Dancing and Swimming at Trader Joe’s

I work as a museum educator. I should not be exhausted at the end of the work day and yet I am. Since the incident I’m about to relay, I have learned that I shouldn’t be putting myself in any potentially stressful situations, like a shop around trader joe’s, directly after work. The only appropriate thing to do after work is drink wine by myself in a quiet place. But the debacle I’m about to share occurred before I learned this very important thing about myself.

Now, I love trader joe’s. It’s really wormed its way into my consciousness. Case in point. A few years back, they were renovating my local tj’s. They put a plastic sheet over the area that was under construction. I was dying to know what was behind that plastic sheet. When at the store, I’d always make a point of looking at the produce near the sheet with the hopes that I would catch a glimpse of what lay beyond it.

In real life I was too chicken shit to peek behind the sheet. In my dreams, I was more courageous. One night, during the renovation, I dreamed that I pulled back the curtain to find a partially constructed POOL. Those crazy, Hawaiian shirt clad folks at tj’s had built a POOL for their customers. I was beyond impressed. They give free food samples and the prices are super low. But, a POOL?!? tj’s loves me, this I know.

But alas, it was just a dream. There will never be a pool, just checkout lines snaking down the aisles at the second busiest trader joe’s in the US of A. They’ve since come up with a new queuing system; they now have one massive line and a tj’s employee sends you to a checkout lane as it becomes available. But at the time of the debacle, they still had individual lines for each checkout station. So, to do your shopping, you had to intersect each line many, many times, weaving in and out of people like it was a square dance. Most of the time, there was a real sense of camaraderie as people danced. But this one night, there was a man who would not dance.

After a long day of work, I was feeling tired but I was in desperate need of hearts of palm or some such nonsense. So I marched into tj’s like I was going into battle. I made my way to the jars of nonsense aisle, weaving my way through the lines with a tight, forced smile, saying “sorry” “excuse me” “sorry” “excuse me” in a low, but audible, voice. After the 40th weave ‘n’ sorry, I heard someone from the line I’d just intersected, say, to my BACK, “you could say sorry a little more clearly. you could be louder.”  Alrighty, so you heard me say sorry. But I didn’t say it loud enough for you? That really makes no sense at all, Sir. But you want loud? I can be loud. You want me to try again? I can do that. So, I danced my way back to the line, stood in front of the asshole, looked him in the eye and shouted, truly shouted, EXCUSE ME. I paused for effect in front of him, maintaining fierce eye contact. My teeth may have been bared. And then I left the store without my hearts of palm, cause I’m willing to make sacrifices in order to try to make the world a better place.

The aftermath of these encounters is always the same. I am overtaken by full body tremors as if I’ve just narrowly avoided a traffic accident. It’s a kind of petrified exhilaration. I’m short of breath. My mind is racing. But it’s worth it. I’m doing it for the greater good. Somebody has got to stand up to these assholes who won’t dance at Trader Joes.


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