Today’s tale is a cautionary one. Now I’m not proud to say this, but it’s a habit of mine to go grocery shopping directly from the gym. It’s about saving time and also let’s face it, I’m unlikely to bump into Ryk Neethling or Gerard Pique at the mall, so I really don’t see the need to primp and preen too much. A recent(ish) set of circumstances, however, has made me reconsider my policy on appropriate shopping attire.
Around a year ago, I was mooching round the condiment section in Pick ‘n Pay, when a youngish chap in a wheelchair approached me. He was maybe in his mid 20’s, seemed friendly and his big blue eyes were like the ones belonging to that cute cat in Shrek. You know… kind of sad, kind of beautiful, kind of you-can’t-ignore me eyes.
He told me how he not only worked at Pick ‘n Pay, but also ran five of his own (yes five) businesses simultaneously, and was managing to squeeze in some studying.
What are you studying, I ask? Fashion Design. For obvious reasons, most people would have smelt a rat, but I was so busy berating myself for being such a slacker compared to this bewheeled chap that I was completely taken off guard when he made his request. He asked if I perhaps knew of anyone - perhaps even someone like me - who would be willing to donate a second-hand pair of Lycra leggings to him. He was insistent that they be secondhand. His fashion project challenge, you see, was to create something new out of something old. The project was due right away, no time to spare, need them this week, sure to flunk without them.
"Of course" I say, I definitely have an old pair and if he could give me his name I’d leave them at the courtesy desk the following day. NO, he says (a little too loudly, I thought). Don’t leave them at the desk. It’s happened before and another thieving staff member has stolen them.
This, of course, was a second opportunity for me to smell a rat. "It’s happened before?" Should have been my first question, if only to myself. "Why would another person want a smelly old pair of leggings?" Should have been my second question, if only to myself. I turned down his offer of personally fetching them at my home. I didn’t want to seem cruel but had to point out that we have 70 stairs up to our front door. I kept them in my car for a couple of weeks, thinking I’d be sure to bump into him again.
Fast forward to just before Christmas. I’m back at Pick ‘n Pay. Again, directly from the gym, again in my leggings. Before I know it, wheelchair-boy is alongside me. He’s looking unshaven and disheveled and says that he tried to top himself on the weekend. Oh no! Why? I cry. (Again, I didn’t want to seem heartless by saying; Dude, I totally understand. I mean you’re in a bloody wheelchair, right?) Well, he says, not only is he working at Pick ‘n Pay, but he also is running five (yes, five) of his own businesses simultaneously, and to make matters worse, he has a fashion project due the very next day that he has been unable to complete due to not having the right materials and do I by any chance know someone who would be willing to give him a second-hand pair of leggings? OK, now I smell the rat and realize the rat is uncomfortably at crotch level. I am seriously un-nerved. What kind of warped MOFO would want my smelly old leggings???!!! I mumble some excuse about recently having given all my second-hand leggings to the shelter and shift off as quickly as possible.
Nine blinking months later, I’m cruising the mall (again, I confess, the gym leggings feature) when I hear a squeaky, wheely noise following me. Oh crap, I think to myself and quicken my pace. Squeaky, wheely noise speeds up aswell (how can I compete with wheels, I mean really) and before I know it wheelchair-boy is alongside me. He dives right in. '"You know what I hate", he says. People who won’t give you their leggings, I think to myself. "School", he says (obviously, cueing me to ask "which school and why"). I manage to mumble something like “yes, you and many other scholars feel the same”. I’m now quite breathless from trying to get him off my tail and can't come up with anything more punchy to deter him.
Then begins our game of cat and mouse, with me stopping at random shops, jumping from aisle to aisle like Mrs. Smith and in general trying to get wheelchair-boy off my tail. The wylie bugger catches up with me in the fresh produce section and tells me EXACTLY THE SAME BLOODY STORY!!!! By now I’m equally creeped out and peeved because he doesn’t even recognize that I’m THE SAME CHICK HE KEEPS HARASSING!!!! Dude, I eventually say. You’re in such luck. Leggings are seriously in fashion, I’ve just seen loads at Woolies for like 80 bux a pair and your lecturers will never know the difference. NO, he says. They’ll know. His voice is very throaty and his eyes are glinting, as he adds (a little too loudly, I thought) NO, THEY HAVE TO BE SECOND-HAND.
Now, everyone I’ve told this story to has their own theory as to why wheelchair-boy wants my smelly old leggings but I’ll tell you this much. I’ll wear them till I see him again, then I’m gonna say to him, “You. Me. Coffee. And you’re going to tell me what in God's name you’re doing with all these leggings.” And when I find out, I’ll tell you. But for now, any theories are welcome.