At least when I lose my mind in the little local market, I do so politely. Also, my daughter is not the ONLY person who does not find me hilarious. At first glance these two sentences may seem unrelated, but they’re not. Let me explain.
I was at the checkout with my five items (well, nine if you want to count each roll as a separate item, which I do not). The cashier was just about to begin ringing me up when a woman — with no small amount of urgency, but without so much as an “excuse me” — interrupted my transaction with a request that my cashier “call someone to Produce immediately!” Fearing that perhaps something over there had spontaneously combusted, I asked her “Why? What’s going on over there?”
“The Interloper”, as I had begun to think of her, looked confused by my query. “Going on over where?”, she asked. “Over in Produce.”, I answered. I added that I was concerned that, based on her behavior and the emergent nature of her request, the area in question had burst into flames or had otherwise been thrown into some sort of chaos — possibly overrun by a stampeding horde of flamingoes or fire ants. Still, she wasn’t “getting” me.
The cashier, on the other hand, had put together exactly what I was getting at — as had the gentleman on the adjacent line. They both began to laugh. The Interloper, still unperturbed by my pointed (and, yes, snarky) comments, continued to demand that my cashier somehow magically produce a Produce clerk.
At this point, I really needed to know the nature of her fruit and/or vegetable emergency. I feared that she was going to tell me that she couldn’t reach the Fuji apples or that she had knocked over the parsnip display. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be something mundane involving apples or root vegetables. It wasn’t.
I was delighted when she told me that she needed the assistance of a Produce person because she wanted to purchase a leek. No. You did not read that wrong. A leek — as in ONE. One leek. That’s what she wanted.
The cashier just kind of looked at her — trying, I’m sure, to assess the level of The Interloper’s crazy prior to responding to her request. The cashier, in the nicest possible way, told The Interloper that leeks come in bunches — that they are not sold individually. Undeterred — loonies are never deterred by anything resembling reason — The Interloper informed the cashier that she was making soup —- I’m going to go out on a limb and assume it was potato-leek — and that she only needed the one leek. I imagine that she her potato cache was adequate to her needs.
At this point I could tell that the cashier was going to repeat that leeks are sold by the bunch. That would have been no fun at all. That’s when I decided that since I had to be present for this nonsense, I might as well make the best of it.
One of my purchases was going to be — if my cashier ever extricated herself from The Interloper — a jar of olives. So, I picked it up and asked the cashier if, while she was fetching people from other departments, she could call someone from Grocery to come on over and fish four of them out of the jar for me — because that’s how many I really needed — and charge me accordingly.
Right away the cashier and the other customer burst out laughing — because, you know, I’m hilarious. The Interloper had a decidedly different opinion regarding my comedy act. She then went on to explain that she shouldn’t be forced to purchase a whole bunch of leeks when she only needed one. I told her that while I actually understood and could even sympathize with her dilemma, the reality was that her chances of getting the market to sell her one leek would be as good as my chances of getting them to sell me one Fudgesicle out of a box that contains six. I’m sure that I could explain to the nice people at the market that I did not want all six bars. I could also tell them that I don’t have room in my freezer for the other five Fudgesicles. They might be as sympathetic to my situation as I was to hers, but that doesn’t mean that they would allow me to break open the jar of olives or the box of Fudgesicles and make a “portion” purchase.
I don’t know if it was the example I used — Fudgesicle is a pretty funny word — or the manner in which I was poking holes in The Interloper’s logic, but there was a great deal of laughter going on around me. When The Interloper realized that people were laughing at her, she became somewhat indignant. I was so happy that she adopted this demeanor — it made what came next so much easier — in that I didn’t have to look like the type of person who beats up on little old ladies. (She wasn’t actually that little or that old!) Because really, I’m not that person. Usually I’m the person who can be relied upon to help little old ladies reach the Fuji apples or pick up scattered parsnips — if they ask me nicely.
In her defense, The Interloper simply wanted a leek and was clearly tiring of her role as my straight man. Instead of seeing the comedy in the situation, she chose to become huffy. She asked me “what business I had being in her business?” She opened the door and I stepped right on through it. I told her that I could really care less what it was she wanted — a leek, a Fudgesicle, a trip to Paris — but that her business became my business when she interrupted my transaction with her wacky request — I made sure to let her know that the manner in which she went about her business also irritated me.
In short, I told her that I was pretty shocked by the way in which she had just breezed on over, made crazy demands, and wasted my time — as well as the cashier’s time — without so much as an “excuse me”. I told her that she had lived on this Earth for far too long NOT to have some inkling of how to behave in polite society — the emphasis here being on the word “polite”. That’s when she stormed off. As for the rest of us? We just shook our heads and laughed some more.
I wonder if she ever got her leek? I can only hope that if she did she remembered to say “Please” and “Thank you”. That word, that phrase, along with others — like “Excuse me” and “I beg your pardon” — they’re still the magic words. It’s so simple, really.
photo credit: leeks