Why would a woman in her 60’s be buying three boxes of tampons and adult diapers? What is za’atar, and how does one use it? Is this market’s deli chicken salad any good?
I like to think that I’m being an amateur detective, just trying to figure you out a little, or hoping to learn something new when I check out what’s in your cart.
But the truth of the matter is that most of the time, I’m judging. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have no right to judge. But who says the grocery store is a judgment free zone? Often the line at the supermarket is unbearably long, and checking out what is in the cart ahead of you… it’s inevitable, and it’s fun.
And who can be a non-judgmental when there’s a weird looking woman buying 50 cans of cat food and a head of lettuce? And who doesn’t pass judgment on the obese woman buying Twinkies, Doritos, and Fruit Loops? Makes you want to scream, right?
Last week, I was in the check out line at Wegman’s behind a fit, young mother in workout clothes with a toddler in the carriage seat. She unloaded her produce onto the belt. Organic lettuce, organic cherry tomatoes, organic cucumbers, organic red pepper…and regular strawberries!
I had a quick internal debate as to whether I should inform her that strawberries are the #1 fruit on the 2016 Dirty Dozen list (single samples of strawberries tested by EWG in 2016 showed 17 different pesticides) when “Stifle yourself, Edith” emerged from some deep recess of my brain. I proceeded to unload my own cart in silence.
And then I noticed that Ms. Sometimes Organic had not remembered her reusable shopping bags. “Aha!” I thought. “I guess someone does not care that much about the environment.”
“Eyes on your own cart,” I have to tell myself continuously. “Mind your own beeswax.“
But when one likes people, and one is friendly, sometimes one’s curiosity gets the better of one.
“Looks like you’re having a party!” I say to the man ahead as he is unloading his cart full of chips and salsa and other assorted junk food.
“Looks like you’re having a party!” I repeat.
I busy myself by pretending to read the ingredients of my coconut oil (ingredients: coconut oil.)
“You making something yummy?” I ask a woman unloading 3 large containers of half and half, a quart container of heavy cream, some butter, marshmallows, and an assortment of chocolate chips.
“What do you mean?” she replies not so nicely.
What could this woman possibly be doing with all that cream if she wasn’t baking with it? I had sense enough not to ask. She was a pretty big woman. I let my imagination have a field day.
I am certainly not the leading authority on what should or should not be in your grocery cart. I leave that to Northampton’s Carol Gaither, who, the Onion reports, is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on what poor people should and should not have in their grocery carts (and if you are not familiar with the Onion, it may be time to check it out- it is quite hysterical if you like totally sarcastic humor.)
And I have no right to expect not to be judged by others. In fact, I know I’m being judged, which results in such cart anxiety that I often feel the need to explain to the cashier (yes, they are judging too!) why I am buying six boxes of Fiber One, and two large sized packages of prunes.
I simply tell her they are for my husband. And then I hide my head in shame when I realize that I, too, have forgotten my reusable shopping bags.