GUEST CURMUDGEON: Checkout Chatterbox
This week, we welcome a new guest complainant, author Debby Dodds (see her bio at the bottom of this page), offering a grocery store gripe with which I'm certain many of you will concur.
“Hey, this new energy drink, you like the flavor?” the cashier asks as he swipes it across the scanner.
“Huh?” I’m running on about four hours’ sleep. Early this morning I dropped my daughter off at school and then headed to a dance class because I need to get back in shape after a book tour. Turns out sitting behind a table at
bookstores drinking chai lattes doesn’t tighten up your core muscles as much as you’d hope. Now, as I look at the gossip magazines in front of me, I zone out thinking about the chapters I need to get to my publisher. But I also have about 442 other things to get done before I pick my daughter up from school before going to my office to tutor for five hours. I’ll be finished around 9 p.m. tonight, and I also have to remember to do laundry because I’m out of underwear . . .
“You have five bottles of it! So it’s good?” The cashier has cool teal hair but keeps itching under his armpits, which is skeeving me out a bit.
I want to say, “No, I buy the drink because it tastes like rhinoceros pee!” but instead I force a smile. “It’s pretty good, yep!”
“And the Excedrin migraine, you get headaches, huh? Bad ones?”
What the actual f? Shouldn’t there be cashier/customer discretion? Like a doctor/patient privilege? Shouldn’t grocery store employees be trained not to comment on consumers’ choices?
“Mmmmm . . . ” I say and look away. I’m hoping to subtly convey my discomfort.
“Oh, red wine! I’m more of a whiskey man myself.”
Jesus. I don’t care! I just need to go! I’m not looking to make a new BFF. I slump my shoulders hoping maybe he’ll finally read my body language.
Then I feel guilty. Am I being an asshat? Why am I getting so irked by this dude commenting on my items . . .
Oh, wait. I know. Because it’s NONE OF HIS BUSINESS.
Then I see it. My box of tampons is next. Preemptively (and because I’m sleep deprived and panicky), I hear myself saying, “Yes, I DO have my period. Big flow today! Thanks for asking. And I do like this brand of tampons; they’re awesome!”
Oh crap. He’s frozen. People from other lines are looking at me. I’ve been much louder than I intended.
He rings up the rest and I slink off.
But what the heck? Why is this okay, for a cashier to take away my sense of privacy? What if someone has a lice kit for their kid? Or a pregnancy test? Or ten pounds of chocolate? Shouldn’t it be their right not to engage? Also, I’m sorry, but conversations with strangers can be very enervating for me, and shouldn’t I, as the client, have the right to just be quiet if I want?
Similarly vexing to me is standing BEHIND someone who is chatting with the cashier about their Hawaiian vacation. Or their knee replacement. Or their favorite toothpaste textures. Look, I need to get in and out. I have a busy day! And there are even people behind me! But maybe they don’t care. Maybe I’m the only douchecanoe in the supermarket.
And don’t even get me going on the people who handle my food and complain how sick they are with “the bug going around” while sneezing and sniffling. I once had a cashier spill my strawberries on the dirty conveyor belt and then pick them up, put them back in the basket and into my bag. Some were mushed. She said, “Ooops, I’m new!” Stunned, I paid for them but threw them out when I got home.
I’ve just about had it with the grocery store. I just want a quick, respectful transaction. Not to chat or to hear anyone else’s thoughts about the weather or politics or whatever. I want a clean, efficient packing of my goods and to be on my merry way.
I’m all for politeness, of course. I’m happy to smile and say, “Thanks!” on my way out. But I swear, next time I’m in the supermarket, if the person ringing me up asks me, “How do you like that butter lettuce?” I’ll say, “Honestly, it gives me gas!” or “You’re getting dog treats, you have a dog?” I’ll say, “Nope but my father loves them!” or “You got a fun day planned today?” I’ll say, “If you call being abducted and probed by Martians AGAIN ‘fun,’ then sure!”
Be warned, cashiers. I’m ready.
Debby Dodds is an author, humorist and teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her recent book, Amish Guys Don’t Call, was chosen as one of Powell’s Top YA of 2017. It's available at local bookstores and on Amazon.com.