My Character Was Grossly Misjudged at the Belmont Avenue Kroger
“If I forget to ask you to donate to
Susan G Komen For the Cure
You get a Coke
I am not petty enough to call out a minimum-wage worker on a promotion like this, so I don’t have the comped bottle of soda to prove it, but I was not asked to make a breast cancer donation at Kroger last week. And no, the clerk (let’s call her “Vera”) did not forget to ask. She simply refrained from making the request because she thought I’d say no. Of this I am certain.
Before I share with you the passive-aggressive ugliness that transpired last Thursday between Vera and me, and in my own defense (with the understanding that I come off sounding like kind of a jerk in this story), let me just say that I donate to causes like this every time someone asks me. Every. Single. Time. And I have the shirt to prove it.
That’s right. “Hunt for a Cure.” I
own bought a shirt that says “Hunt for a Cure.” Set me back twenty bucks.
I don’t have a personal history with breast cancer. I certainly don’t hunt. Truth be told, I rarely wear t-shirts. I own this shirt because an acquaintance asked me to give to her fundraiser and I did. Lets agree that I’m a kind, giving person and move on with the story.
I’m at Kroger. This is last Thursday. I’m stopping off at the store on my way home from work. My oldest kid is sick. She is sick, she is with the babysitter instead of me, and the reality of this makes me feel like a horrible mom. I hastily pick up my groceries, then hit Vera’s check out lane.
Vera and I exchange quick hellos. I start moving my items from the buggy to the conveyor belt.
“Kroger Plus card?” says Vera.
“Yeah,” I say. “Let me finish up here and I’ll give it to you in a sec.”
The conveyor belt gets progressively more crowded as I unload. The belt isn’t moving. Vera isn’t scanning. She isn’t bagging. She is standing there, arms crossed over her polyester smock, wasting time. She is just standing there, waiting for me. Why is she waiting?!
“Kroger Plus card,” she says again, and this time the buggy is empty. She extends her hand and smiles. It is a smug, self-righteous smile.
I reach into my purse, and as I thumb through my wallet in search of the card, I sigh. I sigh with intention. I sigh so as to convey my annoyance.
“You know,” I say, passing the card to her, “You can ring up the items and just scan the card at the end. The other cashiers do it all the time.”
Vera knows this, of course. She has been at clerk at this store since God was a boy. I tell her to complain, not to inform, and this, too, she knows.
“Oh, they don’t like for us to do that,” she says, and she is horrified. By her tone, you’d have thought I’d asked her to throw a few of the grocery items into the bag for free. Oh, they don’t like us to do that!
I am so ambivalent at this point. The angel on my left shoulder reminds me that this woman is old enough to be my mother, that she earns a meager wage, and that she, however legalistic I find her to be, is just doing her job to the best of her ability. The devil on my right shoulder, though; he reminds me that I have been dishing out great costumer service at work all day long. He reminds me that my 11:30 patient had been late for his appointment; that I worked through a portion of my lunch break to accommodate that patient without a complaint of any sort (until now). That devil reminds me that I use that Kroger Plus card for all my transactions, which is to say that I let the Kroger corporation spy on and log every single item I purchase in their store in exchange for an occasional twenty cents off a box of Cheese-Its and a few fuel points here and there (which is a pretty uneven deal, if you think about it). He reminds me that my kid is home sick with a sitter, that Vera is prolonging my time away from said sick kid, and he is right. I fist-bump the devil, and then I flick the angel off of my shoulder with my Kroger Plus card and stifle the apologetic smile I’d almost extended to Vera.
Okay, now here is the breast cancer donation bit. Tell me I’m not being judged. Vera reaches down to the stack of pink breast cancer awareness cards on the counter (i.e. you get one for donating), and she starts to pick one up. She looks at me, I look at her. Our eyes lock. Then slowly, and without looking down, Vera puts the donation card back on the top of the stack. The sound of her not asking me to donate a dollar – it is deafening.
Do I volunteer the donation? Demand that stupid free soda? In the end, I do neither. I decide that either action makes me come off as a smart-alec, and I do neither.
You’re more-or-less up to speed now except this. I went back at Kroger this morning. I had more time, more patience, and fewer items on my list. Everything went smoothly. The young man ringing up my groceries asked me if I wished to donate a dollar to Susan G Komen, and I said, Yes, I’d be delighted.
I’m thinking that once that cure for breast cancer is found, the scientific community might want to start exploring treatment options for egotism. For smug pride. To be sure, it is a pressing women’s issue, and it can affect any woman at any time: An old cashier at the end of her miserable shift, or a middle-aged working mother in a hurry to get home to her kid. Not one of us is immune. Hunt for a cure.