On Sundays, we usually call our daughter Dee, who lives in New York. Last Sunday was no different, and it just happened to be the day of the Academy Awards. Clif had decided notions about what he wanted to eat on this big night of movie awards, and let’s just say his choices weren’t exactly healthy—fries and breaded chicken and snack cakes. (All right. I’ll plead guilty when it comes to the snack cakes.)
“I’m sure glad I didn’t meet anyone I knew when I went grocery shopping this afternoon,” I told Dee that night. “Considering what was in my cart, it would have been pretty embarrassing.”
“People look into your cart?” Dee asked. “That’s nosy.”
“It is,” I agreed. “But I do the same thing, so I can’t throw any stones.”
Dee again expressed amazement. Now, you’d think this country girl would know about grocery cart snooping in a small town, but she left Winthrop when she was eighteen, and the only grocery shopping she’s done has been in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where apparently people don’t scope out the groceries in other shoppers’ carts.
On Monday, the day after the Academy Awards, I went grocery shopping for real, and my point was proved. We were low on flour, so I hefted a twenty-five bag of flour into my grocery cart. A woman—someone I didn’t even know—did a double take when she saw the big bag of flour in my cart.
“That’s one big bag of flour,” she said.
“I make bread,” I replied.
“Well, good for you,” she said amiably and continued on her way.
In the produce section another woman, again a complete stranger, looked at the bag of flour and said, “Wow! That’s a lot of flour.”
I smiled sweetly. “I make bread.”
A little while latter, I stopped and chatted with my friend Mary Jane, but she didn’t say a word about the flour. She knows I make bread. No explanation was necessary.
In the pasta aisle, as I was reaching for a bag of egg noodles, I met the first woman who had commented on the flour. “What?” she asked. “You don’t make egg noodles?”
Grinning, I shook my head. “No, I don’t make egg noodles.”
Next Sunday when I call Dee, I will tell her about the various encounters I had on Monday. I will tell her I am not offended by the nosiness of small-town shoppers. On the contrary, it adds texture to life, giving a personal touch to that most mundane of experiences—grocery shopping.
Sometimes, even the cashiers get in on the act when they see something unfamiliar and potentially tasty among my groceries. I am always happy to talk about food, and I gladly tell them about the delicious item in question.
I view these comments as one of the benefits of living in a small town, where a trip to the grocery store almost always guarantees some kind of personal interaction. It makes me feel folded into the community. It makes me feel that I matter as an individual.
In a world where the human population is climbing toward nine billion, this is no small thing.