On my way back from the gym, I stopped at the spice shop. I love that store. I open the door and the fragrance almost knocks me over. Cinnamon, pepper, smoky salt, cumin: it all mixes together into a wall of aroma. And it's pretty. The arrangements in Morocco were prettier. There, they display the spices in inverted cones that I was always afraid I was going to knock over. I never saw the clerk ever take any spice out of the orange or yellow or brown stacks. I wanted to see it, because I wanted to know where he took it from. The top? The side? Then what did he do? Replace it? Smooth it over? This spice shop has glass jars, which is not as glamorous, but is more practical.
I stopped at the shop because we'd had a pepper emergency that morning. We had run out of pepper. You'd think we'd run out of salt by the way Primo carried on. I explained to the clerk, a lady of a certain age much like myself, that my husband is a pepper fiend and that he had been quite distraught upon finding the pepper mill empty.
This is the Magnum pepper mill that his parents had sent him for his birthday a few years before and is probably the only present he has ever gotten from them, besides the cast-iron cat, that he has liked. Who spends $40 on a pepper mill? Better yet, who wants a pepper mill that costs $40? My usually low-maintenance husband, that's who. He is not demanding about what he eats (except that it be good, which is easy because I am a good cook who likes to cook) or about the state of the house or about what I wear or look like or about almost anything, but he likes pepper on his food. There you go. That's his thing. So when we ran out, he was not happy. Why hadn't I kept an inventory of peppercorns, he wanted to know?
I shrugged. I don't care about pepper. It's not at the top of my list.
Primo explained, "I had a roommate once who waited until he was out of things - food, toilet paper - toilet paper! before he would replace them!"
"Maybe I need to implement an inventory replenishment system like I learned in operations management in grad school," I said.
Quick story. Panos Kouvelis taught my operations management class. I loved that class. I loved the material.
I really liked Prof. Kouvelis. He was so cute with his neat sport coat and slacks and slick Italian shoes. I had a little crush on him. He was fun. Smart and quirky with this great subtle sense of humor. He wrote this formula on the board one day, then turned and looked at us. "I would say it's all Greek to me, but..." he deadpanned. I burst out laughing. I'm not sure if the other students got it. But I leaned on every word he said.
Back to the spice store. "A pound of Talicherry, please. We're a little on edge at our house these days," I sighed.
As she walked to the side of the store to retrieve the jar with the peppercorns, the clerk shook her head. "Men," she said.
"Yeah," I agreed. "I'm one and done."
"Me, too," she said. "I've been married. Never again. I want a companion, but not a husband. I have this boyfriend. I asked if he wanted to come over for dinner on Sunday. No. He can't. He wants to come on Monday. OK fine I said. I have Sunday and Monday off, so either day is fine. Then he said wait, he can't make Monday either. So how about next week? I said, nope, I'll be out of town. He gets all pouty and you know what? I don't care."
"Well, part of the reason is that my husband has decided to run for the state house."
"Oh!" she said. "Is he a lawyer?"
"No, he's an engineer."
She looked puzzled. "Will he be able to keep his job?"
I shook my head. "Definitely not. That's why it's rich people in politics. Ordinary people with ordinary jobs can't afford to do this, or at least ordinary people who aren't lawyers or who don't have really flexible jobs. The State House pays almost nothing. I can assure you he is not going into this for the money."
She scooped peppercorns into a plastic bag and put them on the scale.
"And we are of opposite political views."
She nodded sagely. "He's Stripes and you're Polka Dots?"
I shook my head. "No, he's Polka Dots and I'm Stripes."
She didn't say anything for a moment. Whatever.
"I never wanted this life. I have never been interested in being married to a politician or being involved in politics in any way. This morning, my husband asked me if I had known that he would be running for office when we met, what I would have done. I told him I would have looked a lot harder for a new job. I had just been laid off from my job when we met. I told him I probably wouldn't have married him."
"He's worried that the Polka Dots will hold it against him that he is married to a Stripe, which I think is stupid. If it bothers them so much that he is married to me, that is their problem. That it says far more about them than it does about me."
She nodded. "You'd think people would want someone who can get along with everyone."
I agreed. "You'd think."
"So are you going to support him?" she asked.
"I told him I would support him by helping him on his campaign, but that I won't endorse his ideas. I'll help with his website and nomination petitions and I'll be his treasurer, but I won't talk about his side's ideas. It would be a lie."
I looked at her. "So if you're a person who votes for Polka Dots, vote for him."
"I'm an independent," she said. "I look at the person."
"Then I can tell you this and I can say it with complete sincerity. My husband is a man of integrity and honesty. He will work hard for his constituents. He is running for this office because he wants to make a difference, not because he wants to make money. There. I just made my first pitch for him."
She smiled. "Ten dollars."
I handed her my money. She handed me my pepper.
That wasn't so hard.