Condoms, Meat, Soap and Douche ~ Why I Curate My Shopping Cart.
I worked as a supermarket checker until I was thirty. It was mindless work, paid decent money, and had the flexible hours I needed for the other things I cared about; school and acting.
I was a damn fine checker. The best. Fast, nice, with a minimum of small talk. Standing and scanning groceries has a zen quality about it. The repetition can send you into a zone of complacency. If you’re lucky faces blur and time flies.
That was the case for me maybe 10% of the time. The other 90% of the time I was judging the contents of everyone’s carts, making up stories about what they were buying and why.
I know! Your worst nightmare, right?
I was the girl who stifled a giggle when the dude with the greasy hair and the porn mustache who was drowning in Brut came thru the express line EVERY Friday night with a case of Coors, a carton of Marlboro reds and Maxim condoms (whose tagline was printed on the box: For those who live large). His story was a no-brainer.
“For those who live large!” Can you stand it? I couldn’t. The minute he was ten paces out into the parking lot, racing toward his Trans Am—I’d burst out laughing. Nobody else in line was paying much attention so my outburst probably appeared a little manic.
There was Ms. Shaw, an ancient, (she was probably in her late forties at the time) spinster/cat lady who arranged her cat food in neat stacks by flavor in her cart. Anal-retentive doesn’t do her justice. She bagged every red delicious apple in a separate plastic bag and grouped all of the green vegetables together—away from the other colors. And none of the food could touch. (Is this making you a bit twitchy?) She also bought bourbon if I remember correctly, which seemed so out-of-character that I made up an imaginary life for her. In my imagination, she still lived at home with a boozy parent.
There was a woman who came in once a week and bought six bottles of Clairol #6 blonde hair dye. She had dark brown hair so I’m not sure what that was all about. Maybe she dyed her kid’s hair. Or her pubes. Who knows. Maybe she was a hairdresser who only likes to use that one color because she believed that blondes had more fun.
There were a lot of women back then that bought douche. Is douche still a thing? I read somewhere that it’s unhealthy for you since your vagina is self-cleaning, like an oven. Anyhow, if it went on sale there’d be a run on douche, these women would buy entire baskets of it. We often ran out and had to manually write up “rain-checks” for Summers Eve douche while they made the entire line wait so they could take advantage of the sale price another time. I had one woman who bought douche and two pints of rocky road ice cream EVERY DAY. Eventually, the store had to put a kibosh on the douche hoarding. They came up with a limit. No more than three at a time. When we tried to enforce that rule I thought there was going to be a riot! These women wanted their “fresh feeling!”
I’m curious—Is douching addictive? Does your va-jay-jay forget how to self-clean?
Speaking of fresh, I had a man who used to bag his meat and Irish Spring soap together and when I’d try to separate them he’d grab them away from me and reunite them. Finally, I asked him why. “I like the way it tastes”, he replied.
My intuition told me he lived alone. One evening the assistant manager was helping out, bagging groceries for me and when he saw me throw the soap in with the meat he just about lost it. “It’s okay”, I assured him, “he likes the way it makes the steak taste.” He looked back at the customer who was nodding enthusiastically. The guy swore by it.
I never had the courage to try it. It reminded me of menthol cigarettes. Bleck.
I’m going to say this—I can’t help it. The buying habits of the general public are weird. There were people who lived on TV dinners, people who, in my humble opinion drank WAAAAYYY too much diet coke, people who spent all their money on junk food and cigarettes, and the young anorexic girl who only and ever bought celery.
You can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their grocery cart. It’s a snapshot into a life—a peek into some of our most private habits—eating and personal hygiene.
So, I curate my cart when I go to the store. The implication of shame keeps me honest. Lots of fruit and kale, no candy or donuts. I know that no matter how disinterested they look the checker is making up stories about me so when I buy anything remotely embarrassing (like Monistat, lubricant, four boxes of Triscuit, or the second bottle in a month of the sour mix for my whiskey sours) I go thru the self-check-out line because I’m a damn fine checker. The best. Fast, nice, with a minimum of small talk—and mot of all—discreet—not at all judgy.