The Girl at the Grocery Store

FROM THE PAST.  Again.  Because my sister reminded me of this familial sunset thing.

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; this gives me hope. The second thing is that she’s always sneaking out to the parking lot to take pictures of the sunset 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 from the same spot at the same beach in Florida every single day; when we’d visit once a year, he’d show us one long slide show (over several consecutive evenings) involving thousands of sunset pics, narrated with stats: film speed, f-stop, date, time, and sometimes, temperature. About 8 photos while the sun was sinking towards the horizon, 3 or four right at the horizon, and maybe 4 or 5 just after it sunk. 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 full circle 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 just never see coming. Peaches, yum! Oh, I have that salad dressing too. Kleenex, do you have allergies? Comment, scan, comment, scan, and so on, til she gets to one item, and I can never predict just what it’s gonna be, that causes the conversation (if you could call it that) to go off somewhere no one has ever been before, like a voyage to the weird 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 real bok choy, with a saying about all the good luck it brings, which, actually, come to think of it, might be working.”

And then the transaction is over, and I’m walking out before I’m fully aware of all the questions I have. I want to go back, but that’s not how it works at the store, you have to wait til you need more half and half or something.

I walk out to the parking lot, and the sunset actually is pretty amazing, so I run back in to tell her, because I know about her sunset thing. She’s strangely grateful that I remember, and closes her line, to the dismay of all 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.


  1. Pictures don't do justice to the real thing, no matter how good your camera is ... but I find that the very act of taking a photo helps imprint the magnificence on my memory. Maybe that's the attraction for her, too.

    Plus getting to go outside for a minute instead of scanning groceries.


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