“Well, I think Wal-Mart’s stock of tutus is probably directed at little girls, not nineteen-year-olds, Sarah,” said my friend, Liz (name changed to protect privacy).
We were standing in the Halloween costume aisle of our local Wal-Mart late one night. Liz tiredly leaned against our mostly empty shopping cart, and I put my hands on my hips, frustrated at the superstore’s lack of tutu selection.
“Can I help you with something?”
I turned around to see a young employee who had an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
“Er, I’m just looking for a tutu, and I um, I’m not sure this” – I fanned my hands toward the tutus – “is quite working out for me.”
His smile was wide, the kind that made wrinkles around the eyes. “For yourself?”
He laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got.”
“Ah, it’s okay. It’s not too important.”
“What do you need a tutu for?” he asked.
I looked back at Liz, who obviously wasn’t going to step in. “Well, it’s a long story.”
“Well, I’ve got some time, unless you don’t want to tell your story to a complete stranger,” he said, and smiled.
I laughed, took a deep breath, and prepared for humiliation.
“Well, at my college, I’m working as an editor for the literary magazine. I’m an English major, and it’s really good experience. The editor-in-chief is kind of training me to take her place next year, and all of the editors-in-chief have been pretty eccentric dressers. The one last year always wore a long fur coat, and this year’s…well, when I met her, she was wearing rainbow pants. So, I have to step up my game. Hence, the tutu.”
There was that smile again. “Wow.”
“Yeah, I know, it’s crazy. It started out as a joke, but now I’m pretty set on it.”
“No, that’s really interesting. You don’t usually hear stories of people hunting down the perfect tutu to get a job.”
Liz chimed in. “Sarah usually likes to dress like an old man.”
He laughed hard at that.
I looked down at my outfit choice for that day. An ugly sweater that any grandpa would be proud of, rolled up skinny jeans, and dress socks with Birkenstocks. I shrugged my shoulders proudly. “It’s true.”
I smiled. I liked that. You do you.
“Well, I hope you find that tutu. Good luck.”
“Thanks, have a great day,” we said. As Liz and I rounded the corner of the aisle, Liz hopped on the front of the cart, the way that kids do, and I jumped on the back and pushed us off. We rolled away down the empty aisle.
“Wee!” she squealed, and then suddenly started laughing uncontrollably.
“What is so funny?”
Between giggles she managed to say, “Tutu Guy just saw us and gave us the strangest look.”
“Oh, God. Now I’m going to be that weirdo tutu girl who is actually a four-year-old.”
She grinned at me. “He liked you, you know,” she said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s my turn to ride up front.”
I left out some things to protect people’s privacy, but this is actually a true story. Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten was from a stranger in a Wal-Mart. It’s amazing how some of the most meaningful experiences we have can be with people we’ve never met before.
Write a scene about the best advice your main character ever got. Who was it from? Where did it happen? How did it change her?