Oh, February. How I long for your simple joys. A bouncy haircut. A free wheeling prescription pickup. But most of all, I miss carefree, pre-pandemic grocery shopping. All those glorious outings on a whim. Tuesday, you say? Well, then… tacos! And off I’d go.
The memory is vivid. Before “high-risk” and “stay safe” held me back, I sauntered amongst the whole foods and contemplated my romaine options like a lifelong commitment. Then I’d peruse the vitamins, seduced by the promise of a top-notch gut.
Push my cart around the corner. What’s this? Not on my list, but how can I pass up a cotton infinity scarf? I can’t. It’s organic! And aside from being ideal in any season, this apparel purchase takes a stand against sex trafficking. A win-win!
I’d roll on and grab a health beverage boasting the equivalent of 500 veggie/fruit servings, shudder to see it costs more than the scarf (with zero benefits to humanity) and fling it back like a scorching potato. But I can’t forego the fresh guacamole. Sure, it practically requires a mortgage, but hey, Taco Tuesday splurge!
Cart chock full of nourishment, I’d belly up to my cheerful check out cashier. She’d smile ear to ear and pepper me with questions as my items traveled the short conveyor-belt journey. If only I’d known how much she meant to me then.
“Rubber band around this?” she’d asked with genuine concern for the safe voyage of my salad bar assembly. Those were the days. RIP salad bars.
“Sure!” I’d reply. Feeling the beat, our conversational dance was underway.
“Zucchini ramen noodles?! Yum! Have you tried these?”
“Yes! So easy, put an egg on top, and boom, you have a quick, healthy dinner!” I’d oozed enthusiasm like a product rep.
“I’ll try it!” My thoughts wandered. Hmm… could I make extra coinage as a grocery checkout influencer? Note to self: see if that’s a thing.
“I like your haircut!”
“Thank you! Just chopped it all off. Going for simple.” She’d grin at the compliment.
Rubber bands, zucchini noodles and hair liberation forged our connection. Our bond was solid.
“Should I put the chicken in a plastic bag for you?” she’d asked. An unnecessary inquiry, I’d suppress the temptation to say, As a professional, you know that raw chicken juices could escape the Saran Wrapped package. Chicken juice on my Terra Chips? Why flirt with that disaster! Instead? “Outstanding idea!”
Wrapping it up, I’d aimlessly wave my phone under a scanner to read the QR cost saving code. Once, twice, three times, I’d berate myself for imprecise scanning skills, but my gal cheered me on with moral support.
“You got it!”
At last, I’d brace for the depressing closing. “Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the day?” Fun? Damn that question. Surely you don’t expect me to pursue fun… on a weekday afternoon? Foreigner’s ’80s power ballad blasted through my mind, “I want to know what fun is. I want you to show me.”
I’d recite my go-to answer. “Gotta lot of work to do!” I’d figure in the absence of fun, best to hide under the umbrella of productivity.
Oh, the glory days! Post-pandemic, I’ll cherish the chitchat and those questions that progress from pleasant to pesky. And I’ll welcome the grand finale: “Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the day?” Music to my ears, I might hug my cashier with wild, fear-free abandon. I’ll exclaim, “I’ve missed you! And now that I’ve come back around, it’s all so clear. Now I know what fun is.”
— Jennifer Cramer-Miller
Jennifer Cramer-Miller is a freelance writer and custom home consultant in the Twin Cities. Follow her latest essays at https://jennifercramer-miller.com She is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Find the Bright Side, Dammit! and her published pieces are found in Brevity, The Sunlight Press, Grown & Flown, The Kindness Blog, The NKF Kidney Stories MN, The Erma Bombeck Blog and Mamalode.