Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A grocery trip

Today, I had the rare chance to run to the grocery store to pick up a couple of items on a weekday, by myself. Hands firmly on the cart, I enthusiastically I burst through the doors of the store--and came very close to running into an older man who stood in the middle of the aisle. His head was topped in thick gray hair and his hip sported a run. Typical Oklahoma, I thought. I moved to the side and continued on my merry way, in search of spinach and bell peppers. I swung my cart back around towards the center aisles and found myself directly behind that exact same man again. "Try not to run over me," he gruffly said. I carefully navigated around him, thinking all the while, I really don't want to run over anyone, especially the Man with the Gun. 

I navigated my way around people and all the way to the section of refrigerators in the back. I soon found myself apologizing to a woman who stood behind me, patiently waiting for her turn to hunt for a good carton of eggs (which can feel rather like a game of Jenga at times). "Some of the eggs are questionable today," I said, trying to explain just why I was taking such a long time. 

"Everything in this store is questionable," she muttered. 

She then began ranting about how all of the food in the grocery store is filled with poison and hormones that will give us arthritis and/or cancer. “It’s why my sister and I are going to start growing our own vegetables and meat,” she announced. 

“What?” the teenage girl with her—presumably her daughter?—shrieked, throwing her hands up in the air and back down to her ripped jeans in disbelief. 

The woman continued, undeterred, waving her hand toward my cart and talking about all of the dangerous ingredients that were concealed under the lids of the glass jars of marinara sauce. All the while, the teenage girl continued wailing, asking her for clarification if they were really, actually, going to raise and kill animals. “Yes,” the woman declared.

I was highly amused (and a bit sympathetic), but I wanted to get home for dinner, so I pushed my cart away. “I wish you well in your endeavor,” I declared as I walked down the aisle to find a cheap bottle of hand soap.

I love the cross-section of humanity that pops up in the grocery store. A truly diverse array of people walks through those doors, and just who you find there can wildly vary depending on the day of the week or the hour of the day (the late-morning crowd of stay-at-home moms and elderly people looks different from the just-out-of-class crowd of schoolkids with their parents, which in turn looks different from the pajama-clad, unruly-looking groups that saunter through the store at 10 p.m.). 

The employees are just as diverse as the people who shop, too. There's the tall guy on the register who looks barely out of high school (if that) who automatically organizes your groceries as he scans them, there's the musical-loving woman with the white braid who cares for her grandkids and visits the Pacific Northwest or Hawaii when she's able, there's moms with young kids who somehow stay sane as they deal with working irregular hours and parenting, a young woman on the register who-without fail-will always compliment me on my skirt and tell me how much she loves wearing skirts when she's not in a work uniform. There's plenty of other employees who know us well by sight, even if not by name. They wave at my children, they smile at my baby, and they have watched my children grow. The grocery store, and those within it, are part of our community. 

In fact, when I mentioned to one woman running the register that I'm newly pregnant (we're very thrilled!), she was excited and mentioned that this will be the second pregnancy that she will get to see me through. All through my third child's pregnancy, she would see us in the checkout line we'd talk about life. Through the days of new babyhood, when I finally started going grocery shopping myself several weeks into postpartum, we'd continue to talk and share and she'd gaze at my new little baby girl. And now, this woman on register is excited that she will get to journey with us, in a small way, through another pregnancy and hopefully, God-willing, meet our little one. 

There are times when I wish that our nearby grocery store offered online ordering with pickup, so I could click, click, click, stop by for a pickup, and be done. Yet, there are other times when I sit back and am amazed at all of the unique, wonderful people we encounter. Like the one elderly woman who stopped me in the produce section a few weeks ago. Noticing my three young children and my long multicolored skirt, the woman peered up at me and loudly asked: “Are you Mennonite? You look Mennonite. You know, like the Quakers in Pennsylvania.” 

Maybe, as I pondered a couple years ago, I really should start wearing jeans, so people know I'm Catholic. 


  1. I loved reading this and agree that the grocery store allows for such unique interactions. I usually enjoy the process of shopping for groceries and I think a big part of that is the cross-section of humanity that you wrote of. That’s so wonderful about the woman at the register being excited for your pregnancy!

    1. I'm so glad you liked this! It's very cool that you enjoy grocery shopping-the store may not be what we think of in terms of "community," but with the amount of time we spend there, it really can be a pick part of our local community and interactions. And yes! It was so wonderful that the lady on the register was so thrilled for my pregnancy; she has seemed to really enjoy watching all of my kids grow :)

  2. That is so sweet about the woman at the register who has watched your family grow! Grocery stores sure can provide interesting situations, and so true about the cross section of humanity.