Life in the Express Lane

I don't care what other's say, I love
your bagel imperfections.  
Sometimes in life, circumstances necessitate that you broaden your understanding of right vs. wrong.

Another fruitless visit to the supermarket during a hunger pang, my cart overflowing with calories, I decided against the donuts in favor of a bagel, and was feeling especially proud of myself. 

That feeling faded as I neared the checkout aisles and realized only the express lane looked favorable.  I quickly added up the items in my cart.  At least 20 items.  The limit was 12.  Oh well, I thought...five items are the same. I'm not really pushing the maximum.  

So, we're both sort of in the wrong...
Me with exceeding the limit, and
your store with its grammar.  
It's no different than driving 8 miles over the speed limit on the freeway. Everybody does it.  Some people bring their whole weeks worth of groceries through the express lane.  I wasn't doing that!

The lady in front was especially proud of her find.  One pound packages of ground sirloin beef for $3.99.  She had at least 8 packages of the meat.  The fear of a gout attack held me back from exiting the line and exploring the butcher department for more good deals.

I laid out my twenty-two items.  Sure, I didn't need all five different flavors of Jarritos Soda, but at .69 a bottle on sale, it was almost a crime not to try them.  I mean, I'm almost 40, and I've never tried ANY flavor of Jarritos.  That's a cultural crime. There is no food product besides maybe the chili relleno and some people's interpretation of guacamole, that Mexico hasn't perfected.  Sure, they seem stuck on like twenty different ingredients, but they've made lemonade out of what life gave them.

Well...better than Corona.  
I looked at the Hispanic Lime Limón soda, and wondered if it would taste like Sprite, and noticed that a little old man had joined the line behind me.

I loaded the last few items onto the conveyer belt and heard his grumbling.  He almost, almost, uttered actual words of discontent.  Perhaps he was senile, or had irritable bowel syndrome.  

He quickly grabbed the plastic divider bar that keeps our groceries from breeding with each other, and loaded his few items.  A handful of beets, a bunch of celery, and a head of cauliflower.  I think a genetic cross section of our combined items might have made mine healthier and his a little more edible.

I considered letting him cut in front of me in line.  Until I saw his face.  Every wrinkle in his chiseled eighty year old face was tightening in disdain for me.  He greying eyes passed right through me, as if I was a Korean soldier, and he an M2 flamethrowing GI.

I made this walker with tennis balls you brats hit over my
fence when playing wiffle-ball.  
Let it go, old man, the Korean War is over...I thought.  Now you're going to wait behind me.  I hope the checker lady has to do a price check.  

He made some more noises that could've been bile boiling in his gut, or some guttural sound that animals emit when you threaten their territory.  I wondered if it was his odd mix of vegetables that made him so hostile.  What could you possibly make with that concoction of veggies...a broth? A stew? A potion? I wondered if his wife was a witch.

Look, I'm sorry I exceeded the limit by 10 items.  I'm sorry that my digestive system still allows me to eat a bagel and a Mexican soda, and you have to eat alienated veggies. NO. No, I'm not sorry.  You're just a bitter old man.  A man with a radishy personality.  Now you know he WE feel when you drive 48 MPH on the freeway old man.  Yeah, it works both ways.  So stew in your own toxic fumes you judgmental old man. I'm not a bad person.  

I said next to nothing to the checkout lady. She didn't acknowledge that I had exceeded the limit. We passed pleasantries, I quickly paid by debit card, and grabbed my weighted down bag.  Five glass soda bottles was probably pushing its structural integrity.

"Hello Sandra," cooed the old man in voice like Tony Bennett. I turned to see a complete transformation.  The old man had morphed from malignant to genteel.

You get a merit badge for finding a use for radishes.    
"Oh, hello Charles, how are you today?"  Sandra, the middle-aged checker, whom I had failed to really notice in our interaction, brightened up.

I wanted to stay and eavesdrop on their conversation.  Maybe Charles would divulge the purpose behind his odd vegetable choices. Maybe Sandra was an old friend or relative, or maybe Charles was just a regular who had made a connection with a tired employee. I glanced, perhaps a second too long, at the authenticity of their moment.  They showed compassion for each other in the realness of their smiles.

Overstaying my welcome, I exited their scene. Maybe I had misread his face, his gestures, his sounds as displeasure. I was, sort of, in the wrong. What if I was the bad guy? No, not bad...just, inhospitable. I was guilty of the same judgement I thought he was giving me. I looked into my sack of ten extra items and nothing looked that good or that real, and realized I wanted a little more of what they had.

1 comment:

  1. Couple points to touch here.

    First, great piece.

    Second, maybe if you were this personable and consistent of a shopper as a blog writer, you'd have some professional courtesy at said grocery store like Tony Bennett.

    Third, I feel people really need to respect the 12 items or fewer line, however your analogy of going 48mph on the freeway, won me back to your side. That said, 10mph over the speed limit is generally considered acceptable which represents 15%. With 12 items, you'd truly only be allowed 2 items over to follow that same overage.