Someone said good morning to me today, and I gave them my best “why are you doing this to both of us” look. I raised my eyebrows in a concerned arc, let my eyes water and take on an almost doe-like appearance, and I curved my lips in a slightly upward-curved slash; I wanted to communicate my disappointment, annoyance, and exhaustion all with one masterful expression so when I replied with my own “good morning” the unwelcome conversation initiator would know without a sliver of doubt that this interaction was unwelcome and absolutely unnecessary. It happened at a grocery store. I am of the resolute belief that there is almost never a reason to talk to anyone at a grocery store unless under duress from a few very specific circumstances which are as follows.
On the off chance that I desperately need help finding something at the store, I will consider asking someone who works there for help. However, there is a process to such an act. First, I must scour every surface of the store myself because I must actually need help if I’m going to ask for it. Next, I make camp either in a fort composed of toilet paper rolls or in the jungle of flower bouquets. Either of these places serve as functional bases of operations. In my hideout, I rehearse my question for anywhere between 1 minute and 16 hours depending upon complexity. Asking where the cereal is would only be a few minutes of muttering my lines and maybe 2 drafts of the script. However, asking where exactly the cheap sandwiches they make out of the spare parts of other sandwiches are located would be hours of drafting and redrafting my plea. Finally, once my question is memorized and rehearsed, then I can seek out the least busy-looking worker and ask for their help in an articulate, and painfully specific manner.
I suppose I would politely ask for help from either a passerby or someone working at the store if, and this is a massive if, I had been stabbed in the neck while in the store. I’d start by burbling a gory “excuse me” to whoever was nearby and didn’t look too busy because even in this grisly scenario, I would not have the sheer audacity to inflict myself upon someone else without proper warning. Then, once I have their attention, I might gesture to the gaping wound in my jugular as if to say “if you’ve got a minute, could you help me with this?” Depending on their reaction, the scenario can progress in one of two ways. If the bystander rushes off to get help, I would politely have a seat and maybe scrawl my final goodbye using my own blood on the dirty linoleum floor. If, and this seems equally likely, the other person does not try to help–maybe they run away screaming, maybe they faint, maybe they’re the one who stabbed me and want to watch the light fade from my eyes, any reason is serviceable–then I would either flag down another person or I would try to die in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone else. This is the polite way to die in a grocery store, and one of the only reasons to talk to another shopper.
One final reason I might engage with another customer is probably the most commonplace explanation. If in the produce section, another customer makes the laughable error of snatching up the last delicious green morsel of broccoli, then I am obligated to shriek a warcry and attack the individual with anything nearby–including bags of potatoes or kitchenware. I would feel totally justified in having a conversation with this irredeemable broccoli bandit, and it is entirely their fault that the conversation would be mostly incoherent cussing and vivid threats of violence. If I end up stabbing them in the neck to win my rightful veggies, then they will also have a reason to talk to someone in the store.
Some say I take my shopping a little too seriously. Some say I should become more of a people person. To those people I say, I take my shopping exactly as serious as the task demands, and I would be more of a people person if I could be a people person from a distance, far from the people, perhaps in a dark room in which I am the only occupant.