Justifying Myself To The Grocery Store Cashier Who Was Most Likely Not Judging Me In The First Place

Quite Possibly The Least Realistic Photo Ever.
Quite Possibly The Least Realistic Photo Ever.

“Do you have an Advantage card?” the cashier asks me, pleasantly enough. This part is real. The cashier has actually said words, which will not be the case for most of the rest of our time together. I give him the card, he scans it, and then we are off. To the world of needlessly defensive make-believe. Courtesy of me.

This guy is new, I think; at least, I’ve never seen him before. Which means he knows, like, less than nothing about me, and yet right off the bat I catch him looking askance at some of my frozen food choices.

“What – those Lean Cuisines?” I say, via my thought waves. “Well yeah, they’re full of salt and preservatives but really, I only eat them for lunch. I mean, sometimes dinner, but hardly ever. And I know, okay, I know it’s ironic that the Lean Cuisines are stacked up right next to the ice cream. Not that it’s any of your business, but I HAVE to buy three different kinds. Of ice cream. I have a husband and kids at home, okay?  It isn’t just all for me.  God.”

The Lean Cuisines and the ice creams fit nicely into one bag. I hope he notices this. I hope he realizes just how much good I’m doing by bringing my own bags. But he doesn’t seem to be thinking proud thoughts about me at all; in fact, I’m pretty sure a look of disdain just flashed across his face. Great. Because I know exactly what he’s thinking.

“Look,” I tell him, still only in my head. “I see you rolling your eyes at the chicken nuggets. I get it. But maybe if they hadn’t invented microwaves in the first place then our kids couldn’t have fallen in love with this kind of crap, did you ever think of that? Maybe you like to get home after a long day of work and cook a clean, healthy meal from scratch while simultaneously helping with homework and starting some laundry and going through the mail, and then checking to see if you actually paid the mortgage or if you just imagined doing it, but guess what, I DON’T. And so what, anyway? It’s not like chicken nuggets are all my kids ever eat. See that stew meat you just blew past like it was nothing? Yeah! I’m going to make beef stroganoff with that meat! And I don’t even know if beef stroganoff is good for you, in fact I’m pretty sure it’s mostly not, but I will be making it from real ingredients that go into a crock pot and not the microwave. Also I think I will serve it with asparagus. See? There it is, frozen asparagus, right there. Fine, fresh is better and organic is better than that, but, really, can’t you just give me a break? I’m buying vegetables! Look, there’s green beans and also broccoli. Right there. VEGETABLES.”

I suddenly realize I’ve forgotten to remove the items from under the cart – I like to do that first, because once I forgot entirely and got chased out of the store by a woman who I KNOW did not believe I wasn’t trying to steal them. The cashier thanks me when I hold up the 12-pack of diet root beer for him to scan. But I can see he’s being condescending, I mean, it’s so totally obvious.

“Listen,” I tell him. “I’d really advise you to never try to be an actor, because seriously? I can see right through you. And the diet root beer, no, of course that’s not for my kids. Just for me. I don’t let my kids drink diet things. My kids pretty much drink only water. Well, and milk. And chocolate milk, and I guess Gatorade. Oh, those Kool-Aid Jammers? Of course I know they’re loaded with sugar. But it’s not like I buy them every time, for God’s sake. I mean honestly, I hardly ever buy that stuff. I definitely make sure my kids get enough water. From the tap, because contrary to what you apparently think, it’s just as good for you as the bottled kind. Not to mention it’s not WASTING TONS OF PLASTIC EVERY SINGLE YEAR.”

God, this guy is difficult – this is exactly why I prefer the self-checkout lanes. And now he’s reaching for the cereal. Fabulous.

“All right, sugary cereal. You got me there,” I say. “But just so you know, I USED to buy fruity Cheerios, which everyone knows are good for your cholesterol level. I only quit buying them because they quit making them. Or maybe this store just quit selling them and if so, shame on you in this case. I was trying to give my kids high fiber whole grain goodness, but NO. Don’t take away my options and then judge me for making a desperate choice.”

One of the Lunchables won’t scan. I hate buying Lunchables; thank God I only bought two of them this week. Two doesn’t look so bad. But I’m betting this cashier thinks otherwise. I try to stare him down, and my eyes are saying – “YEAH, I LET MY KIDS TAKE LUNCHABLES TO SCHOOL. STOP LOOKING AT ME. HOW OLD ARE YOU, ANYWAY?”

He doesn’t react, probably because finally, he’s gotten to the produce. I leave it for the end so it won’t get crushed, but also it’s a good redemptive move. “See those grapes?” I want to say. “They’re not even on sale, I will probably pay between nineteen and forty dollars for those grapes, but you know what, I’m buying them anyway! BECAUSE I LOVE MY FAMILY. Do you know how much time I spent this summer, cutting up cantaloupe and watermelon? That’s right, a lot. And look, there’s apples. And pears. I don’t even like pears. And see this? Spinach. And green peppers and carrots and tomatoes. So it looks like all my vegetables aren’t frozen after all, doesn’t it, buddy? You got it. THERE IS PLENTY OF FRESH FOOD IN MY HOUSE, YOU JUDGEMENTAL ASSHOLE.”

Well, maybe that was a bit harsh. Is he looking at me funny? Or is it the eggs, could he be judging the – “Oh, come on, eggs? Eggs are good for you! I know that for a while we thought they were bad, then just the yolks were bad, egg-white omelets and blah blah, but, keep up. Now they’re back to good. And really, this is the perfect illustration of why you shouldn’t be judging me in the first place. What’s that? You say you weren’t judging me in the first place?”

“That’ll be $267.85,” says the cashier, out loud.

And I pay him, and give him a cheery “You, too!” when he tells me to have a good day. Because I’m pretty sure I won the imaginary argument that we never had, so really, I can spare the kindness.

A Man For All Seasons

patio-furniture-setsIt does not escape my attention that I may occasionally say things about Jim that are perhaps less than positive, if not so much here on this blog, then certainly in real life. It probably does not escape his attention either. Which is why today, I am going to write something very nice about him, namely, that he would be really, really good in an apocalypse.  Because he would.  I am not even making this up.

I mean, sure, he likes his nightly shower and morning cup of coffee as much as the next person. He might miss his K-Cups for a while, but give him a way to boil water and he’d be all set. He’d be fine; he really would. I, on the other hand, would not.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The truth is, I would not only not be fine, I’d be terrible. Worse than terrible. I’d be useless, a burden which our marriage vows would force him to drag along behind him. Like a gangrenous leg.

Incidentally, I used to think that no one could survive an apocalypse; I thought that was kind of part of the definition, but young adult fiction has shown me otherwise. So, say there’s an apocalypse, and we survive. Jim would say, “Let’s go, no time to waste! We need to find shelter and a source of water!”

Several yards away, I would be saying, “Children, please stop your whining for FIVE SECONDS and help Mommy find her sparkly owl earrings. This is an awful lot of rubble, isn’t it?”

Jim would be in the woods, crossbow slung across his back, gutting a deer and preparing the hide for tanning while I was out looting ULTA, making sure I’d never run out of key cosmetic items.

Jim would forage for plants and berries that were safe to eat; I would undoubtedly make mojitos with muddled poison oak.

Jim would teach our kids all sorts of useful survival skills. I would use up all the juice of our solar-powered emergency radio charging my Kindle. And my e-cig. And my cell phone, because even though there’d be no cell towers and no internet, I am sure that somehow there would still be Facebook.

I guess the good thing about an apocalypse is the availability of things, if you think about it. At least for a while. I mean, assuming there weren’t too many survivors, I could probably get all the propane I ever needed for our little gas fire pit, which is good, because God knows our kids like s’mores. The library books would be free for the taking, which I realize they already are, but, no overdue fines. That’s nice. Plus, no more lines at the grocery store. Or the DMV, or really anywhere, I guess. You just go and get what you need and be on your way.

I think what I’d like to do most, in an apocalypse, is set up camp in a Target. It’d be good if it happened in summer, because their patio furniture section always has a nice selection of seating arrangements for any occasion. Plus, they have lots of other stuff you might need, like sleeping bags and screwdrivers and Lego sets. They have tons of non-perishable food, bicycles for the kids (also helmets, which are of course required by law; just because we’ve survived the world’s end doesn’t mean we should turn into a bunch of lawless hooligans). They have books, arts and crafts, even birthday party decorations. Face it, we’re going to need stuff like that to keep our spirits up. Plus, our Target happens to be pretty near to our ULTA. Double bonus for me. Less so for Jim.

I think hands down the worst thing about an apocalypse would be the lack of electricity. I mean, aside from all the death and destruction, of course. OF COURSE that is really the worst thing, but let’s be real for a minute. Death is a part of life. Power outages, though – well, in this day and age, I just feel they should be totally avoidable, global cataclysm or not. I get kind of clammy and nauseated when I think of all we’d have to do without: soft lighting and laundry facilities, television and toasters. All our blowup snowman and Santa Claus decorations. Word processing programs. Microwaves. Perhaps most horrifying of all, hair dryers.

I am sure Jim could rig up something using daisy-chained car batteries and a diesel something-or-other, and he would do that for me, I know he would. He would roll his eyes and complain a lot because believe me, there is nothing Jim likes better than a good cause for complaint. And I would allow him to complain about it because quite frankly, that is just how we roll. Jim complaining, me beating him over the head with my relentless insistence on optimism. “Look on the bright side,” I will tell him, when the devastation goes down. “The ozone layer may have burned up in a fiery inferno (as opposed to a watery inferno? I don’t know), but, all the free sunscreen you could want is right there in aisle A47!”

And Jim will say, “Please stop talking and just go measure the kids for their groundhog-fur ponchos.” And I will do that, and I guess that is why we’re still together. Because though he would know that my demands for hair drying capabilities were ridiculous, he’d humor me anyway, even, I believe, in an apocalypse. Because he would let me choose whichever pillows I wanted for our Target patio furniture. And I would let him dress our kids in groundhogs.

And if you ask me, that is what true love is all about.