Because sometimes words express the way it was, or, at least, how you remember it to tell a good tale.
I honestly don’t know if I’ll write another memoir, biography, or piece of creative non-fiction. I don’t always view my own story as that interesting, exciting, or noteworthy. However, that can change…is that a spaceship landing in my yard?
“Paper or Plastic? The Grocery Store Chronicles”
“Funny, sad, and insightful. ” – from FB reader
“Who knew!” – from FB reader
“People can be so cruel and yet others can be so kind. Thanks for showing both.” – from FB reader
Paper or Plastic? The Grocery Store Chronicles is my memoir as a senior-citizen night cashier, chronicling the odd, uplifting, and sometimes sad slices of life in a chain-based grocery store in the ‘hood from July 2013 to November 2014. You might just be surprised.. Most of the situations (because they are all real) have been read by loyal Facebook friends and enemies alike. That’s where the comments come from.
The following is a sample selection.
Yes, it’s been a while since the last entry about what goes on inside the grocery store at night. Management is scheduling me more like a full-time employee than a part-timer to the point that Human Resources called to ask, “What’s the deal with all the hours you’re working?”
“Why ask me?”
Silence on the other end of the call. “Okay,” she answered.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the night.
He was a slender black male, early thirties that a strong breeze could topple. His worn blue jeans hung low on his butt. It wasn’t a fashion statement; he had no butt. He was blue on blue on blue—t-shirt, buttoned-down shirt, and jean’s jacket. Always. They matched the blue bandana that encircled his hair, but his baseball cap, tilted low and to the right, was red. He shuffled in about two a.m. on those nights when he did come in. His heavy-set mom with legs bent from some nasty life event was a half-foot shorter than five feet. She could barely make it to the riding grocery carts. She had only come into the store three times and each time rode the cart to the bathroom. On all three occasions, I told her to leave the riding cart by her car, and I’d bring it back. Only once in the past four months had they bought anything.
It took a while to figure it out, but eventually I did. They arrived in an older Oldsmobile around midnight stuffed with what must have been all their possessions. They’d park close to the store but never in a handicapped spot. Most nights, it seemed as if there was a question about whether or not they’d go in. Decision made, she’d drive the car to a far corner of the parking lot far away from where a customer would park. They’d be there until around 6 a.m. whether or not they came into the store.
He used the bathroom for a long, long time—one-to-two hours. He was washing. I know. I walked in on him accidentally twice before I figured out their loose routine. I avoided the bathroom while he was there to give him privacy. I had access to another bathroom in the back of the store.
Both of them were always courteous and soft-spoken.
Two weeks ago, he sauntered in at 3 a.m. At 6 a.m., he was still in a stall. It was a much longer stay than normal, so I did my business in the bathroom, loudly, but detected no noise or movement. Not another dead body, I thought. (The first one I found was years before while working the census. That’s a story for another day.) I alerted the assistant night manager. He shrugged but didn’t check it out. The day manager came in a half-hour later. He seemed concerned and embarrassed at the same time but he didn’t check the bathroom either. Tired, I punched out at 7 a.m. and went to the bathroom.
The man was staring into the mirror as I peed. I heard him sniffle. When I turned to use the sink, I could see he’d been crying. I started to wash my hands, and he pulled open the door to leave.
“It’s hard. Sometimes, it’s just so hard,” he said.
I nodded. He left. I stared into the mirror. Maybe it was the season, but I thought about all the times in my life when a wrong turn, a missed injury, a job loss, a near car accident, a connection not made, a bad choice of acquaintance, the wrong place to live, or any of the other thousands of decisions that could have made life “just so hard.” We are all one event away from making things “just so hard” for ourselves. Moreover, it resonated, because the hardship of my working here paled when compared to his life regardless of how he and his mom had ended up homeless.