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That time when I got Sherlocked by the cashier at Trader Joe’s

By Heather Oman

It’s January in Virginia, the time of year the South fears, deep inside its bones.It’s the time southerners collapse in a panic when January weather behaves the way that January weather has ALWAYS behaved. Virginia in January is like a toddler who is shocked to find out that he has to go bed—again. Like, it’s cold, AGAIN? We didn’t know!! Why didn’t anybody tell us it was going to be get cold AGAIN? It was cold LAST YEAR! It can’t be cold THIS YEAR TOO!!

(I have adopted this attitude, by the way. I am officially the biggest whiner when it comes to the cold and always think I’m going to die before March. My pioneer ancestors are laughing at me and pointing, I know.)

It snowed last Saturday here in the Commonwealth, and while I make fun of our wussy winter ways, it actually was a big storm. We got almost a foot in less than 24 hours, and with limited snow plows and infrastructure to deal with the mess, you get an entire community homebound because of the scary white stuff. Church was cancelled, and school was closed for 3 days.

Which means that between Christmas break, school starting January 3rd, and then being closed for almost a week after that, I’ve had some quality time with my children and my house. Which also means I have had some quality time with my pajamas and maybe a loose and casual and less quality relationship with my shower.

As I bid my children goodbye today for the first time in 5 days, I decided I needed to get out and maybe be productive. At the very least, we needed some food for dinner and my husband had requested fish tacos. I couldn’t quite bring myself to shower, though, as it also happened to be my day off and I know that tomorrow my hygienic life begins again, so I embraced my semi-grungy self and decided to go grocery shopping with my messy, unwashed bun and just be brave if I ran into anybody I knew. Parting with my pajama habit and donning real clothes was hard enough, doing my make-up and hair was way too hard to contemplate.

I went to Trader Joe’s and bought pretty much just the ingredients I needed for dinner, plus some cookies and some fruit leather to throw in my daughter’s lunches. It was not a massive grocery extravaganza, it was just a quick in and out for what would get me through the day. And I didn’t run into a single person I knew—hooray! My unwashed self was safe from embarrassment.

Then the cashier at Trader Joe’s started making small talk. How was your day, fine, did you enjoy the snow, yeah, back to grind, blech, etc, etc. Then he said, “You have kids you sent to school this morning?”

I narrowed my eyes and him and said, “Yes. I do. Um, how did you know?” I instinctively fingered my unkempt hair and thought, “Wow, do I look that bad? Do the crows feet and circles under my eyes spell out ‘Tired Mother’ across my face?”

He picked up the fruit leather and said, “This is what gave you away. It doesn’t go with anything else you are buying, so I figured it was for a kid lunch.”

“Ah,” I said, and smiled and nodded. But then I got indignant. Like, hey, if I wanted to buy 10 pieces of fruit leather and eat them on my couch MYSELF while bingeing Netflix, how would he know?

But then I thought, well, fruit leather isn’t exactly a binge-eating/watching kind of snack. People don’t exactly say, “Pause the movie while I go get some more FRUIT LEATHER!”

(I mean, I guess a person COULD say that. Maybe fruit leather goes great with Netflix. Poor fruit leather. Nobody has ever even given it a chance.)

I wondered what else he deduced from my shopping cart. I had cabbage and tilapia. Does he know that I’m trying to cook better meals? Of course he does, EVERYBODY is trying to cook better meals in January! It’s like every mother’s resolution that is going to be shattered in March when her children eat Chick-fil-a for 5 days straight (um, not that that’s ever happened at my house.)

He also probably guessed that we still had the basics in my fridge, because there was no milk or bread in the cart. He probably deduced that my kids are older, because I had lemonade but no juice boxes or any other kind of convenience food for younger kids. Plus it was pink lemonade, which is stickier when it spills. Maybe he knew my kids are long past the spillage stage?

Seriously, this guy was totally Sherlock.

I’ll bet you can learn a lot about a person by what she puts in her shopping cart. I’ll bet grocery cashiers have a lot of fun. I’ll bet they talk about the unwashed and semi-grungy mothers who come through their lines and say, “you are never gonna guess what SHE was buying for dinner!”

If this post feels random, please forgive me. I told you, my most meaningful conversations over the past week have been with a frightfully bored and grumpy teenager and a 4th grader who talks non-stop about snow.

How is you January shaping up?

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

9 thoughts on “That time when I got Sherlocked by the cashier at Trader Joe’s”

  1. Oh, Heather! Delightful is all I can say! Thank you for describing winter in Virginia better than I've ever read! You nailed it! (Hey we only got 5 1/4" in Richmond and our kids were out for 3 days…but the stores and theatres and Kid activities were packed!) What's wrong with this picture!

    But I'm the first to say, they are great mental health days for those of us whose kids have flown the nest. What's not great about white stuff everywhere and life grinding to a halt for a day or two!?

    Talk about grocery carts….I'm back on Weightwatchers and when I have a bad day and just have to binge on bad stuff with HIGH smartpoint values…I'm terrified I'll run into another WW member! Who cares how I look! Just DON'T look in my cart!

    Meanwhile, I have the windows open and my husband is playing tennis, because only 4 days after snow appeared – "What? It's cold in January? It was cold last year!" (I will be laughing about that all month)…the snow disappeared and it's 65 degrees at 10:00pm. How can you NOT love the south!

    Thanks for a big smile on a winter day!

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  2. Too many times I've hoped the cashier wouldn't look me in the eyes as I purchased odd combinations of items (none of which I'm willing to admit to in so public a forum) — nearly as many times I laughed aloud while reading this post. 🙂

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  3. I know I'm probably an exciting cart to check out. And I remember playing detective and trying to figure people (and especially regulars) out when I worked in a restaurant cashier in high school.

    January is a flood here on the west coast and I'm loving the departure from our usual January fog.

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  4. Years ago my cashier got yelled at for commenting on my purchases. He was in training and had a supervisor hovering. I had come to the store to buy a toilet plunger (dire need) and remembered that I needed garlic for that nights dinner. So that was my total purchase–garlic and a plunger. The cashier said "that's a weird combination" and the supervisor immediately told him to never comment on people's purchases.
    I didn't even think about it until he said that and then I was strangely ashamed of my purchase (why?).

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  5. Hilarious! I missed the Big Snow here in Georgia last weekend, but caught the BIG SNOW in Portland when I went back for a grandson's birthday. It was 40 degrees the second day the kids were out of school here — apparently, there was still a spot of ice on some random sidewalk. But I sure enjoyed our 65 degree weather yesterday. The bummer will come at the end of the school year, when they ADD DAYS! Ugh.

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  6. The first winter we were in Virginia after my husband's tour at Pearl Harbor, we had a couple of snow storms back to back that left nearly three feet of the white stuff and closed schools for two weeks. About the middle of the second week, my eight-year-old daughter came downstairs for breakfast, sneered at the winter wonderland outside our front windows and muttered, "I'm going back to Hawaii where they have _civilized_ weather."

    We have nearly two feet of snow on the ground here in Spokane, thanks. And the high today was 19 degrees!

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  7. I honestly like fruit leather so much I eat it on purpose as a snack. (One Halloween I tried to give it out to trick or treaters, and I had a kid or two just say "no thanks." Poor fruit leather!)

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