The Girl At The Grocery Store (again...)

There are a few things I like about her, even though she’s kind of a ditz. One is that she used to have a gauged ear piercing the size of a nickel, but let it grow back, which it did; this gives me great hope for my son. The second thing is that she’s always sneaking out of the store to take pictures of the sunset from the parking lot with her cell phone. I don’t have a thing for sunsets myself, but I do have a thing for people who have a thing for sunsets.

Perhaps because my grandfather, who worked at Kodak long enough to get free film for life, took about 15 pictures of the sunset over the same beach in Florida every single day, and when we’d visit once a year, we’d see slides every evening, about 6,000 shots taken from the exact same spot. We’d get the stats for each picture: film speed, f-stop, which camera, date, time, air temperature. About eight shots while the sun was sinking towards the horizon, 3 or four right at the horizon, and maybe four or five just after it sunk, for every night since we’d seen him last. Once in a great while there was a cloud, but other than that, nothing changed.

I know it sounds boring, but it was so extreme that it came back around and became interesting again, if you can imagine that. Anyway, the other thing I like about the checkout girl is that she comments on what I’m buying. Also in the category of so boring that it comes back around again. (Note: when the UPS guy comments on what I’m buying, it’s creepy, e.g., “I see you ordered something from Victoria's Secret, would you like me to wait around to see if it fits?” That’s creepy. Checkout girl commenting on groceries, not creepy.) It starts out boring, but inevitably goes off on its own weird trajectory that I never anticipate.

“Peaches, yum! Oh, I have that salad dressing too. Kleenex, do you have allergies?" Comment, scan, comment, scan, and so on, until she gets to one item that causes the conversation to go off somewhere no one has ever been before, like a voyage to the lurky second moon orbiting the earth. The other day, baby bok choy.

“Oh, did you know bok choy is good luck in China? One of my parents’ friends brought me a baby bok choy as a souvenir of their trip, and I was pretty bummed out at first, I mean, seriously, all the way to China, and they bring me bok choy, and meanwhile, I’m spending the best years of my life scanning this shit all day, I’m serious, I almost cried when they gave it to me, but I didn’t because, whatever, that’s just how it is.”

“Really? They gave you bok choy?”

Yeah, but it was a little sculpture made from bok choy, with a saying about the good luck, which, actually, I think is working.”

And then the transaction was over, and I was walking out before I fully realized all of the questions I had. I wanted to go back, but that’s not how it works at the store, you have to wait until you need more half and half or something.

But as I walked out to the parking lot, I noticed that the sunset actually was pretty amazing, so I ran back in to tell her, because I know about her sunset thing. She was strangely grateful, and closed her line, to the dismay of the people standing in it. I get a dirty look from the first guy, who’s stuff is half un-packed onto her little tarmac, but I smile at him the way parents smile at each other, like, oh well, if you love something, let it be what it is, and I follow her out while she flips open her crappy little cell phone camera. If you already know its there, you can tell there’s a river at the edge of the picture, but the photo she takes will just show cars in a parking lot next to a highway, with just a little more color than usual.

(thanks, S., for suggesting this, and sorry to be repetitive to those who've read this.)


  1. I enjoyed this. The description of the checkout girl's quirks, the dialogue and the closing observation that, with her "crappy little cell phone camera," it hardly seems worthwhile for her to be running outside to photograph the sunset over and over and over again. And yet she keeps doing it. A nice slice of life.


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