How to impress people in stores

I had just selected a package of lemon Oreos at the grocery store the other day when a stocker remarked in passing, “Those are really popular. We can’t keep them on the shelves.”

At first I didn’t say anything because I didn’t have a response, but, not wanting to be perceived as an aloof and taciturn loner – characteristics of which I have at times been accused – I retorted, “They’re for my husband.”

Afterward, I started thinking, I hope he didn’t think that I thought that he was flirting with me because I did not think that. I am not so vain or feeble-minded that I need to bring up my husband as a defense mechanism when someone wants to make small talk about cookies. No, if anything, I wanted to make it known that the cookies were not for me because I didn’t want to be the Cookie Monster Mom in Aisle 5.

And they really were for my husband, who likes things that are lemon-flavored.

This is a story about overthinking.

It occurred to me that quite often when I purchase things for my husband I want to hand the cashier a secret note that explains they are not for me. There are certain products which he likes that I would rather not be seen buying – basically anything you might see on a show like “Duck Dynasty.”

You see, I spent a portion of my childhood in West Virginia and I come from a family of modest means, so I have an insecurity about coming across as being, well, unsophisticated. I once told one of my favorite colleagues to leave my office immediately and never speak to me again when he insinuated that I had friends in low places. I forgave him, of course. My privileged friends have their good points just like the ones in low places do.

My husband, who was born on an Air Force base in Mississippi but claims West Virginia as his home state, has no such insecurity and will gladly cover his food in molasses just like Walter Cunningham did in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

But because I have to overthink everything including how to impress cashiers at drug stores and the supermarket, I have come to the conclusion that there should be secret stores where those with role model jobs and elected officials can buy things that are legal, but embarrassing, such as stool softeners. No one under 18, nor any members of the media, would be allowed into these stores. Cameras would not be permitted.

Aside from the employees of grocery stores and drug stores, I also feel particularly accountable to book store employees. A few months ago I was browsing the sale rack at a large book store and came across a Sarah Palin book for $3. Why not, I thought. I have always wanted to read a Sarah Palin book because I like to listen to arguments that I am inclined to disagree with. I think it helps a person be more open-minded. But when I got to the register, the bearded guy with all the buttons kept acting aloof and taciturn, almost kind of dismissive, and I was thoroughly convinced that he was judging me on my choice of reading material. For what it’s worth, I also got book of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates, and it is a really good one.


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