Making Nice

I’ve been grocery shopping since I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 years old, after I finally moved into my first apartment. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Prior to that, I would go to the grocery store and pick up a few necessities on occasion. Ice cream. Tortilla chips and salsa. Ibuprofen. Sometimes when I was a kid, my mom would send me off on my bicycle to the neighborhood IGA store to pick up a few things. That abruptly stopped after she sent me to the store one time to pick up a head of lettuce and a can of corn and I returned, flushed from riding my bike, with a head of cabbage and a can of hominy. Hey. I was 8. Cut me some slack.

But I didn’t do any once-a-week kind of shopping until I had my own place and cooked my own food. So that means that I have been grocery shopping for 40-some years. And I will tell you that it isn’t one of the jobs that I hate to do. Those include emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, and defrosting the freezer in the garage. I find grocery shopping to be kind of fun and relaxing.

Now, having said that, I have to place some caveats on that statement. First, though I do so regularly, I HATE shopping at Walmart. There is simply nothing fun about it. If it wasn’t for some of the things that I buy that are cheaper at Walmart, I would never go. I am not a Walmart hater. I just think they are uninteresting, seem to often have empty shelves, are staffed by crabby cashiers, and are visited by people who maybe should have looked in the mirror before stepping out of their house. Including me.

Second, I am retired and so can shop at a leisurely pace and at a time of day and week that is quiet and less stressful. It’s a whole different ballgame if one works full time and is trying to grocery shop with two fighting kids and at the same time as everyone else who works.

I have found Tuesday mornings are a great time to shop. Mondays the shelves are often empty because of the heavy shopping traffic over the weekend. By Tuesday, most shelves are stocked. And if you go around 10 o’clock, you miss the morning donut-and-coffee crowd and the stockers (who apparently no longer work at night) are almost finished with their work.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I worked at Safeway in Leadville. That was back in the days before computers, so cashiers had to look at the price tags and key in the price. I was FAST. VERY FAST. And because of this, I was very popular. The lines were long at my check stand. I was proud to be so good at something.

This is a long post about nothing in particular, so I will get to a semblance of a point. There is a cashier at the grocery store at which I shop in Denver – King Soopers – who has worked there for at least 23 years (as long as I have shopped there). He isn’t particularly quick; in fact, he’s quite slow. But that’s because he chats with his customers. Now, it’s true that if I’m in a hurry, I avoid him. But I wasn’t in a hurry yesterday, and went through his line. And what I noticed is that he is apparently the cashier-of-choice for the over 55 crowd, because, while there were other cashiers working, his line was the longest.

He’s nice. You don’t meet a lot of nice people these days. And here are a couple of things that I learned from him as he leisurely bagged my groceries. One, it’s not good to microwave things twice. So when he buys the already-prepared mashed potatoes that are in the dairy case, he – being single – opens up the container, takes out what he wants to use, and then reseals it. He then microwaves the smaller amount.

Two, the jars of sweet pickled cherry peppers like I bought used to contain garlic, but no longer do. It is an addition that he apparently misses. So he opens the jar and adds a bit of garlic powder and mixes it in.

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I’m not sure that either of these suggestions are earth-shattering or even something I wouldn’t have thought of doing myself if, for example, I wanted my pickled peppers to be garlicky. Still, I loved that he and I built a brief relationship for that small period of time. I would say that I wish more service people would do the same thing, but then I would be writing a blog post about how annoyed I get at cashiers who talk too much and are slow.

Today, however, I’m going to accentuate the positive!