We're All Damaged

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May I Interest You in a Big Sack?

The other day I was walking down the street, minding my own business, and I did one of those stumble things people do when their toe catches a crack or a curb or, in this case, nothing at all.

As is often the case, this happened in front of a group of teenaged girls, and they laughed at me and I felt like a complete tool. I wanted to chase them down and ensure them that I’m normally sure-footed, coordinated even, but I can’t imagine that would have gone very well. In my limited experience with teenaged girls, I’ve found that once they’ve labeled you a spazz, there’s really no going back.

The event got me thinking about a time when I laughed at someone, which made me feel guilty. So there I was, walking down the street, now embarrassed and guilty. This is what it’s like being me.

I was 17 and I had this part-time job in the men’s department of a store called Younkers in Omaha, NE. It was a random weeknight and there were no customers. I was goofing off with my coworker Danny, who was also a 17 year old. We thought it was hilarious to dig through the clearance rack and then dress the mannequins up in the most God-awful outfits we could find. We were not among Younkers’ most dedicated employees.

In the middle of combining an awesome pair of jeans shorts with a plaid vest and Nautica boating jacket, a girl about our age approached us through the main entrance. She was struggling with a bunch of plastic shopping bags, one of which was torn, and she looked frazzled. I will never forget what she said to us.

“Excuse me, do you guys have really big sacks?”

As you might expect, Danny and I laughed right in the oblivious girl’s face. She was, of course, asking us for a large shopping bag that would allow her to consolidate her many smaller bags, but, we were 17-year-old boys, and, well, sack was a very specific word, and it meant a very specific thing. Danny and I continued laughing long after the girl ran out of the store nearly in tears. We kept laughing as we shut down the registers that night and as we walked to our cars.

I’ve told that story often since, and it always gets a laugh. I’m at a point in my life, though, where I feel like it might be time to finally cut that poor girl a break. I’ve been laughing at her expense now for about 16 years, and she probably deserves better. And so, I’d like to officially announce the retirement of my Really Big Sack story. And, wherever that girl is, I hope she’s doing well, and that we didn’t scar her too badly, and, more importantly, that she’s learned to choose her words more carefully when dealing with idiots like Danny and me.


  1. Wow...STILL laughing out loud!

    The memories that brings back, Matt...Best summer of my life. The lack of supervision that Matt Kiernan provided was completely empowering for mayhem!

    Michelle :)

  2. I just hope the girl figured out why you were laughing.

  3. It's about time you finally apologized to me, you jerk! Even though it's been so many years since the incident, not to mention a fortune spent in therapy, I still have flashbacks to that day in Younkers. I hope you and your friend are proud of yourselves.