A week or so ago I was thrifting and a guy got in line behind me with what appeared to be a rotund cat in a mesh carrier nestled in the front of his cart.
At first I was like, “Huh. That’s random. But whatever. I just looked through a rack of possibly urine stained shower curtains. It’s not like this dude’s cat is sullying the tone of the joint. Besides I like cats.” I smiled at the guy with the carrier, leaned down to peer in the cage, and saw what looked like a furry 20 pound meat loaf with no neck, a giant weasel face, beady bulging eyes entirely made of pupil, and OH HOLY HELL THAT’S A POSSUM.
I didn’t feel like my face could be a foot from a possum’s without some kind of acknowledgment but I’d never been accidentally face to face with a ::: fingers crossed ::: domesticated possum before so wasn’t sure how to handle it.
You know how some people use “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD?) as a touch point for their every day actions? When they see a guy on the street looking hungry and forlorn they think to themselves, “WWJD? Probably give the guy a smile and some change. So I’ll do that too.”
WWJD? is a fine point of reference but I often find it too broad for highly unusual situations. What would Jesus do, specifically, if He came face to face with a possum in the middle of ValueVillage? It’s not easy to answer on the fly and it’s nowhere in the Bible. I’ve checked.
That’s one of the reasons why I tend to make day to day decisions in various areas of my life with the help of ‘reverse touch points.’ For decorating it’s WWMDD? (What Would Meth Dealers Do?). If you can picture your couch in the living room of someone who buys a lot of Sudafed and Windex then it’s time to throw out that duct tape patched red pleather Lay-Z-Boy.
For awkward public social situations my reverse touch point is WWMGD? (What Would “Mean Girls” Do?).
WWMGD if they came face to face with a possum on their distinctly urban afternoon? Probably scream hysterically and pounce on the opportunity to make sure no one lets the dude with the weird pet sit at their lunch table. So that meant I had to be calm, accepting, and respectful.
Somehow that sentiment translated into me saying, “Excuse me. I can’t help but notice that you have a possum.”
“Yes,” said the possum-haver, “He’s a rescue from the Reservation because the Native Americans wanted to shoot him for stealing cat food.” As if that totally cleared up why a possum was his shopping buddy.
“Ohhhhh… It’s nice that you rescued it,” I offered, “My five year old would really get a kick out of seeing this.” That was true and a way of saying something nice to the guy in a situation where I really had to cast around for on-topic compliments.
“Yeah. When we rescued him his coat was pure white but it’s mottled as he’s mellowed out. Possums make great pets for people who are allergic to cats because they’re hypo-allergenic.”
“We have cats,” I said in an attempt to politely convey that offering me a possum was a non-starter. Regina George didn’t have a pet possum but then again neither did Jesus.
I must have been staring at the possum more than most people stare at companion marsupials because the guy said, “Would you like to take a picture?”
On the one hand, no I emphatically didn’t because PLEASE GOD DON’T LET IT GO FOR MY EYES but on the other hand, if you tell people you met a possum in a thrift store you better have some kind of evidence to back yourself up or else they’re just going to assume you’re a day drinker in need of hobbies. And WWMGD? Regina George would totally be like, “Whatever, loser. My Instagram feed is way too cute for, like, rats or whatever.” So I said okay.
The guy took the possum out of its cage which was not at all what I had meant for him to do. I was sure I should have erred on the side of OH HELL NO, KEEP THAT POSSUM AWAY FROM ME BECAUSE IT’S A FUCKING POSSUM but the possum just chilled out on the guy’s chest like a Baby Bjorn for hill people.
Full frontal possum seemed like way more of a big deal because it could easily scamper off and start chomping on the store full of people who I only then realized were all hanging on our every word like I was their Ambassador to the Interesting Yet Crazy and Potentially Rabid. Startling or otherwise ticking off the possum or the guy who could potentially weaponize the possum seemed like a really bad idea.
“Stop paying attention to me, crowd!” I thought, “This is one of those situations where etiquette and possibly Jesus demand you Instagram the possum. The faster I do it, the faster this thing will be re-caged. And don’t worry. I have like five Instagram followers so there’s no way store possums are the new purse Chihuahuas.”
I snapped the picture, paid, and left in what I hoped was a briskly dignified yet very un-Mean-Girls like manner.
As I was walking out the door I heard a woman in the next line say, “So… I’ve gotta ask: why a possum?”
“The Lord loves all His creatures,” said the possum guy.
“That may be so,” I thought, “But thank God this particular one wasn’t inclined to go for the face.”