I have to say that when we moved back down south, I was very westernized. Westernized, meaning LA-ish. In LA, we are pleasant to each other. And by pleasant, I mean we don't hurt each other or say mean things unless prompted. We get out of each other's way on the roads for the most part and usually let each other in. We sometimes hold doors if it's convenient but if we don't, it's nothing personal. We ask, "How are you today?" in line at the store even though we know we won't get an honest answer and frankly, don't particularly care for any answer; the line is too long for small talk. It was not at all an uncomfortable way to live. We were all a sort of breed of hermit crabs that just happened to be forced out of our shells and forced into a huge vat of other hermit crabs all day, everyday.
When I went to the grocery store for the first time since moving into our new home, I was standing in the produce section looking at apples. A woman standing next to me said, "These are the best this time of year and even though they're the most expensive, I still buy them."
I felt violated. Here I was in this lovely little apple-shopping world, and this woman is requesting that I listen and care about which apples she buys and presumably would like me to come up with some response. What the hell do I say to her? "Really?" or "Wooow," or "Thanks for sharing that." I decided to smile and skip the apples and hope that woman didn't follow me down any of the aisles.
When I got to the check out, the lady asked me the obligatory, "How are you today?"
"Did you find everything alright?"
Don't you think if I hadn't, I would have asked someone before I got to the checkout line? "Yes, thank you."
"Do you have any coupons today?"
Do I look like someone who has coupons? "No."
"We have those great little flyers up front if you want to grab one on your way out. It has all of our sales listed every week."
Please don't sell me advertising for Publix in Publix. I'm already here, ok? "Oh. Thanks."
"Paper or plastic?"
It doesn't fucking matter. "It doesn't matter."
"Would you like some help out to your car?"
Yes, yes I want a total stranger to walk me through a parking lot to my car where I can take out my keys and he or she can shove me into the trunk and drive away so I become a top story on the local news and my husband dies alone. "No."
"Well, you have yourself a wonderful day, now. We'll see you next time."
God willing there will never be a next time. "Thanks."
Fast forward 6 months. While I was in the store this past week I was looking for a sugar-free ice cream. A woman shopping in the same section asked me, "Are you looking for sugar-free too?"
"Yes, I am! It's so hard to find!"
"You know, the best I've found is over at Walmart. Now I don't like to shop there, but it really is the only sugar-free ice cream that I can stand."
"Oh really?! I might have to try that."
"I also looked for salt-free potato chips because my husband can't have salt and I ended up having to order them online."
"Oh, wow. It's strange they don't have them in stores. It seems like something people would buy."
"I know it. I'm sure they will eventually. Good luck with the ice cream."
"Thanks so much!"
I mosey on up to the check out counter.
"How are you today?"
"I'm doing really well, how about yourself?"
"I'm doing just fine. You find everything you need?"
"You know, I did. I needed so many of the sale items this week!"
"Ok, that's lucky! I love when I run out of something and it just so happens to be on sale. Did you see our pizza dough is on sale as well?"
"Oh my gosh, I sure didn't! I might have to come back before the week is up."
"It's wonderful dough, so easy to make at home. I prefer it to a delivery-type pizza. Do you have any coupons?"
"I don't today. I haven't gotten the Publix $5 coupon in a while."
"Oh, they'll send that one out next Tuesday."
"These your bags from home?"
"Yes, ma'am. You can feel free to just fill them to the brim. No need to be neat."
"Ok. Great. Do you need help out today?"
"No ma'am, I walked."
"Oh good for you. More of us should be doing that."
"Well, I'm just so lucky to live so close. It's so convenient."
"How wonderful. You know, I walk up to our local store occasionally, I should do it more often."
"Well, have a great day."
"You too, dear. See you next time."
"You sure will."
It's nice to be back down south, ya'll.