I saw something you don’t see every day: Two well-dressed, dignified-looking elderly ladies angrily screaming at each other in the parking lot of a party supply/liquor store’s parking lot. One of them gave the other one “the finger” and stormed off, climbed into her car, and drove off.

I wondered what they were arguing about. Did one lady grab the last package of Dora the Explorer party balloons for her granddaughter’s birthday party? Maybe one of them snatched the last bottle of Smirnoff off the shelf.

I was surprised that the elderly lady remembered which finger was the offensively vulgar one. We absent-minded older folks don’t “flip the bird” nearly as often as we used to.

When I was in high school, my brother’s teacher called my mom about a discipline issue. All five of us kids were sitting at the table doing homework while Mom prepared supper. Mom’s end of the conversation went like this:

“He did WHAT to the other kids?…What does that mean?…Which finger?…Uh-huh…Is that the only finger that’s offensive?…How long has that been a ‘thing’?…That long?…Well, that means everybody had to accept that was the vulgar finger. Why did they do that?…You don’t know?…ok…Yes, I’ll speak to him about it. Bye.”

“David,” Mom calmly said, “Stop showing people your fingers.” Then she went back to stirring the soup while all five of us gave “the finger” to the others, laughing hysterically.

You might ask what I was doing in the parking lot of that liquor store this past Tuesday morning. I don’t even drink alcohol. I had just walked out of the store with my purchase, which was three bags of vividly colored drinking straws with little “male members” (I’m going to refer to them for the rest of this article as “wicks,” because I don’t want the all-knowing internet to throw me into an awkward algorithm). I just changed one letter of a slang word. You figure it out. Every time I tried to type this using the actual slang word that rhymes with “wicks,” my laptop popped up a message stating, “Some readers may find this word offensive.” No kidding. The straws had “wicks” on the tops of them through which, I assume, partygoers might sip their alcoholic beverages at a wedding shower.

You might ask what I wanted with the “wick”-adorned straws. A few days earlier, one of my female co-workers came into work in the morning, slammed down her purse and her briefcase, and growled, “I feel like a bagful of ‘wicks’ today!” (She didn’t say “wicks.” She used its rhymer.)

“Are you bragging or complaining?” I asked. “And if you know what a bagful of “wicks” feels like, you’ve had a much more interesting sex life than I have, and apparently there’s a felony involved. Several felonies, as a matter of fact.”

“Haven’t you ever heard that expression?” she asked.

“No, I have not. What does it mean?”

“It means I’ve had a lousy morning already and I have a lot to do today.”

“So you feel like a bagful of ‘wicks’?”

“Exactly,” she answered.

Hmm, I thought, this would make a great gag gift for her (pun intended), but where does a person find a bagful of “wicks?” Possibly at the party supply/liquor store?

As an elderly woman myself, this was an uncomfortable purchase for me. The X-rated novelty items are kept behind a counter, so as not to horrify any customers with more class than I have. I had to track down a young male employee and actually ask him where they were hiding the novelty items with “wicks” on them (I used the actual rhyming term but whispered it.) He brought me to the counter and showed me a basket of “wick” items in a wide selection of sizes.

Hmm, I thought, I’d better not choose anything life-size, since a bagful of those would require a tote bag the size of Santa’s gift bag and would be too conspicuous to drag up the sidewalk into work the next day. Not to mention doing so would likely scuff up the “wicks.”

I settled on the straws. At the check-out stand, the young cashier snorted back her laughter and she rang them up.

“Don’t judge me,” I said.

“Oh, no, ma’am,” she replied with a snicker.

After pausing to watch the performance of the angry old ladies in the parking lot, I went home, where I sat at the kitchen table and with sharp clippers, whacked the “wicks” off the straws. I was a bit alarmed at how satisfying it was. Then I packed them into a small velvet bag with a tasseled drawstring. Just so I would know what a bagful of “wicks” feels like, I ran my fingers over the bag. I almost hated to give them away. They were a hit with my co-workers the next day.

For those of you who would like to be more fluent in the art of communicating through hand gestures and vulgar novelty items, here are some pointers:

The middle finger pointing up, palm in=up yours! or go ‘f’ yourself.

The Index finger pointing up=we’re number one!

The index and middle fingers pointing up, palm in=V for victory.

The index and middle fingers pointing up, palm out= peace, hippie.

Thumb up= encouragement or approval.

Thumb, index, and pinkie up, palm out=hang ten, surfer dude.

All fingers up waving back and forth slightly, palm out=hello neighbor.

All fingers up waving back and forth slightly, palm in=you’re either the Queen of England or a beauty contest winner riding on the back of a convertible.

As for communicating via vulgar novelty items, try the local party supply store, and pick up a bottle of Smirnoff while you’re at it.

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