February 10, 2008
“Your bags are always so clean,” the pleasant, friendly supermarket checker said to my wife in admiration. An immaculate person in her housekeeping, my wife is not the type of person to bring a soiled canvas bag to the supermarket.
“Do people bring dirty bags back to the market?” I asked the checker. She rolled her eyes. “You wouldn’t believe some of the filthy bags people bring back to the market,” she said. “I can hardly stand to touch them,” she said sourly. “Or smell them.”
With this introduction to the dark (not to mention stinky) underbelly of environmentalism, a casual relationship began to grow between the cheerful checker usually positioned at the last cash register and my wife and I.
Today, as I waited in line, my eyes scanned the covers of the gossip tabloids. The gossip newspapers and magazines focused on life and death: Angelina Jolie the beautiful is reported to be pregnant with twins. Other headlines promised fascinating facts on the death of Australian actor Heath Ledger. Slightly to my surprise, there was nary a headline about the sad Britney. Perhaps her story has reached the point that only her death will satisfy the gossip cravings of the vultures.
The dangerous urge to do checkout line comedy seized control of my psyche.
I said to the checker, “I thought of a marketing idea for your market.”
“Yes?” she responded with what appeared to be interest.
“Instead of tabloids about movie stars and other celebrities, you could prepare publications about the people who work at the supermarket.”
The checker laughed with delight and enthusiasm. “Let me tell you, there’s plenty of material to keep several magazines filled at this store!” Although she didn’t reveal any juicy details, she warmed to her theme, conveying the impression that what had seemed like an innocent store was a teeming pool of intrigue and scandal.
Delighted to get such an enthusiastic response to my silly conversation starter, and seldom a person to leave well enough alone, I ventured further. “If you did exhaust the tales of gossip generating possibilities of the staff, you could perhaps start to share information about the customers.”
I had hit gold again. “Boy, could we tell you things about our customers. We know a lot about our customers, don’t we?” she added as an aside to the bagger who had just joined us and started putting our groceries in one of our spotless bags.
The bagger enthusiastically agreed.
“Oh, dear, I guess we are not of much use to you,” I said as my wife joined us. “We’ve been married for 42 years.”
“Come on,” coaxed the checker. “No skeletons in your closet?”
“Well,” I said, “Our daughter lives with another woman.”
The checker’s face fell. “Nothing new about that,” she said. “Nobody pays any attention to that sort of relationship any more. We see lots of children in the checkout line with a mommy and a mommy.”
As we picked up our bags to leave, the checker and the bagger bent close together for a whispered conversation. I didn’t try to listen, and I don’t think the conversation was about us, but I had a definite impression that the gossip mills of the supermarket were grinding away.
Really, why should any of us envy the beautiful people on the covers of the tabloids? What do they have that we don’t besides paparazzi following them around?