“It’s the night drunk animals run free throughout the city,” he said just before calling to someone over the age of 18 to scan my bottle of wine.
We’d been discussing one of the neighborhood’s more notable events, The Mt. Washington Pumpkin Chuck, as he checked me out at our small, local Kroger. Held annually the first weekend following Halloween, the Pumpkin Chuck offered local residents the opportunity to gather and have a trebuchet (first used in ancient China as a siege weapon used to throw projectiles at the enemy) catapult their old jack-o-lanterns into the woods. During the event, hundreds cheer gleefully as pumpkins take flight, screaming through the air before meeting their ultimate fate—splattered into hundreds of pieces that litter and freshly compost the meadow near the woods.
“Wait, what? How do animals get drunk?” I was dumbfounded. Oftentimes, it takes an elementary explanation for me to understand basic concepts so I shamelessly probed further.
“The fermented pumpkin,” he responded, continuing to scan my milk, Baker’s chocolate bars, sugar and butter. “When the animals eat the fermented fruit they get a buzz.”
Younger than 18 and this kid already had a keen insight into a world I’d never considered.
“Shoot,” I confessed. “I always chuck old fruit and veggies off our porch and into the woods to feed the animals!”
He looked at me with a mocking disapproval. “Then you may be contributing to the delinquency of a DEER!” he exclaimed.
“Did you guys hear about that o’possum who broke into the liquor store, broke a bottle of bourbon and got wasted?” This came from the lady behind me in line. Appearing to look in her mid-60s, she went on to cite her source: THE INTERNET.
“Yeah,” she continued. “Somewhere down in Florida. They came in the next day and found him laying next to the bottle.”
I couldn’t hold it together any longer. I doubled over in laughter, first in my attempt to processes the image of drunk animals running around, then working through the fact that I just had a seven minute conversation about DRUNK ANIMALS with two complete strangers. It was glorious.
I continued laughing as I collected my groceries, waved goodbye to them and thanked them for the enlightening conversation. My smile wide, I walked into the unseasonably warm December sun and thought about how much I appreciated the interaction.
The interaction I’d never had if I had ordered my groceries online and picked them up, as I usually do.
The interaction I’d never had if I had my head buried in my phone during checkout, as I usually do.
The interaction I’d never had if I hadn’t made small talk that day.
I’ll never forget that interaction. Particularly whenever I’m chucking old apples off the porch for the deer to eat.
(In case you’re interested, the other shopper’s story was legit! Read about the drunk o’possum here.)
And if you want the insanely delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe I made after that trip, you can check it out on the Smitten Kitchen website. Possibly the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever.