Yup, you are better than I. Have a nice day.

Friends, I am not going to do well with the summer people.

I’m having troubling putting today’s scene into words and I’m not even angry,more bemused. I wonder if there’s a learned helplessness that comes with certain types of wealthy. I have never seen a human being unpack a dozen items from a shopping basket so languidly, as if the removal of each item caused resentful physical strain. I knew I was in trouble when she snipped out “Paper” and I asked “Which one?” I assumed she meant “Please hand me a newspaper from the rack next to you.” She meant paper bags.

I guess it’s not an unusual request but all the locals know we have plastic and I haven’t yet received a request for otherwise, except for the half dozen or so who carry reusable bags. We have a few sizes of brown paper, mostly for bagging up fresh breads, but I gamely grabbed a stack of the largest (not very) and assessed the apparently offending groceries for packaging. (Again: I have never seen a seemingly healthy – or even any of the elderly patrons, for that matter – adult unpack a basket so slowly and with such disdain.) English muffins, a loaf of bread, a bottle of laundry detergent, a Styrofoam clamshell with the day’s hot lunch special, a cardboard bowl of soup and a couple of heavier items.

There’s a science to bagging groceries, I swear. I consider myself a pretty good packer, especially as I really hate taking multiple trips to and from the car and therefore have perfected the up-to-and-including 12 Sack Carry. And people get picky about bags – really picky. Bag the chicken separately. Bag the chicken and the beef separately. Put all the lunch meat in one but the cheese in another. Bag the health&beauty separately from the food. Put this bag of bread in another bag. I get it; everyone has a system (and some people just don’t care.) What this woman presented me with was a logistical grocery challenge: I felt like I had been handed one of those critical thinking/logical reasoning puzzles we had to complete in sixth grade (usually without much particular success on my part):

“A snooty woman hates you but wants you to bag her groceries. She is disgusted with the size of your paper bags. Remember,
* Styrofoam clamshells of hot food tend to spring open and should not be placed with cold perishable groceries
* Cardboard soup bowls slide off and tip over when placed on top of Styrofoam clamshells but should not be placed on top of varyingly-shaped grocery items
* Most customers prefer perfumed/chemical items like soaps and detergents to be bagged separately
* Bread always goes on top until the snooty woman crams her laundry detergent on top of it
* The snooty woman only has two arms.”

I almost laughed in her face, which is encouraging; it foretells a type of patience I hadn’t realized I possessed. It wasn’t just the statement; it was the little sneer and scoffing “Well OF COURSE” underlying her words. You would have thought I offered to put her groceries on the floor so she could soccer them out the door. My offense was asking if she wanted the bread separate, instead of stuffed into the top of another bag. “Well, I ONLY have two arms, so …”

Coincidentally, so do I, and yet I still manage to ferry $60 in groceries from the car to the kitchen with only minimal circulation damage to my fingers – I can even unlock a door and corral a collie back inside. I can even – and I don’t know, friends; this might be revolutionary – I can even carry up to four paper bags in my two arms. Crazy, right?

Whatever. I’m almost looking forward to but mostly dreading the anthropology experiment that will be waiting on the Weekapaug seasonal crowd this summer. This lady was good practice.

I watched through the door as she carried her two bags to her shiny silver Mercedes parked feet from the door and wondered if her car payment was perhaps prohibiting her from buying a couple environmentally-friendly recycled material reusable cloth bags, forcing her to rely on demanding paper. See? I’m trying to think the best of people.



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3 responses to “Yup, you are better than I. Have a nice day.

  1. peppergrass

    I used to be really good at bagging groceries – enjoyed it, even. It’s like a Tetris game, but w/ objects of varying density and function.

    Good for you for not smashing all of her stuff into one bag and pretending to be the mentally challenged oaf she obviously already thought you were. šŸ˜‰

    I’ve never understood why people act nasty to “the help.” I bet she eats a lot of spit at restaurants.

  2. Ohhhh man, I’m feeling this. I don’t know if I mentioned to you my new Whole Foods is across the street from Microsoft? Like, where Bill Gates’ and the CEO’s actual offices are Microsoft? Blessedly enough so far everyone has been nice, but I’m nervous I’m going to hit that ‘people are cattle’ kind of wealthy one day soon.

    Like Opa always said, “you’re only as nice as you are to the people who serve you. That’s your true self. You don’t need to win their approval, you don’t need to impress them, you aren’t trying to make friends. How you treat the people who serve you is how you deserve to be treated yourself.” Working in customer service it’s so true: anyone can be a jerk to someone serving them, it takes a special kind of genuine wonderful to be nice to EVERYONE and not just the people we need approval from.

  3. When I first started working in retail (read: Cumberland Farms) I was always nice to everyone. I was cheerful and happy and made sure to smile at the grouches with their snide comments. Five years later if some woman came prancing up to the counter demanding brown eggs at the price of white because she didn’t know how to read a sign (true story)…. you bet your behind I marched her all the way back to the eggs and pointed out very loudly how she was wrong and didn’t need to give me an attitude in the first place. So yeah… you’re better than me. It got to a point where there was only so much I was willing to take from people, and after so many years the point was very, very early on in the day.

    Also I don’t work there anymore. Oddly enough I didn’t get fired, and really only ever had my boss shake his head at me with a smirk (several times).

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