If you know me, you know I am decent at maintaining control of what is happening to me or around me. This may be either way under- or way overstated depending on how much time you spend with me and in what context.
But what you might not know, because it usually happens when I am alone and in unfamiliar situations, is that I frequently get kind of shy and lose control. Or, make no attempt to gain control. In the moment I usually think, “Wow, I’m going to be really pissed about this later.” Like today when I went grocery shopping.
I go up to Fridley to shop at SuperTarget sometimes, mostly because it’s desolate but also because it’s really quirky. Today there was a one-armed man riding a bicycle, a man having an active conversation with someone who was invisible, and a kid dressed head-to-toe as a bat, face painted black and everything.
I bring my own bags. “WOW YOU HAVE SO MANY BAGS,” the checker said, and then took every single bag out of the bag for the bags. See, you don’t have to do that. There’s a bag of bags and you may need 3 or 4, and you just take what you need out one at a time. If you take ALL THE BAGS OUT, everyone can see all the bags I have. She even took out the bags to reuse at the self service coffee bean bins. Every irrelevant, wrong-sized, dirty, weird and bottom-of-the-bag bag came out and got spread out on display across the counter.
I did nothing. I said only, “Yes. I do have a lot of bags.”
“Can I put just a few things inside each? So they aren’t too heavy? You just have SO MANY.”
“No, I’d rather make fewer trips from the car to the house. Please make them heavy. You don’t have to use them all.”
“Oh. I see your point.”
And then she started putting chips in the bottom of the first bag. You don’t put chips in the bottom. You just don’t do it. But, I’ve gone into shy mode, so I just sneak the chips out when she isn’t looking and set them to the side.
That was when Lady Behind Me entered my purchasing zone. I don’t really know how to deal with people who crowd my purchasing zone, so I usually just stare at them until they get scared and back away. But I was busy micromanaging the Chip Destroyer so I had to pay attention. Then I realize she is actively browsing my groceries.
“I like your groceries,” she said.
I ignore, say nothing. Because that couldn’t have just happened. I like your groceries??
She continued to look through them. “What’s this juice? Do you drink it for breakfast? What is in it? What does it taste like?”
“Um. It’s actually sweet. I drink it in the morning.”
“I think you are on a health kick. Are you? Can I touch this bottle of juice and read the label?”
She turns to her daughter, “I like her groceries. And she seems nice. I want to try this juice. Have you seen it? She drinks it for breakfast.”
It was all over in a few minutes, but it felt like an hour. The whole time, I’m trying to figure out – how is this situation so ridiculous? How can I be letting this happen? Am I mad about it? Or do I think this is funny?” And, possibly most importantly, “WHY do I even have to wonder how I feel about someone going through my groceries?”
I would like to think I have an inner New Yorker who would have handled this situation very differently in the right circumstances, but it was Sheepish Minnesotan who made an appearance tonight. And where I thought I might be annoyed after the fact, I find my annoyance is actually the Californian in me nagging that I should have immersed myself fully in conversation and also gone to coffee with the lady.