by Kristina Springer
Things I learned on day one of my very first job:
1) Store rules state you should not simultaneously push more than eight carts into the grocery store on your own.
2) When putting fifty-pound salt blocks into a customer’s car, lift with your legs, not your back.
3) When bagging groceries, eggs and bread always, always go on top.
4) Never, ever, fall in love with a guy from the Produce department.
“No, no!” the woman with the giant mass of chaotic brown curls and thick 80’s style glasses screams, even though the button on my bagger’s smock clearly reads: “Hi, I’m Ronnie and I’m in training today.”
“What?” I say, scanning the order in front of me to see what she’s freakin’ out about.
She shakes a loaf of bread in my face. “You squeezed my bread! Look, look here.” She points to a spot on the bread. “See? Finger indents! Would you eat this? Huh?” She slams the bread on the counter in front of me.
I give the bread a once over. Actually, I would eat the bread. I can’t even see what finger indents she’s talking about. And what proof does she have that these finger indents came from me, anyway? I think I’d like to see a little DNA report before we continue with this accusatory line of questioning here.
Of course, I say none of this. “Um, no?” I offer. Customer’s always right. Or something like that. Isn’t that how it goes?
She throws a hand in the air and whirls around. “You see? You see? She wouldn’t even eat this.”
“Who’s she talking to?” I whisper to the cashier who, from her plastic name tag, appears to be Deb.
She shrugs and continues ringing up the woman’s groceries without missing a beat. “Just run to the bread aisle and get her a new loaf. I’ll bag the rest of this.” She nods at the groceries piling up at the end of the register.
I trek to aisle two, grateful to get away from the crazy bread lady. I’m only halfway through my first shift at my new job at Gregor’s Groceries and so far I’m really liking it, even with the screaming customers. She was the third one today to fly off the handle at me. Who knew people got so hostile over their food? I’m sure all the yelling will eventually die down as I improve my grocery bagging skills. But even if it doesn’t, I’m cool. I’ve been tuning out angry teachers for years.
When I reach the bread aisle I scan brand after brand, searching for the five-grain type Old Yeller had picked out. I finally spot it on the top shelf and as I stand on the tip of my toes and reach up for it, my gaze falls on a living, breathing god, standing smack dab in the middle of the Produce department. His hair is dark and shaggy, his eyes a striking brown. The blue apron over his white collared shirt is smudged with gooey green stuff. His muscular forearms bulge with each bushel of bananas he stacks on the shelf.
I can’t look away. The old song “Close to You” plays over the store sound system and I feel as though I’m in the slow-motion part of a romantic movie. The kind that fast-forwards through our many dates, wedding, and the birth of our mixed bagger/produce department babies. Until the song abruptly cuts off and someone says, “Clean up on aisle six” over the intercom. The gorgeous guy glances up and our eyes lock just for a moment. I do the only thing I can. I snatch down the loaf of bread and race back to the front of the store.
“Holy guacamole, who’s the hottie in produce?” I ask Alyssa, one of the other baggers, when I reach the front end again. I only met her this afternoon but we’ve already hit it off. She’s at least a couple of years older than me.
She puts two bags of potato chips in a plastic bag, secures the top, and places it into the basket of her customer’s cart. “Ah, you must be talking about Nick.” A smile spreads over her lips. “He is yummy.”
“Amen, sister, what’s his story?” I pick up a can of chunky soup and help her finish bagging her order.
“I think he’s a senior over at Forest Grove High. I heard he plays football in the fall. He once loaned me a dollar for the pop machine.”
“So he’s got money, you’re saying,” I conclude.
Alyssa smiles. “Enough for a Sprite, anyway.”
“Well, Mama likes.”