for a Little Milk of Human Kindness
There I was,
cruising along at a reasonable rate of speed. I just needed to pick
up a few things on the way home after a hectic day of work. "Velveeta
cheese, four pack of Guinness, and cat food," I chanted, lulling
myself into a consumer Zen state. My pre-purchase bliss was interrupted
when I first sensed someone approaching from the rear; driving in
my blind spot. When I heard their engine revving, I chose not to
acknowledge it. I had my own agenda, no need to be swept up in theirs.
I gritted my teeth and continued chanting my list mantra.
continued revving and pulled up--accelerating to pass me, I assumed.
I rolled my eyes at their impatience, but kept looking forward.
Didnt want to make eye contact with some weirdo. Who knew
where that would lead?
swerved in and bashed right into me. Metal met metal with a big
clang as their shopping cart slammed into mine. I turned, to face
my attacker, aghast. There stood my neighbor. His little daughter
(who had switched from making engine revving noises to tire squealing)
was seated in the childs seat. I nearly fell over laughing
at their prank, and at my own insistence on taking such a ridiculous
situation so seriously. When you cant acknowledge a little
engine revving in the grocery store, things have obviously gone
when I first began to notice this strange blanket of self-importance
that grocery shoppers shroud themselves in.
Were all in the store together,
friends--why is it that grocery shopping so often ends up a solitary,
My theory is
that our car culture is to blame. We hop in the car and drive a
few miles to the supermarket, rather than hoofing it to a neighborhood
shop. On the way to the store, were surrounded by our cars
protective bubble, and when we reach the store, were swathed
in a cloak of mystery. Were not waving at neighbors, chatting
as we take that leisurely stroll to the market; were speeding
along with complete anonymity. We space out our trips so far in-between
(or we bounce back and forth from supermarket to supermarket; depending
on the sales) that we remain un-identifiable to the supermarket
employees, let alone our fellow shoppers.
So we remain
solitary, roaming the aisles, hunting for the things we need, piling
up our shopping carts in hopes of staving off the next visit for
as long as possible. We scurry past dawdlers, trying to ignore their
confrontational comments. When they mutter, "Bat out of Hell!"
we know theyd never expect us to enter their protective cone
of anonymity for an actual confrontation. So we wheel on, fuming,
and dreaming of what we could have said.
We try to justify
to ourselves that those ten bottles of the same soda count as one
item so we can save some time by going through the seven items or
fewer checkout. We elbow little old ladies out of the way, lunging
for the last packet of shredded cheese. We are on a mission
here. Dont you people understand that?
Ever since that
run-in with my neighbor, Ive tried to shake off my cloak of
anonymity. Ive thought about that Rosa Parks quote "All
I wanted was to be treated like a human being," and Ive
realized that if thats what Im shopping for at
the grocery store, maybe I need to start offering the same courtesy
to my fellow consumers. As I enter the store, I look around at my
fellow shoppers and acknowledge them with a smile. Ive even
gotten so brazen as to say "hello" to complete strangers
every now and then. Sure, some people completely ignore me, but
I press on, hungry for the person whose face lights up at this unexpected
And you know
what? Now I do find myself taking a leisurely stroll through the
shop. I chat with the woman in the natural foods section about carrying
the brand of faux sandwich meat that we like. Over in the spice
aisle, I answer a fellow shoppers query about the mysterious
Beau Monde seasoning she needs for her rye boat dip. I acknowledge
the checkout girls crankiness, and even she cracks a smile,
glad that someone else sees how the plastic bag dispenser has been
conspiring against her.
it, when it comes to shopping, were all in the same cart.
Next time youre at the store, why not blindside your fellow
consumers with a little kindness?