This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me, and I know it won’t be the last.
It’s nearly one in the morning when I walk into the deserted Dominick’s. I move down each aisle slowly and meticulously take in the glare of the fluorescent lights on the yellow tile floor and all the elbow room I forgot existed in supermarkets. There are no stomping feet or screaming children. No cart collisions or missing groceries. The middle of the night is by far the greatest time to shop.
Until the time comes to check out.
This woman is a staple of the establishment. She stands behind her counter reading tabloid magazines to pass the time as she waits anxiously for a customer. Drab brown ponytail. Drab green shirt falling to her knees. Drab gray eyes. She glances up from the magazine, spots me and gleefully awaits my arrival.
“Hey there,” she says, her voice all soft gravel and low tones.
“You got a lot of stuff there, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
“You should get a wagon. I have a wagon,” she says, her gray eyes staring me down as she sluggishly swipes my cream cheese, my relish, my four-dollar bottle of cabernet. “I stole mine from some kid down the street. It really comes in handy.”
“Uh, yeah. I’ll look into that,” I say trying desperately to avoid eye contact.
“Guess what I did this weekend,” her voice drops to an almost whisper as she looks at me conspiratorially.
“I don’t know, what’s that?”
I am immediately sorry that I was raised to be polite. If I had just kept my mouth shut, smiled and nodded, maybe pretended I didn’t know English, I could have avoided this whole thing.
“Got my Iguana neutered. $500! I had to, though. They get aggressive when they hit sexual maturity. Not to mention, they can pick up on your menstrual cycle.”
“Wow,” is all I can reply, not even bothering to try and hide the uncomfortable shock radiating across my face.
“Your total is $26.48.”
I quickly hand her my money, gather my bags and head out the door, before she keeps me any longer to start talking about her cat. (Karen Schmidt)