I’m not like you and I don’t want your advice or your praise or to move in the ways you do.

Part 2 of the Supermarket Madness Series. Previous entry here.

We used to live in a little neighborhood in Oceanside tucked up on a hill behind a decent-sized shopping center. Due to some geographical quirks and freeway planning, we could walk to the shopping center in under five minutes but the trip by car took about 15 minutes and the use of two freeways. There was an emergency vehicle road that cut straight down the hill and emptied out into the parking lot about 5 houses down from our house. We didn’t use the shopping center all that often. It didn’t have the grocery store we like (but it did have a great taco shop for al pastor burritos). It also had a Walmart Super Center, and we went there to pick up things out of convenience. I’m not a fan of Walmart, for a bunch of reasons. I did (mostly) appreciate having it close by and using it as a convenience store.

Back then my lovely wife and co-blogger and I spent a lot of time in our back yard. We’d play backgammon, enjoy some cocktails and (GASP!) smoke some cigarettes. When we’d run low on supplies, the loser of the next game had to venture out. One day we needed some more wine and some smokes and I lost the chore-deciding game (likely due to some cheater-rolling of the dice by my opponent) so I sourly sauntered down the hill to Walmart.

As an aside, the emergency road hill was pretty steep and emptied out into a large parking lot. I loved to take the skateboard and ride down the hill and surf my way through the lot. I definitely frightened some people, either by almost plowing into them or they just feared for my safety. I also entertained some people. None more so than a group of kids (probably ranged from 13 to 17 in age) that were riding down the hill one day when I showed up at the top of the hill. They eyed me warily but saw I had the skateboard with me. We exchanged some pleasantries and I watched for a few minutes. They were taking off quite a bit farther up the hill than I was. I went down to the bottom of the hill to watch out for delivery trucks using the ring road that couldn’t be seen from the hill and for security. I finally took a turn, after saying something lame about how low I was starting, and cruised through the lot trying to carve some turns. Of course, to impress teenage skaters, I moved my start point up near the top of the hill. That was a bad choice. I started to get the “death wobble” because I was going too fast and was tentative. I tried to slow down by using the footbrake, but that was a bad choice. I promptly did the splits and heard my groin pop. The skater kids laughed and laughed and laughed. Eventually I did too and pulled myself and my pride together and went to the Walmart. Lamentably I forgot my ID and they refused to sell me smokes, even after I started shouting that I had grey hairs in my sideburns so I have to be old enough. I limped down to the Stater Brothers and then home so my wife could have a turn laughing at me. Solid day all around.

OK, back to Walmart. First off, people watching at Walmart is just the best. If you’ve never viewed People of Walmart, you should check it out. The pictures say it better than I ever could.

Walmart policy is to have a dedicated checkout aisle for all tobacco purchases. Strangely, they also make this aisle an express “15 items or less” aisle. In theory, if one has a bunch of items and wants some rich, flavorful tobacco, they would have to check out twice. In practice, the cashier would allow you to check out with as many items as you like in the tobacco aisle (Aisle 16 in this store). As a result, the lines were frequently long for Aisle 16. This day was no different.

So there I was, queued up and alternately people watching, wishing I had my headphones and contemplating my existence. Since I had no items to place on the conveyor belt, I stepped up close to the lady in front of me when she was checking out. When the cashier scanned her last item she asked for a can of Skoal Wintergreen. The cashier looked up with a gleam in his eye. I hadn’t really noticed while waiting in line. He was young, cheerful, ruddy cheeked and a bit portly. He smiled and said, “You know that stuff is bad for you, right?”

She immediately looked down at her feet and started stammering, “Ugh, erm, ummmmm.” I was a bit taken aback. It wasn’t that he was wrong. It seemed at a minimum to be inappropriate. I debated whether he was stupid or evil (a false choice, I know) and decided he was stupid, but he had no ill intent. This would not save him, however.

He kept smiling. “I think they put me on this aisle because I like to help people and tell them this.” The lady kept staring at the floor and held out cash for her wares. She shuffled off. The cashier looked at me and said hello.

I slapped down a ten-dollar bill, smiled and said, “I’d like some Camel Blues, please!”

He looked up with the same gleam in his eye. “You know that these things are bad for you…”

I cut him off. “Look, man, this isn’t what I’m looking for out of this transaction.” His mouth fell and his eyes widened a bit. “I just want to give you this money for a product. Do you think your bosses would want you to prevent people from spending money? Do you realize what the markup is on cigarettes?” The cashier behind in Aisle 15 stopped what she was doing and started staring at me.

“OK, but they are bad for you,” he rebutted.

“There are hundreds of products in your store that are bad for you. Do you warn every person that buys one of them?” I gestured toward the in-store McDonalds, “Does anyone tell you or I not to eat another cheeseburger? Those are bad for you.” He started to turn red and put his head down to make change. “Look, whether they’re bad or not, what you say comes off as judgmental and no one comes here for that.”

He handed me the smokes and my change, looked me in the eye and gave me a nod. One of his coworkers had sidled up to the bagging area and was watching up with his jaw agape. I turned to walk away and gave a half chuckle and the kid in the bagging area started cracking up.

I think that was the right response because it was a very silly situation. I pretty clearly laid things on a bit thick and that was unnecessary. He seemingly believed that being “right” and having good intentions would prevent these sorts of bad (awkward may be a better term) outcomes.

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3 thoughts on “I’m not like you and I don’t want your advice or your praise or to move in the ways you do.

  1. Did you smoke a cigarette afterwards? Because that must have been pretty satisfying

  2. I discovered your blog web site on google and view a few of your own early blogposts. Continue to keep in the very good run. I just additional up your RSS feed to my own MSN Information Reader. Seeking forward to reading through more from you later on!

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