me to be a dick. Putting on my best friendly neighbor smile, I turned to face the older gentleman behind me.
He was tall, bearded, and smelled like body odor. I tried my best not to crinkle my nose in disgust as I answered, “I’ve been here for 20 minutes, line hasn’t been moving much.”
“These damn government buildings,” the man growled, clearly revisiting a past experience at the DMV in his mind, “you’d think they’d get more people to work. Look at those empty counter spaces! Where are the clerks?”
I offered a noncommittal shrug, not wanting to bait the big, smelly man. It worked. The man let out a curse and headed back out the door, muttering disgruntled phrases that were definitely not appropriate for a public space.
I was granted three more steps shortly after that. The line also grew behind me, but didn’t bother me in the process, which I was thankful for. Glancing over my shoulder I had to raise up onto the balls of my feet to see the door of escape to the outside. Looking ahead, I was still four people from the front of the line. The lines to each side of me were just as stagnant as my own, and it seemed like I was in the center of a sea of people. I suddenly felt very trapped.
As my head bobbed within the sea of people, I imagined sending a message within a bottle to plead for rescue. Somehow, the small capsule would find a special current that would carry it far, far away to someone who would find my pitiful S.O.S., and come to my rescue. It would be a beautiful woman that found it. She would fly her private helicopter to my location and part the seas like Moses to move me to the front of the line. After the rescue, we’d share a glass of wine and some fancy cheese and she would turn out to be my soulmate. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a bottle handy, or a paper and pen. The waters shifted and I floated a little closer to the counter.
My watch claimed it had been 40 minutes since my arrival. I considered my feet, and they ached in agreement. Tilting my head from side to side, I listened to my neck pop with relief.
“Ew, don’t do that!”
I stopped my head mid-tilt, not sure if the statement was aimed at myself. Not wanting to gain attention, I flicked my eyes from side to side, hoping to observe someone else’s folly.
A dainty, brown haired girl had her eyes narrowed at me from a line to my right. I turned my head to return a look of disdain.
“What?” I raised an eyebrow and spoke in my most defiant voice.
“Don’t make your bones pop. It’s gross.” She squinted her eyes as she spoke, like she was focusing on something specific.
I unconsciously reached up and wiped my face, convinced her gaze was focused on leftover breakfast crumbs. I didn’t feel anything, perhaps it had fallen itself. I glowered at her, annoyed at her annoyance. She continued to squint at me, and I was suddenly painfully aware of how sore my feet were. Shifting from side to side, I shrugged and rolled my eyes, averting my gaze from hers in the process, “Whatever.”
Her snicker of triumph was like an icicle against bare skin. My teeth were grinding as I stared at the back of the head of the person between me and the counter. I imagined a hole boring through their skull and brains and in-betweens to create a nice window to view my destination. I would be out of this hell soon enough.
I had reached my limit of idiots for the day. I didn’t have an ounce; no, scratch that, a teaspoon of patience left for the scourge of society that surrounded me. I was nearly to my goal. The person in front of me with the window head stepped forward to the counter. I giddily pranced into his abandoned space, staring towards the counter like a lovesick puppy.
The words were music to my ears. I couldn’t help but smile as I approached the counter and the woman behind it came into view. She was middle aged, large, and wore a purple moo moo. Her red cat-eyed glasses helped to obscure her generously applied eyeshadow. Her face was blank as she stared at her computer screen, “What can I help you with today?”
Her lack of enthusiasm offended me. I had waited my whole life to make it to this forsaken counter, the least she could do was be jolly.
“Well, it’s nice to see you too. I hope you’re having a good day. It’s nice to finally make it to the front of the line.” The words were out of my mouth before I considered how they might be received on her end.
Her sightline shifted from the screen to me, her eyes drilled into my skull, “Look, son, there’s no reason to be rude. We’re working as fast as we can. Now what can I help you with?”
I frowned, the woman refused to acknowledge my greeting or return it. After all I’d been through, it was the least she could do. She sure was being persnickety. I set it out of my mind then pulled out my wallet and located a folded piece of paper which I began to flatten on her counter as I spoke, “I need to report a transfer of ownership for a car. I have the VIN number here, it’s—”
“You can do that online,” she interrupted.
“What?” I stopped flattening the paper and returned my attention to her.
“You can go to our website and do that online,” she repeated, still sharing the same blank stare with me.
“But I’m already here…” I said incredulously.
“Well, if you want me to do it, it’ll be $5.00. But if you do it online, it’s free.” She imparted a small smile to me.
I snorted, then I laughed right in her face. Then I attempted to regain my composure and puffed up my chest to tell her how it was, “You mean to tell me, that if I travel to my local DMV, where I stand in line for a ridiculous amount of time, and then talk to a representative face to face, it then costs me $5.00 to do something I can do for free at home without any assistance?”
“Yes sir, that’s correct.” Her smile widened and she nodded, as if she were awarding a slow learning puppy.
“WELL THAT’S GREAT!” I shouted and grabbed my paper, shoving it back into the wallet but fumbling in the process. The paper got caught in one of the folds of the wallet and tore, and I couldn’t close my wallet properly. I growled as I forced the stupid leather shut, and listened as the paper strain and tore further.
Adding fuel to the fire, I heard her voice follow me as I stomped towards the exit, “It was so nice to see you, I hope you have a great rest of your day, and we can’t wait until we have the opportunity to serve you again in the future.”
I shrieked as I shoved the door open and vacated the abominable DMV, hoping to never return again. Having sold my car and feeling committed to going green, I banked on this lovely experience to guarantee I never would.