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I think it’s time to brush up on my engagement ring skills.

Some days I can’t handle the mall. People are in the your way. Old ladies careen out from aisle blocking your path with shopping carts. Toddlers, with runny noses, crying about not having the newest toy, while throwing a fit, fail to watch where they are going and back into you. Their tiny fists waving dangerously close to accidentally striking you with nauseating results and waves of pain. Store workers push carts, wheeling in battered and taped up boxes of merchandise, clip your ankles. As you limp down across the store, long lost acquaintances catch up on events of two years ago while blocking all hopes of gaining passageway. You say excuse me, only to realize the person needs a hearing aid. You finally get past to face the final obstacle, a stampede, to the table with the green cloth for a free paring knife, threatens to sweep you along in cutlery deprived humanity.

 Some days I can’t handle the mall. So if I need to dare the aisles of Wal-Mart I’ll wait till just before closing. I’ll ignore the dirty looks of greeters who just want everyone to leave so they can close up and go home. I know the sight of me strolling in just before the doors close annoys them. Just to rub it in I’ll stroll in and smile at them. They smile back, then scowl just as I turn away.

 Wednesday night I was in the mall. It wasn’t my plan to be there but I needed cash from the automatic bank teller and since it was closing I strolled down to Wal-Mart to see what was new in DVD’s and electronics. Season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on the shelf and needing that last season to complete my collection I picked it up, paid for it, and headed for the soon to be locked doors.

 That’s when things got kind of weird, which actually is quite normal for me. As I was nearing the mall exit, Buffy under my arm, passing the jewelry boutique, I heard a quiet voice nervously say, “Hey.” I glanced around and standing side on against a glass jewelry display case was a tall skinny guy in his late teens, hair tinted red, long and straggly and his face with freckles. He caught my eye with a sly smile and kind of tilted his head as if nodding hello.

 My first thought was that this had been a rancher at Circle Square Ranch years before who recognized me as the program director, but I soon realized I never seen this kid before in my life. His eyes darted to the left and right, then again meet mine. At that moment I was expecting him to open his black coat and whisper, Pssssssssst! Do you want to buy a P? Or an R? Or some other letter of the alphabet, like the shady muppet character on Sesame Street. Then I noticed his hat, like the one Jimbo, the juvenile delinquent from the Simpsons, wears. He glanced towards his buddy leaning over the case with both elbows on the glass who glanced up at me out of the corner of his eyes without turning his head He had a look that could be characterized as utter despair on his closely cropped bearded face. He didn’t saw a word. He reminded me of Bob from the movies. The Bob from Jay and Silent Bob. My eyes suddenly widened, the tall skinny kid with the long straggly hair looked like Jay. 

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Jay and Silent Bob were going to trick me into helping them rob the jewelry boutique at Wal-mart!

 I took a step back, preparing for the worst when “Jay” asked, somewhat embarrassed, “How do you tell the difference between an engagement ring and a normal ring?”

 THUD!

 Did “Silent Bob” bang his forehead on the glass countertop? He looked at me again out of the corner of his eyes, not turning his head, a look of terror now combined with the look of despair he previously eyed.

 I glanced around for hidden cameras waiting for someone to say, “Smile, your on Candid Camera!” but, it wasn’t Just for Laughs, Gags.

 I was standing there with these two strange characters, left with two options. One, bluff my way through it all, but that may mean I’d be responsible for someone proposing with a friendship ring, and the relationship could end right then and there. Could I live with that on my conscience?

 I choose option two, pulled the glove off my left hand and pointed at my naked ring finger. “No ring. No experience. No help. I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I don’t have a clue, I can’t help you. You are on your own. Good luck!” With that I turned and hurried for the door. I had Buffy to watch.

Behind me I again heard the sound of a thud.

 I am sure if I had of turned back, the terrified “Silent Bob” would have been banging his forehead repeatedly against the glass case, over and over again until security would have to escort the nervous wreck out.

Yes, I think it’s time to brush up on my engagement ring skills, so the next time I am called upon to help such frazzled souls, I’ll be ready.

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