Years ago when I was working retail or waiting tables, I didn’t get it.
I would encounter a mom (or a dad) with their child(ren) and I would try and talk to them. I would try to engage them in conservation. I would be overly friendly and conversational because that’s what I thought they wanted. I would ask them questions and then I would have to repeat myself three or four times. I was confused when they would stare back at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I didn’t get it. But now I do.
Today I took Bella to the grocery store. I kind of loathe this, but with a husband that works two jobs, I do it a lot. I do most of my shopping, in any store, with her by myself. The trip went surprisingly well today. It doesn’t always go so well. What I mean by “it went well” is that she stayed in the shopping cart but made me take her to the bathroom twice, whined for orange Tic Tacs and chattered at me the entire time. “What’s that mama? Why is it there? Look at that. Look! Hot dogs. I like hot dogs. Look, theres a grandma! Hi, grandma! When we leave I want to get ice cream. With gummy bears. And I want to go home and watch Dora. In Mama’s bed. Where is daddy? Is daddy at work? Can we go to the playground to play with the guys? And the park, can we go to the park? Can I get a hot dog? And ice cream? With gummy bears? Where is my Moosey? I need to poop.” Sometimes, okay most of the time, I don’t get all of it. I just nod and say: “Really, baby? Yes, honey. Okay. That’s AWESOME!” I’ve learned that if I don’t say something she starts doing this: “Mama. Mama. Mama. MAMA. MOMMY. MOMMY. MOM. MOM. MOM.” I try to listen to her and engage in conversation but the chatter is constant and all over the place sometimes I just wish there was a mute button.
By the time we got to check out, even though she was in good spirits, I was just ready to get out of there. But alas, check out is always a pain, especially at this particular grocery store where they train their employees to be SUPER FRIENDLY AWESOME FOREVER TIMES, which, really, is great. I get that. I mean, I hate to go into a place where people ignore you or seem grumpy, like they want to spit on you or slit their wrists, but there is a line between kind and welcoming and CRAWLING ALL OVER YOU. These people crawl all over you, and when you are a parent with a 3 year old, it makes you want to punch one of them in the face.
There was the checkout girl that had to ask me like 10 questions, just chatty and small talky:
“Did you find everything you needed?”
“What are you guys up to today?”
“Do you think it’s going to rain anymore?”
My answers were kind of distracted and vague, not because I disliked her or because I was trying to be rude, but because I WAS distracted:
“Not much just errands.”
“Um. Maybe, not sure.”
Then she started talking to me about some show she’s been watching. Meanwhile, Bella was trying to climb out of the cart, so I let her down. Then she was chattering at me and trying to steal Tic Tacs and asking to open a pack of raisins I had just bought and then trying to climb onto the rack underneath the shopping cart, which she has done before and smashed her fingers under the wheel so I started trying to yank her out from underneath there. Check out girl was still chattering at me, and so was the girl bagging the groceries who started asking me if I want this in a bag with that or whatever and all I could think was: “I REALLY DON’T GIVE A ^&$#@$% just shove it in the cart so I can get out of here.” And then the manager came over and started asking me questions about Bella while I was trying to listen to checkout girl, and bagging girl, and a still chattering Bella. The manager was asking me about Bella’s age and complimenting her cuteness, which is all good and fine and kind, if I weren’t trying to handle a small child and pay and listen to what the other two employees were telling me at the same time. I ended up running my credit card by mistake, I meant to use my debit card, and then I was trying to enter a pin number, but it didn’t need a pin number, because it was the credit card so it declined, but I didn’t notice because everyone was TALKING TO ME and I just wanted to leave. Manager lady was still talking to me and Bella was starting to whine and the checkout girl was trying to get my attention and when she finally did she was WHISPERING (no wonder I didn’t hear her the first few times) at me. She whispered, “Did you see what it says?” and I was like “WHAT?” and she was like (still whispering) “Your card didn’t go through.” And that’s when I wanted to lose my mind and scream that she didn’t need to WHIPSER at me and that she could SPEAK UP because it wasn’t going to embarrass me because the card didn’t actually decline, it’s just that I had run the wrong card because I couldn’t concentrate with my preschooler harassing me and all these freaking employees climbing all over me. But I didn’t say any of that because I didn’t want to act like a crazy person, so I was just like “Oh so sorry, my bad! I used the wrong card, silly me!” A minute later, though, I did kind of snap when they asked me 3 times about helping me with my shopping cart to my car (now you know what grocery store I’m talking about, don’t you? )The third time I told them no I basically shouted: “NO THANK YOU, I SERIOUSLY CAN HANDLE IT!”
I don’t want all of this to sound like I want people to just leave me the eff alone when I am shopping with my preschooler, but really, that’s exactly what I’m saying. My life is a tornado every day and it consists of little hands reaching for things and eager questions constantly. So stop chatting me up because I can’t focus on you. Stop harassing me with your credit card opportunities or sales pitches because I can’t hear you and I don’t care. I am just trying to get out of the grocery store (or any store) in one piece, with my sanity.