The last time I walked into Walgreens I almost had a heart attack. A for real, no faking, heart attack. I walked in and went straight down to the right to get what I needed, and bumped shoulders and elbows with a man in a hurry to leave, wearing full on riot gear – helmet and gloves and everything. It’s not like someone in all black is much of an attention grabber, but when every inch of you is covered, including your face behind a helmet shield, and you have something under your arm, people stop and take notice with more than a little eyebrow raise. With all the mass shootings on the news, seeing someone in this state simply strolling through the drug store is a little…well, odd. The exchange (of elbows and shoulders) was less than a second or two long, and I turned away from him, backed my son into the wall and watched the guy walk out the front door with his head down. Then I turned to gape at the nearby clerk behind the cosmetic counter like I’d just encountered an alien.

“Did you see that guy?” I asked her, in shock that she was standing on two legs and not cowering behind the counter in fear.

“What guy?”

I blinked at her. SURELY she didn’t miss him – he walked right by her counter! “That guy…in the riot gear? He just left.”

“Oh, him. Yeah, he comes in all the time.”

“Dressed like that?” I totally didn’t believe her.


“Is he a cop or something?”

“No, he plays paintball.”

I’m pretty sure that I blushed every shade of red there is, and then maybe even a purple or two. At this point I freed my son from the makeup display board on the wall that his shirt had gotten snagged on, and let him finally take a breath. I’d been using myself as a human shield, squishing into his poor face with my back. He wasn’t amused.

“Wow,” I finally told the woman. “That really freaked me out.” I realized as I handed her my item, my hand was shaking.

“Oh, yeah. The first time he came in, we almost called the police. I nearly died.” She rang up my order as I continued to blankly stare at her and wonder about the paintballing man most likely making a run for his car before the local police mistook him for a criminal.

“Does he ever take his helmet off, at least?” I asked.

“No, says it’s too much work to take it all off.”

“So he’d rather scare the shit out of people at Walgreens? Odd.” I laughed because what else could I do?

I left there sort of ashamed at how I’d profiled the man. But it got me thinking about the news and all the stories about random shootings and how they happen to people when they are least expecting it – sitting in the cubicle at work, munching popcorn at the theater, taking a test in school, etc… just normal, every day stuff. Which would constitute a brief trip to the drugstore.

So, was I wrong to imagine this man had just shot up the back half of the store, or was on his way to the front to lock us all in before he shot us up, because of the way he was dressed? Yes and no.

Because I’m a mom, my first thought really was about my child getting hurt and how to prevent that from happening. Not about me or the woman behind the counter. Sorry lady with the pretty nails, just trying to be honest here. I’d have pushed your display case off the ground to throw my kid behind the counter if need be. I really have no idea how that would have gone if it had been the worst case scenario. And that is the first place my brain went when I saw the black-clothed, geared up dude bumping his way out the store. But it wasn’t a guy with a gun. Not a real one, anyway. It was just a dude, making a run for toothpaste or shoe insoles with his paintball gear on because he was in a hurry and didn’t want to strip out of his sniper-style outfit before running into the store. I guess I watch the news too much. Which is sad. Truly sad.

Deep down, I wonder if he gets a kick out of giving moms like me actual heart palpitations when we happen to clip shoulders in the store. If so, then I sort of think he’s a jerk. Because I almost peed my pants. And that’s just not nice.

If he’s totally unaware that he nearly sent me into an arrhythmia because of his paintball gear, then I sort of want to apologize. I mean, I’m sorry. It was the biggest of oops on my part. I wish you the bestest of best scores on your next paintball game.

But seriously, dude. Leave the dental-floss shopping for another day of the week, maybe? Or be prepared to keep scaring us random shoppers at Walgreens and hearing the intercom message, ‘Clean-up on Aisle One…bring the bleach this time.’