LAKE MACBRIDE— The last three times I’ve been to the grocery store, the person in front of me in the checkout line has commented that some baking must be planned in our household. What they don’t know is because of my work on farms this year, flour, sugar, butter, dried fruit, chocolate chips, and other shelf-stable and dried goods are all I need to pick up. Going into 2014, the pantry and freezer are still pretty full of the season’s goodness, with a couple of months food on hand should disaster strike.
There are usually some luxuries on the conveyor belt leading to the cash register: a small jar of hazelnut spread mixed with chocolate and skim milk, cured Spanish olives stuffed with pimiento, a bag of caramel corn on special, or a box of snack crackers. Those items not withstanding, the majority of food we buy at the grocery store is raw material to supplement our pantry while cooking our own meals. As people have noticed, what we buy at a grocery store is evidence that we use appliances beside a microwave oven in our home kitchen.
People snoop at my purchases, but I don’t mind. I do the same, but don’t usually comment, having been raised differently. When people comment, I respond politely, giving out as little additional information as possible, saying something like, “the sugar was on sale for $0.25 per pound, so I thought I would pick up a bag.” Like it or not, checkout is a sociable time.
I have gotten to know some of the cashiers at the mega-mart, and they call me by name after the transaction. They must read it on the display screen after my debit card goes through. It is not a personal relationship, but familiarity after long years of my repeat business and their continued employment. It is not a bad thing, and as people smarter than me have said, the sweetest sound is that of our own name. It’s good salesmanship to call customers by their name.
Neighborliness may have been reduced to these brief commercial interludes in the grocery store. Where I live, seldom do I see my neighbors outside, and even less frequent is an in depth conversation about anything other than the weather. I speak with my friends via email, and in person at events, but that is conversation through association rather than neighborliness. A little more neighborliness would be welcome in our increasingly contentious society. Even if it is only in the checkout aisle.