I feel like a Peeping-Tom. I feel dirty. My parents raised me better. My transgression? I invaded some lady’s privacy recently. I violated her private space. How? When? Where? HOW? I was in the check out line at a Wal-Mart Superstore. That’s right, the Wal-Mart Superstore Express check-out line. That gives you the when and where. The HOW?Answering involves a little more complexity and a lot more insight into how I process life.
The check out line has become a little intimate and personal if you ask me. Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe I’m over thinking the whole stand-in-line and cruise-the-other-person’s-swag thing. But there’s just something a little uncomfortable about viewing someone’s acquisition of unmentionables, personal hygiene items and (dare I say?) household “paper” products. And what does it say about someone who buys these items in conjunction with tater tots? What does it say about my intrigue with the personal intimacies of others as they relate to express checkout?
I always perceived my purchases at the supermarket to be quite balanced and politically correct. (Can grocery carts be politically correct?) I would have pasta and cheeses along with red wines. My frozen entrees would be complimented with a nice assortment of appetizer snacks (i.e., Cheez-Its). And, there would most definitely be a sweet tooth item to lend the exclamation point. (Dessert is so “in.”) As well, my food items were customarily “balanced” with an assortment of household items including cleaners, disinfectants, and necessary paper products. For good measure, there was the occasional luxury of flowers and hot foods from the deli! (Yippee!) Talk about comprehensive. And on the occasion when I found it necessary to run to the market and grab last minute “pick ups,” (read: I ran out of toilet paper OR there’s noticeable trouble with indigestion) my potpourri of express lane items would easily grant me “grace under pressure” with the intentional inclusion of“support” items designed to lace my basket with diversion. What goes great with Pepto? Ben and Jerry’s! What compliments Charmin toilet paper? Seedless grapes and Coffee Mate! Such add-on shopping was designed for would be gawkers just salivating to judge my grocery assortment. How could I hold my head up in public if these strangers deciphered my pressing moment of peril and realized that I only needed toilet paper? After all, if you dash to the market ONLY for toilet paper, inquiring minds are forced to ponder if the need for paper products is PROACTIVE or REACTIVE. A reactive deduction could prompt looks of suspicion and avoidance. Again, perhaps I’m over thinking this whole thing.
Nevertheless, my paper product initiative would necessitate a can of Pledge, Sun Chips, Murphy’s Oil and seedless grapes. The seedless grapes are a slam dunk. They’ll throw off the nosiest of Gladys Kravitz’s.
So upon my discovery that the young woman in the express check out line was purchasing both Ore Ida tater tots and a red silken foundation garment, I was transfixed on the “WHY? I stared and glared trying to figure out which of the items was the “beard” (i.e., “cover”) for the other. Was she preparing a tater tot hot dish casserole for her betrothed? Was I to presume the lingerie was dessert? Was the red “nightie” a distraction created to purposely derail a line of thought that categorized the woman with some potato-trendy eating disorder? What was the motive behind her shopping collection? Lost in thought, I failed to realize I was staring at her newly acquired items of incongruency.Our eyes met and I knew instinctively that I had invaded her privacy. My face became red. The blood drained from her’s.
She collected her change from the cashier and scampered away into the super-sized parking lot. Did I mention that is was and the morning after Halloween? Tater tots and lingerie? HUH?
I was next in line with discount Halloween candy. I threw in a greeting card for good measure. A perfect logical purchase wouldn’t you say?
Nice write….found it very funny and interesting. You have a nice approach…I look forward to reading more of your observations. I never thought about observing carts before I read your work. I’ve always watched walks, talks, posture, gestures but never contents of carts. I wonder what Twinkies, Beer and K-Y jell indicate? I saw that at the IGA…At the Hardware store I saw a man checking out with a box of nails, four 2x4’s, 4 x8 sheet of Plywood – 5/8ths, a toilet, and of course TP? Hey, you got me started…
Reviewed by Shannon Phoenix
Middle America needs to be cut out of the country like a festering cancer. B_O_R_I_N_G!!!!
Reviewed by Remove Please
I, too, was captured by the title. I clicked on your book ad and started browsing around when I spotted this short story. How utterly "observationist" of you! Loved the story! Now, you've gone and made me nervous about check-out lines!!! I'll have to be more discriminating in my purchases...or stay away from your Walmart on or about 8 in the morning...on the day after Halloween!!!
You snatched my attention with you title...I absolutly loved this write...you didn't invade her privacy..I don't think, or is it that I just don't wish to be made to feel that I too invade people's privacy as well, for I am an avid people watcher and oh yes, I too wonder about the odd connection of items that I have witnessed from other people's shopping carts! You'll have to read my poem "people watcher" I think you would get a kick out of it. Loved your write will be back to check out more...I like the way you think and write!