A story for Independence Day (one day late)

I meant to write this yesterday, Independence Day, but I was too busy enjoying the most beautiful day we’ve had so far in Minnesota. July 4, 2011 was the most 100%, perfect, all-around excellent day Minnesota has seen in years. I sat outside with my book and read for several blissful hours, mosquito free. (The Twins also won 7 – 0, an extra bonus!) Now, on the 5th, in the spirit of Independence Day, I want to record something that happened to me a few weeks back.

Over my lunch break one day, I dashed to a local outlet mall to pick up some hand soap at Bath & Body Works. In case you’re not familiar with B & BW, this is a retail store commonly seen in shopping centers. The store features all sorts of very affordable, yummy-smelling body stuff such as body lotion, bath salts, lip balm, hand soaps, etc. They always have sales and since this particular store in my area is located at an outlet mall, it usually has super cheap sales on stuff that is about a season behind. For instance, their fall harvest-scented candles usually come into stock during about the beginning of December (when fall is definitely OVER in Minnesota). It works for me because usually by December, I have begun to accept that fall is coming.

Anyway, on this particular day I only had a few minutes, so I grabbed some soap for my kitchen and bathroom, and headed right to the checkout counter. The saleswoman was already ringing up another couple of customers, two petite, attractive middle-aged women with middle Eastern dress, covered heads, and, as I soon heard, thick middle Eastern accents. (I couldn’t help but notice their differences right away. We live in homogenous Norwegian territory here.) When one of these customers presented the saleswoman with her VISA card, the saleswoman asked for identification. The customer showed the saleswoman some sort of ID card and the saleswoman said, “oh! You’re a long way from home,” or something of that sort. The transaction continued.

I couldn’t help it . . . I had to know. I asked the customer where she was from. She turned to me and replied, “Kuwait.” Having never met anyone from Kuwait before, and sort of amazed that someone from Kuwait would be visiting my little town, I smiled and said, “well, welcome!” I asked her if she and her friend were here on business, to visit, for vacation, etc., and she said, “some of each. We met someone here for my business, and now we have some time to enjoy ourselves.” I asked her how long they were staying and she said they would be in the States about 3 weeks. We were having a nice little discussion and she seemed like such a nice lady, so easy to talk to. However, the saleswoman was not too pleased that we were holding up the non-existent line (I was next, and last, in line), so I drew the conversation to a close. I said, “Well, while you’re here, I hope you have a good time.”

And this woman spread her arms out, smiled, and said enthusiastically, “Oh, we will. It’s America!”

It’s  America! She said that! I guess it seemed particularly touching because we were in Bath and Body Works at a lousy old outlet mall. There is absolutely nothing impressive or extraordinary at this little store. The products are not classy or of high quality. The store is packed with stuff that the store before them couldn’t sell. Yet, here these women were, in my country, in my backyard, so delighted to be right there, because they were in America.

What a great reminder of my freedoms and ability to steer my own life, because a woman can do anything here. And anyone who says she can’t is just wrong.

 

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