They sauntered into the store, a rag-tag group of five. The two girls were heavy-set and dressed in tight jeans or layers of peasant-style skirts and blouses. The three guys were tall, skinny, and hunched over in their droopy jeans. The unwashed smell was thick and their greasy, lank hair slid out from under hoodies and stained wool caps.
One girl bounced up to the counter and said she worked at a local restaurant and had heard about the shop for weeks from her customers. She appeared the only one who had an honest interest. The others lined up in front of the steel tanks, gulping tastes of the oils and vinegars. I watched with a feeling of unease and indecision. They began to spread out in the store, chatting and sampling. One of the males sidled up to the counter, openly eying my laptop left untethered by the cash drawer. I caught his eye from across the store, gauged the distance to the front door for both of us in my periphery vision and whispered, “Don’t even try it Fucker!” in my head. Instead, I smiled and walked toward him, slipping behind the counter as I closed the computer and slid it into a back corner. I chatted, asking him what he like to cook and eat, what sorts of foods interested him. He ducked deeper into his sweatshirt and slid off to join his friends.
The group was moving toward the new room. I followed and watched until I saw a regular customer enter. I had to help him but motioned to Deb. She melded into their group and caught their interest with suggested tastes of infused Maple Syrup. They clustered around the stainless steel table as she brought out the sugary elixirs, delighting in their good fortune.
“What’s up back there?” my customer queried nervously.
“Just some kids – I’m closing soon, we’ll be fine.” I reassured him.
It really comes down to what’s in your head. I looked at them, thought of all the unsettling encounters I’ve experienced in parts of the wold they could never find on a map. I thought of how little they knew of fear and bravado. I realized I was beyond being intimidated by a bunch of small town punks and could only pity them for their bad hygiene and lack of manners. Or, maybe I was guilty of “Judging a book by its cover?”
Maybe I’m showing my age…