You say “herbs” and we say “duuude…errrbs”

     Yesterday I was reminded of a funny thing that happened to me. I share it with you now and you can remember it the next time you do something embarrassing.

     A few years ago I had a freelance job writing for a local women’s magazine called Today’s Woman whose demographic is best described as “my mom.”  Every month, my column featured locally owned shops or places you could find the fancy things you see in magazines like Ed Hardy caps or 7 for All Mankind jeans. I was allowed to suggest places and the editor would sometimes throw in places she wanted me to include.

     One dreary rainy Saturday morning I set off to visit the last two places on my list for the month – a poshy-posh high-end skincare spa and an interior designer. The spa visit was great – I got a fancy facial and some nice samples.

     The interior designer’s place was across town in the artsy boho area. When I got there, I discovered it was closed on Saturday and Sunday. (Cue sad guitar.) Cursing myself for not being more proactive, I drove along the street trying to find a replacement feature. This area is jammed with little shops and boutiques and something new is always cropping up.

     I happened upon a new shop that sounded like it might be a possibility. I had featured farmer’s markets and organic foods before and the Herb Importers looked like a good fit. I could see shadowy figures moving around inside so I called on my cell phone to speak to the manager. He explained that the store wasn’t open yet, but that he would be happy to provide an interview. I thought he sounded surprised because he was flattered to be interviewed so soon before the shop opened.

     Relieved that I could meet my deadline with a slew of cool new places in town and products to try, I hurried to the door which was being unlocked by a heavyset woman in jeans and a black t-shirt, the front of which featured what I can only describe as a skull one might see in a nightmare.

     Skullshirt explained that they were setting up the store, gesturing to boxes full of what I assumed were healthy organic foods. “The manager is in the back,” she said, leading me past the counter where a young woman dressed in black and sporting electric blue hair was absently chewing on a piece of pepperoni pizza while flipping through a catalog of what appeared to be paraphernalia fit for a ninja – swords, knives, and the like. I couldn’t understand the surprised glance at me. Well, not at first.

     It was here, dear reader, that everything sort of began to fall into place. The hippie patchouli incense. Everybody wearing black and flannel. The energy drinks lining the wall behind the girl with curious hair. Skullshirt ushered me to the back room where it hit me.

    Ohhhhh…that kind of herbs… 

     The manager was a short young man with round glasses and a pleasant demeanor standing in front of the most impressive display of bongware I’ve ever seen, which isn’t saying much – the best I’ve done is a store full of hookahs in India, but we can discuss my naivete at length another time.

    My internal monologue went something like this: I am in a head shop. They sell things that help you get high or erase the effects of getting high so you can keep your job. I have no idea what to say about this. I don’t think Today’s Woman readers are looking for a place to keep their weed. Oh God can they tell I am embarrassed? I am just going to play this off and get out of here.

    So I did it. I did the interview. How long have you been a businessman? Are you from this town? When will you open? What do you feel you add to the business community? What can people find here that they can’t find anywhere else?

   And bless his heart, he answered every question without sarcasm or irony, without the incredulousness that I would have been choking on had I been in his position and some preppy East Ender showed up freshly facialed with pink fingernails and nary a skull to be seen about her person.

     I thanked him for his time and as he walked back to the front of the store with me, it was so very obvious.  Bongs bongs everywhere. Things that filter your urine so you can pass drug tests. Every energy product under the sun. Silver jewelry and incense, candles and hemp t-shirts.

     I mentioned casually that my editor had the right to omit parts of my column in case it was, you know, too long or something, so if you get cut, I’m sorry, she does that sometimes. Which was absolutely true, all my work was sent to a copyeditor who polished things up a bit and stuff got moved and changed every month.

    I got in the car and banged my head against the steering wheel. I called Husband on the way home. He laughed. I laughed, too. They’d given me a bumper sticker with the shop logo on it and it was stuck on the side of filing cabinet in my home office for a long time. I don’t know why I didn’t notice the little green leaves decorating the edges before I walked in the store.


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