In Which I Talk A Lot About Cheese. But Really, It’s About Clarity.
One time I saw my doctor (yep, this one) at the grocery store and it totally creeped me out.
This was a few days after a routine yearly appointment too, mind you, so it was like one minute he was all up in my bidness with a speculum and some lube, and the next he’s like, I don’t know — buying kale. And it was just too much. It felt weird, like running into a high school teacher at the mall, except this was even worse because he was wearing normal people clothes, no white jacket, and also he’s seen me naked.
Oddly, I felt an overwhelming urge to analyze the contents of his shopping cart to see if he was one of those “practices what he preaches” types, or possibly a closeted hypocrite hoarding boxes of Velveeta and fudge dipped Oreos. So curious. Then I started to worry he might see what was in my cart, and he’d look at me and my dried pasta with his face all judgy and tell me that if I don’t stop loving food so much, I’m probably going to die.
I’m sure my cart looked exactly like this.
So I ducked my head and beelined for a different section of the store, keeping a crafty peripheral lookout, and ran smack into the island of fancy cheeses.
He looked up from the deli meats, so I smiled and waved, and for one semi-humiliating second, he looked confused.
The guy who’d been intimately examining my lady parts for the better part of six years didn’t seem to recognize me.
And my indignant mind was all, “Really, doc? What if I took my pants off? Would you recognize me, then?”
But then the relief of recognition flickered across his face and he gave an awkward smile, waved, and then quickly turned back to the deli meats as a clear indication that he didn’t feel like discussing the unscratchable itch deep in my ear canal or the rickety crick in my left, troubled knee or any other ailments that might’ve been plaguing me there at the Food Lion amidst the goat cheese and brie and the Parm you have to grate yourself. And while I had zero desire to discuss the results of my latest pap in front of the girl who makes potato salad, I felt bad, for a minute, with the realization that I’d never actually know this person with whom I’d exchanged pleasantries on a regular basis for the better part of a decade.
Sometimes I want to know people more than they want to be known.
Is that weird?
Like the man working at the fancy cheese shop near our new house. (Not just a cheese island, guys, but a whole fancy Cheese Shoppe, with an extra “p” and the “e” to imply that those looking for pre-grated Parm best look elsewhere.) The first time Justin and I went in, we were completely ignored. He and a younger employee were busy with customers, but not once, during our entire leisurely lap around the cramped little store, did they even acknowledge our presence. But I thought about the older man, for some reason still, thinking how great it would be to become “a regular” and someone he smiled at when I walked in the door.
I want these things in life, and I don’t know why.
So I went back a day or two later with the purpose of making friends with the somber gentleman behind the counter under the guise of finding a nice bottle of wine to take to a party. I felt like he could teach me something about the drink I love so much that I’d actually be able to retain. But he was with a customer again, and he maybe looked at me once with sad, sad eyes while another helpful employee helped ring me out. I heard the older man say something about his mother-in-law dying as I walked out the door.
And here’s the thing — the reason I’ve resolved to change how I let (seemingly) rude behavior affect me:
We never know what battles are being fought by the people we meet. And it makes no sense to let the ways others choose to deal with their battles affect our own happiness, interactions, or sense of self-worth.
In other words, not everything has anything to do with me.
I went back one more time.
That time, he wasn’t there. I asked the nice man who’d helped me the second time about him, hoping to gain some insight about how to make him smile.
“George is no longer with us,” he said.
“He passed away, unexpectedly, over the holiday break.”
And then he went on to tell me about the last time he spoke with George, the owner, and made me laugh at the anecdotes of their father/son-like interactions, and said he didn’t know what might become of The Shoppe where I’d wanted to become “a regular” because, in all honestly, George was the shoppe, and so we’d just have to wait and see.
And I felt like I’d missed out.
I’d missed out on being nice to someone who, according to his wife, thought that “every time you eat, it’s an opportunity to celebrate.”
Which is kind of how I feel.
And I at least should have smiled, the last time I saw him, instead of feeling irritated that he’d been oblivious to my obvious charms.
I have to find a new doctor eventually here. And a new veterinarian and hair stylist and now, apparently, a new person to adopt as my wine and cheese mentor. And while I’m hardly going to invite my new doctor out for a post-pap cocktail, I’d like to see who she is beyond the contents of her shopping cart. I’d like to care. At least a little.
Because we all have these battles. And the way we react to how someone else is fighting can actually affect whether they win it or lose it.
And I know it’s a little crass, guys, to talk about the mess of our bodies along with the beauty of our spirits, but that’s life, you know?
They just fit.
Love this!! I too have these mental discussions with myself -about wanting to be a “regular” and everything else that followed that concept in this blog. Thanks for sharing!!
You’re welcome! I’m all over the place sometimes, but I get to the point eventually. Sometimes. :)
I really like this post, and I find it interesting because I have made similar but also sort of opposite goals myself. I actually sometimes feel like these kinds of strangers get the best of me, and it’s the people who I’m really close to who get the shaft.
That’s really interesting, because I think I’m sometimes the same way. It’s easier to put your absolute best self forward with strangers, because you don’t have to keep it up. Huh…
Find a way to buy the shop – it’s you! And you could add cheesecake to the inventory!
If we were staying here forever, we’d consider it. ;)
I’m not completely sure what to say. This is completely 100% a valid message.
What I do want to say is that I’m also curious about other people’s shopping carts. Sometimes at checkouts, I’ll have a look at what they are buying and try to piece their life together in some way. Even if everything a person is buying is completely gross, I try to imagine what they are going to do with the food that would make it not gross. Because maybe all those tubs of ice cream are for a friend going through a break up, right?
If I ever take a shot at writing fiction, I might use that technique for character development — imagining what they each would have in their shopping carts. I admit I get a little judgy when I see a cart completely full of junk. But then I catch myself and remember to each their own. I like the idea of imagining what they’d do with the food to make it “not gross.” Ha!