On Saturday, Joel and I went to the yuppie grocery store to pick up a few very specific items. I am trying my very best to resist the ingrained urge to buy things in bulk, since we are leaving on vacation in 4 days (!) and there is no way we will consume 6 avocados, two pounds of turkey, a giant block of cheddar cheese before then. We were determined to stick to the list: cat litter, apples, pasta sauce, and a ream of paper for me to write one of my characteristic insane notes for the petsitter on. My record is three pages (front and back), but we have a whole extra cat this year so I'm aiming high. Better crazy than sorry, that's what I say.
We made it through the yuppie Safeway in record time and pulled our cart over to the aisle with the shortest line. Since Saturday night isn't exactly prime time for grocery shopping, there were only a few lanes open. When I peered down the aisle to gague how much stuff the people in front of us were buying (and therefore how much time I had to read US Weekly), my eyes locked with the cashier's. My heart sank a little when I recognized her as Inappropriate Comment Cashier Lady, and I cursed my luck.
I'm not sure what kind of training Safeway gives its cashiers, but I'd assume that they give them an overview of the basic skills -- how to operate the register, how to call for an override, and the like. Apparently, they also instruct their cashiers that it is OK to comment on each and every item a customer is purchasing, and ICCL graduated from this part of the course with high honors. As soon as the customer in front of us finished counting out twelve dollars and thirteen cents in change (I'm not kidding -- the Coinstar was broken, so he decided to simply pay his grocery bill in nickels, dimes, and pennies), the real fun began. As she scanned my bag of cat food, she looked at me and asked my how many cats I had. After shooting Joel a look to say "Here we go, feel free to jump in and kill me at any time!", I replied that we had three cats.
"Oh, wow!" she exclaimed, and without missing a beat, added "we just had to put down my mom's last cat in June."
"Oh, that's sad", I said, trying to sound sincere (for the record -- the first time she told me this story, I was honestly sad for her. But after you hear the same story, word for word, three times, it stops pulling at your heart strings).
"Yeah, but it was her time to go. She was thirteen, poor thing could hardly jump up on the bed anymore."
"You don't say." [trying with all my might to keep a straight face, while Joel concentrates fully on loading our other purchases onto the belt]
"Yeah, but it was real sad. June 13th was when she went."
"I'm very sorry," I said, as she scanned our next item -- two packets of guacamole mix, which warranted the comment, "MMMM! Guacamole!"
The apples and a few other things made it through the scanner comment-free, but then we got to the cards. Joel had picked out a birthday card for this mother, and I had taken the opportunity to buy a long overdue engagement card for a friend of mine, along with several wedding cards for the upcoming nuptials-filled year. "Oooh, looks like everybody's getting married!" she exclaimed, giving me a knowing glance. I'm not sure what the knowing glance was supposed to mean, did she think I was buying wedding cards for myself, perhaps? Is that the new passive-aggressive method for trying to get your boyfriend to propose? We will never know, because I swiped my credit card and high tailed it to the parking lot so that I could burst out laughing.
"That was the fourth time she told me about the dead cat," I told Joel. "THE. FOURTH. TIME. How many times do you think she tells that story every day? Does she tell everyone about her mom's dead cat, or does the 20-lb bag of cat food give me special status?"
While these comments are pretty harmless, it troubles me to wonder what she would say if I were buying anything a tad more... personal. Like, what happens when I need to stock up on tampons? Is she going to announce to the whole store, "Oh boy, looks like someone's going to be cranky for the next few days [wink, wink]"? And since my family reads this site, I'll stop there -- but can you imagine the awkward factor that certain purchases from the family planning aisle could illicit?
On our drive home, I started to speculate about possible responses I could give the next time I make a cat-related purchase (which is pretty much on every single trip, in case you were wondering) and she asks me the inevitable How-Many-Do-You-Have question. "Next time, I'm going to tell her I have twenty seven cats, and see what she has to say to that," I told Joel. "No, better yet, I'm going to say, 'None. Why do you ask?' "
"You should tell her you feed the cat food to your dog, because that's what he prefers," Joel suggested.
"I'm going to tell her that it's for my Brazilian baboon. And he specifically requests Iams Original Flavored with Chicken. You know, in sign language."
"You should tell her you just keep it around in case we run out of snacks. And that it really does taste like chicken."
The chances that I'll actually have the guts to deliver any of these lines the next time I get stuck with Inappropriate Comment Cashier Lady? Close to zero. But if they weren't so expensive, I would totally throw a few packs of adult diapers and a pack of Monistat-3, just to see what she would say.