HATRED IS a beautiful thing, and as I stood in the supermarket checkout line behind the woman in the red ski jacket, I could feel my loathing for her growing steadily.
The sign above our heads read: "Express line -- 10 items or less." The woman had 13 items in her shopping cart. I counted them. That's the kind of thing I do in checkout lines.
Other people smack their kids or thumb through those stupid tabloids ("Woman Raised By Wolves Asks: What Do I Tell My Fiance?!")
Me, I sit there counting how many items others have in their carts. It's an annoying habit. But in a way, I see myself as sort of a one-man U.N. observation team, monitoring the trustworthiness of my fellow shoppers.
So here was this woman with 13 items in her cart in the express line, where the limit is 10 items. Even if you're shaky in arithmetic, this was a clear violation of the rules.
For an instant, I considered saying something to her. She was about 5-foot-3 and weighed about 105 pounds. She seemed to be in her mid-50s. I figured there was a chance I could take her if she caused any trouble -- at least if I got in the first punch.
That's the key when you start duking it out with a woman. You have to get in the first punch. Because some of these women are better with their fists than Mike Tyson.
Believe me, I ought to know. I got sucker-punched by a woman once. This was at a fraternity party in college. Apparently the woman was having a problem with her boyfriend. Unfortunately, I happened to be standing right next to the boyfriend.
All I remember is that the music was blaring and the two of them were arguing when suddenly the woman turned and threw an uppercut that started over near the pool table.
The boyfriend must have been used to this kind of thing, because he ducked quickly.
I myself was not used to this sort of thing. The punch caught me square on the jaw. It lifted me about 2 feet off the floor. It was like being kicked by a mule. I'm telling you, I wasn't right for days.
Oh, the woman apologized profusely when I regained my senses. She even offered to buy me a beer. But I decided to go back to my dorm room, where things were quieter and you didn't have to worry about some boozed-up nut thinking she was Sonny Liston.
Anyway, I wondered whether the same thing would happen if I said something to this woman in the express line.
Then another thought crossed my mind: What if this woman was packing a heater in her purse? Or one of those jagged 6-inch hunting knives that all the major-league psychos use nowadays?
Or what if she'd just seen "Thelma and Louise" and became completely unhinged and started attacking me with . . . I don't know, a head of lettuce?
Believe me, you don't want a woman coming at you with a head of lettuce. I had that happen to me once. In fact, it happened not long after that woman cold-cocked me at the frat party. And people wonder why I hated the Seventies.
The lettuce incident started innocently enough. We were standing in the kitchen at my girlfriend's apartment. She was making dinner and amusing herself by listing all my shortcomings. It was her favorite pastime.
When she got to the part about my forgetting her birthday, she suddenly started howling (talk about being raised by wolves). Then she began advancing on me with a head of lettuce.
Well. We broke up that night. The howling was bad enough, but you can't have a woman brandishing a dangerous vegetable every time she disagrees with you. It's just not the basis for a healthy relationship.
Anyway, all these thoughts ran through my mind as I wondered whether to say anything to this express-line scofflaw.
Then I noticed something in her cart: a 50-pound bag of dog food. For large dogs. And I thought: With my luck, she has a pair of Dobermans waiting in the car. I'll follow her out to the parking lot and she'll whistle softly and these two killers will come flying out of the back seat, sort of like those mutts that almost tore Laurence Olivier to pieces in "The Boys From Brazil."
So I kept my mouth shut. Besides, what was the big deal about three extra items in her cart?
Live and let live, I always say.