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I See You

The Aisles are Crowded and the Music is Terrible

By Alyson Kate LongPublished 2 years ago 7 min read
I See You
Photo by Pattie Mitchell on Unsplash

To the woman in my line, two buggies back, wearing a mask and smiling with your eyes — I see you. Thank you for waiting while I wipe down the register. I know it adds aggravation to an already-tedious day.

To the older gentlemen, shopping alone for what seems to be the first time in a long time, with lists your wives have written on faded stationary — I see you. They have beautiful cursive handwriting.

To the man who came through my line, shopping alone for the first time since your wife passed away in March — I remember you. Thank you for telling me her name. Don’t forget that your shopper’s card is behind her picture in your wallet. I hope you keep it there.

To the tired mama with a young, curious child — I see you. He’s hungry and we sell bright, tasty things. Please don’t be angry with him. He’s still learning to put his needs into words. Blame the marketing teams if you need to.

To the elderly couple who carefully clipped coupons and checked every item off your list — I see you. You see better than he does. He moves a little easier. Thank you for smiling at me and wishing me a good day.

To the man from Indiana who’s “no damned Yankee” — I see you and I love your hat. Thank you for telling me about your family’s emigration from Scotland and for teaching me the difference between your balmoral cap and a tam. It’s all in the tails. I hope you enjoy your bourbon-vanilla ice cream.

To the college boy quietly hugging your mom after a $400 grocery run — I see you. She’s anxious and you noticed. They don’t teach that sort of thing anymore.

To the woman who rammed my “Wrong Way” sign with your buggy, then joked about how reading is hard while shoving it out of your way — I see you. Ignoring something doesn’t make it go away.

And yeah, I see you too, mister “Ma’am if she’s not going to follow the rules then neither am I.” … so glad my trainee got to meet you during his first 30 minutes on the job. Not that you’re interested but the signs are there so you don’t cross face-to-face with other customers (because none of y’all are wearing masks) or ram your buggy into us while we’re stocking.

To the teenaged loner who cleans my department without being asked — I see you. Don’t worry, hon, you’re bigger than this place. Keep dreaming of New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul and all the other places you want to visit. You’ll get there. I hope you send me a postcard.

To the group of goof-offs in the break room — I see you. I know you aren’t paid enough to care about this job. None of us are but you can learn a lot by trying. Either way, please stop half-assing Aisle 13 while I’m off. It took me 118 hours over 3 weeks (hello, “part-time”) but I’ve finally organized the dairy department.

To the kind woman who only had $50 to spend — I see you and I think of you often. You had a buggy-full of groceries but we had to put most of them back. You took the sausage off first; then the one box of snack cakes in your entire cart. Next came the hard stuff; the chicken breasts, the broccoli, the frozen peas, three shiny apples, a box of strawberries, and a discount pack of ground beef. Last of all were the 2 for $2.00 boxes of mac and cheese. That was supposed to be a surprise for your granddaughter. I worked quietly while you talked. I smiled, biting my cheeks, while I put your groceries into bags. I stood quietly while you paid and left. Then you were gone and I cried, right there, on Register 4. Ma’am, I know Jesus asked us to give mercy instead of gifts; but I wish, deep in my soul, that I could have bought your whole load of groceries. I wish I could have afforded to give you more than mercy and dignity that night.

To the flustered man who came in carrying an empty margarine tub that had been washed and dried — I see you. We walked together to the butter section; it looks like that brand has discontinued their “light margarine with canola oil”. I showed you our store brand with canola oil. I forgot to point out the light version — I’m sorry. You said, “I can’t find that other one anywhere. I hope she likes this one.” I do, too. You made me smile. I also send my husband to the store with empty containers; much easier that way.

To the pastor from the little brick church up the road—I see you. You were shopping for some neighbors who couldn’t afford their groceries. I looked away while you moved down the aisle. We aren’t supposed to have any personal items on the floor but I was running late and my wallet was in my jacket. I followed you around the corner and handed you a folded $20. I’m so glad you asked me about the eggs—the medium ones will always be about $1.09. Thank you for coming back and introducing me to the dad and his two sons who were shopping with that $20.

To the 10-year-old who who was shopping with that same $20 — I see you. You said, “Thank you, ma’am … I just wanted to say you’re really awesome and … thanks.” Kid, I’m glad you were looking at your shoes because my heart broke all over my face. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than. We all need some help in one way or another.

To the caregiver helping the very old woman shop — I see you. Thank you for being patient with her and helping her find her way through the store. I heard her sweetly ordering you around and it made me laugh. I used to do the same for my Grandmama (and she ordered me around just the same). I spent the next half-hour remembering our epic, all-day shopping trips after she could no longer drive. First the post office for stamps then the Dollar General for greeting cards, snack cakes and Maybelline Great Lash mascara in the pink tube. Then it was 4 hours in Wal-Mart, with her pocketbook propped on top of the eggs and bread and the straps tied in a half-hitch knot around her wrist.

4 hours up and down every aisle, “No no, get the 80 cal-ry … that’s right.”

“Bend down and get me 5 cans of that corn.”

“Where’s the pink packet sweetener? I want the GV kind.”

“I don’t know why they have to have everything strowed out across the whole store.”

“We need some bran.”

“Go get me two packs of the sugar-free sucking candy in the yella wrapper.”

“I need, let’s see, it’s Tuesday — get me 6 bananas, as green and little bitty as you can find.”

“Get us some silver bells. The big bag.”

I still buy a bag of Hersey Kisses when I miss you.

And to that lovely old woman with the bright pink lipstick and big, beautiful laugh — I see you and I’m so glad you came in. Don’t you worry about a thing. You’ve got your list and I’ll block any aisle you want to go down, one-way arrows be damned.

To the veterans of every age and conflict, from WWII and Vietnam to Iraqi Freedom, standing quietly behind the customers complaining about every thing imaginable — I see you. I see the disappointment in your eyes and the pride in your spines. Thank you for your service. I’m sorry about what we’ve done with the place.

To the woman with the beautiful ring — I see you. I complimented the ring on your right hand that glittered brightly, even under the nasty florescent lights. You told me, “My husband gave me that on our 21st … or maybe 23rd … however many little diamonds is in it anniversary.” You said you were married 68 years before he passed, “That’s nearly unheard of now … it was a lifetime.” Thank you for telling me about it. The way your wrinkles softened and your eyes brightened, he sure was something special. I hope you dreamt of him that night.

The aisles are crowded, the floor is unimaginably hard, and the music is terrible. Thank you all for coming by.


About the Creator

Alyson Kate Long

I'm a small business owner by day; a Kindle junkie by night. I love Indian food, MacGyver reruns, breaking grammar rules for the sake of sentiment & my tattoo of falling into a really great book. There is always time for coffee or a nap!

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