I couldn’t get it all at Kroger, so I went to Walmart. I was just too tired to shop two stores.
It was like entering a church. People were solemn. I’d call it a skeleton staff for a Friday evening, more checkouts closed than open. Some of the produce bins were empty, no potatoes or onions left.
I didn’t care. Whatever I bought I’d have to carry upstairs and my feet hurt. So I stuck to my very short list. I was done in no time.
Checking out, though….
The lines were 15 deep. Carts were as full as folks could get them. Then a lane opened up on the opposite side of the store. I headed that way as nonchalantly as I could, not wanting to set off a stampede.
My cashier’s name is Judy. She would not make the cut at Aldi. She bagged every single item as if it were a carton of eggs. She’s older than me and she has osteoporosis. She should be at home in a big soft chair.
This concrete floor is getting harder by the minute. I do some stretches next to my cart, which I have placed strategically to keep the customer behind me from breathing down my neck.
This is not new behavior for me. My personal space just has a much bigger radius in Walmart.
“Customer needs assistance in fragrances,” the intercom says.
I guess it’s important to smell good in a crisis. The shopper behind me, who is still close enough for me to hear, says something about needing perfume when the toilet paper runs out.
The woman in front of me is wearing a white wig that is in braids down her back. Over that she has a rasta-looking slouchy hat. A few minutes ago she was in a good mood, chatting on her phone. But now her debit card has been declined.
Suddenly I inhale a cloud of perfume. I guess that customer got their assistance. Must have tried every tester on the counter.
I really need to cough. But I read somewhere elbows are no good. Now we’re supposed to cough into a tissue. No more elbows. But I don’t have a tissue, just a grimy hoodie sleeve. So I cough into my armpit. Maybe I’ll start a trend.
The woman with braids has been digging into her bag for at least two minutes, sliding coins across to Judy, who has sat down on a stool to wait. I’ll bet Judy’s feet hurt, too. I step forward.
“How much do you need, honey?” I ask.
Her smile has some teeth missing and it is sheepish but genuine, grateful for my concern. She apologizes.
“That’s OK,” I reply and pat her shoulder. “We’re all just doing the best we can.”
She pulls her cart away in triumph but not before thanking everyone in the queue for their patience.
“Hi, Judy,” I greet the cashier as I pull out my credit card.
I’m glad I have a credit card. I’m glad there’s money on it. I take the bags as she fills them and pull my card from the machine.
“You have a good evening,” she says as I walk away.
I know it will be better than hers. I get to go home now and say hello to what’s left of my toilet paper.