Last Friday. . .
At the far back of the Sprouts in Lodi, a strapping young man opens the cooler in which I will find the main motivation for my 35-minute drive into town. I smile and turn my head to the side, noting his employee badge and the rolling cart of stock which he steadies with one hand.
Do you need in here, he asks, stepping aside. My smile broadens as I reach for the precious bundle of heritage eggs. I see my delight reflected in the clerk’s face. I remark on the virtues of the product; how much I like them, how flavorful they are. And better for you, he adds. Pricey, though, I respond.
Worth it, he avows. I agree, and carefully nestle the eight-dollar carton of eggs in my cart. Have a good rest of your day, I tell the fellow. He returns the favor and I move past to continue shopping.
There’s a clerk at the store who always seems to question my purchases. He murmurs small comments, turns each item back and forth, and shakes his head as he lays them on the scale. I silently admit to being a bit paranoid. I smile and thank him once in a while, for nothing in particular. I hurry forward. I ask for paper because we can’t yet bring our own bags unless we self-pack, a talent which I lack. He raises his eyebrows; he seems to question my choice but nods to the sacker who starts to load my purchases.
In the middle of the transaction, the bagger rushes off to open another register and the guy whom I suspect of disliking me has to finish the sale by himself. He packs the last half of my groceries, pushes a few buttons on the register, and tosses my receipt into my cart. I tell myself that I’m being ridiculous; that he doesn’t know me; that I don’t shop there often enough for him to have my name or remember anything about me from time to time.
I reach the car. I easily lift the first bag into the back of the RAV4. But that second bag! Oh golly. It seems to weigh a ton; it must have every heavy selection in the bottom. I have to argue it into the car. I put the issue from my mind and drive west towards the Loop, listening to an NPR show about serious problems encountered by people all over the world during the pandemic. I feel a little shabby.
By the time I get home, I’ve convinced myself to forget about the encounter. I chastise myself for suspecting the cashier of personal dislike. I suspect that perhaps I am the judgmental one. I go to the back of the car, try to lift the heavy bag out, and stand, dismayed, as the handle breaks under the weight of everything he’s crammed into it.
Eventually, I jockey the bag into the house and onto the counter. I start unloading. A shiny slick glistens from the surface of the first several items. I take out a jar of olive oil and two cans of cannellini dripping with goo. I remove a bottle of water with a sticky label. I peer into the bag and groan.
From the bottom, I extract the last item: A box which once held twelve of nature’s finest, loveliest heritage eggs.
I draw in a long breath. I reflect for a few minutes. I remember this blog, and my quest to go an entire year without uttering one negative word in response to anything or anyone. I look at the mess on my counter. I try to determine how many of the eggs I can salvage. Six or seven, I reckon. I close my eyes.
Then I reach for my receipt, my cell phone, and a chair into which I sink as I dial the phone number for the Sprouts in Lodi.
It’s the twenty-third day of the eighty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.