I walk across the asphalt from my car to the grocery store entrance. My long, brunette hair is blowing in my face but I have an image in my mind; that my hair looks like the hair of a model on a shampoo commercial, so I don’t pull it out of my face and eyes. The automatic glass doors don’t jerk open fast enough and I stutter step to avoid running into them. Someone must have seen the incident and thought I looked like an idiot. I can’t decide between a big cart so there’s enough room for my larger items or a smaller cart so I don’t have to apologize to someone when I accidentally get in their way. I opt for the smaller cart, gripping the blue and gray push handle with resolve. As I pull my grocery list for one from my back pocket (a small, folded, yellow Post-It note), I realize that no one probably noticed such a small piece of paper in my hand. They must’ve thought I was just touching my butt.
I glance over at the grapes on sale right in the entrance to the store, but there is already an elderly woman in a red fleece vest with a cream turtleneck standing there. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable by standing close to her, inspecting grapes. Plus, I probably would’ve picked the wrong bag of grapes and she would’ve pitied me for being so grape-ignorant, not that she even knows me. She looks like my grandmother, with gray, curly, short hair. She even smiles at me and I am surprised she has such nice teeth. But, I know she would’ve judged my grapes. I look right to avoid eye contact with my grandmother and am tempted by the Pop-Tarts. But I know what people think of Pop-Tart eaters, so I veer to the left and head for the bread aisle.
I don’t like bagels that much, but they’re convenient. And, everyone thinks they’re healthy, right, which is a good reason to buy them. I wonder if passing customers (like that man with too much hair gel on his comb over) notice my shopping savvy as I grab the on-sale brand of bagels advertised by the neon yellow sign on the shelf. He probably thinks I am a cheapskate, buying the gross bagel brand just to save a few bucks. He might be six feet tall, but even with his four inch height advantage I think I could get away from him if he were to attack me. I only buy the cinnamon raisin variety because I eat them without any spread. At first I thought I didn’t put cream cheese on my bagels because I was too lazy to put cream cheese on my bagels. I realized I just didn’t like buying cream cheese. I wonder if this overweight, obviously single man thinks less of me without the cream cheese (because really, who eats a bagel without cream cheese?) or if he would think less of me if I had cream cheese in my cart. Of course, I could have cream cheese still in my fridge at home. But, I bet some people have seen me shopping here before and know that I never buy cream cheese. Maybe not overweight flannel shirt guy, but some people. I consider shopping at a different supermarket from now on.
Around the next corner is the open produce area. I know I should buy vegetables but I am nervous to pick out some that aren’t “good.” I only eat vegetables with ranch dressing, and then it becomes more about the dressing than the vegetables so why bother? I don’t know many people who go to the grocery store without buy vegetables. The absence of vegetables in my cart must be alarming, especially to that eccentric looking woman with fly-away auburn hair, who looks kind of like my mother. She seems preoccupied with her apples, and flirting with the middle-aged produce clerk, but I’m pretty sure she saw me walk right by the cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce. I want to get some apples, I eat one every day, but I really don’t want that woman to ask me about my lack of vegetables. I decide to skip buying the apples I really want, that happen to be on sale, and push my cart through the different displays of bananas, cantaloupes, and oranges. Right past the apples.
I stop in the middle of the thoroughfare because the two dollar bags of corn tortilla chips are always on the end of the aisle, nearest to the produce. I try to think about who I could complain to about that. Every time I stop for tortilla chips, my cart is in the middle of all the foot traffic and I know people start to hate me for taking up aisle real estate. That’s why I usually try to get a small cart. I know customers like those two 20-something men in horizontally striped polo shirts, who that are talking to each other and run into me and profusely apologize and then keep walking, did it in on purpose. They wanted to show me what they thought of me being in the way and buying the tortilla chips. The store manager should really think of a better place to stock these chips.
I turn into the next aisle over, the cereal aisle, which always takes the most time for me. I never know what kind of cereal to buy. I look thrifty because I’m buying Malt-o-Meal. I’ve never actually done a price comparison to see if Malt-o-Meal really is a better deal than the box, name brand cereal. The young mother with two children hanging out of her large shopping cart must think I eat cereal every night. Even she doesn’t buy a Malt-o-Meal bag of cereal, and she has a family. I almost put the cereal back, but I don’t want to look too picky so I keep it in my cart. It’s crushing my other groceries and obviously doesn’t fit very well, but I’m still glad I picked a smaller cart, I think. One time I bought the off brand of Malt-o-Meal and it was disgusting. The college student in sweat pants and slippers walks buy me and grabs one such off brand bag of cereal. I know she thinks I’m rich because I buy Malt-o-Meal, and I wish I could tell her I’m not.
He starts scanning my items, smiling “pleasantly.” He is judging me too. He drags package after package of my Ramen noodles over the laser light, and tries to make small talk. I wish he would just say it. I wish he would just tell me what he thought of me and my groceries. I want to reach over the ATM pin pad, grab him by his apron, shake him, and walk out without saying a word. I wish I could leave my groceries behind.