We were at Walmart the other day, buying a few groceries. This is usually a very stressful event for me, since I am completely anal about the bagging of my own groceries. Nobody can do as well as I can, and therefore, the pressure is completely on me to finagle all of our new possessions perfectly, so we end up with the least amount of bags wasted and the least amount of trips back and forth from the car. It is an art, and I don’t like anyone messing with my canvas.
The girl there must have been new, since she was slow and seemed hesitant about everything she was doing. Nor did she make an attempt to throw the meats into their own separate bag, as most of them try to do. For this, I was grateful. She already won brownie points with me, which more than made up for her lack of speed. At first I didn’t even notice that she had stopped ringing us up. I was too busy intently staring at the block cheese that hadn’t gone through her hands yet. I was just waiting for it to slide down that black conveyor belt into my reach. The current bag I had in front of me was almost filled, except for a small sliver of room along the side. That cheese would fit perfectly right there. I wanted that cheese. I wasn’t taking my eyes off that cheese. After a minute, I noticed that the cheese, along with everything else, just stopped coming my way. I peeled my eyes off the cheese long enough to see her standing there, holding up a zucchini, waiting to get my attention.
“Can you tell me what this is?” she asked me sheepishly.
“It’s a zucchini…”
She gave me a grateful smile and proceeded to look it up, then punch in the code. She gently placed it down on the belt, so the zucchini could take its magic carpet ride right into my hands.
Still eyeing the cheese, I grabbed a plastic bag. Naturally, produce gets its own bag. They all get along nicely in one plastic bag. Except for potatoes. Due to the fact that they are packaged in mass bulk, they deserve their own carrying case, lest they crush and pummel the more delicate fruits and veggies. I put the zucchini into the bag.
With my produce bag all set to go, I still have not gotten my cheese. So, I look up. Now, she is holding up the cauliflower.
“Cauliflower.” I say. She nods and punches in the code, dropping it onto the belt. Then the next item. She holds it up to me.
“Butternut squash,” I tell her.
I absentmindedly stuff the cauliflower into my produce bag. Now, I am intrigued.
“Say,” I ask her, “can you tell me if there will be a sale on canned tomatoes anytime soon?” (it was the only thing I could think of on the fly)
“Um,” she says, “I am not sure, but I can ask someone if you like?”
“Oh, no no. That’s OK, just wondering. Don’t trouble yourself.”
My question was answered. She had no accent. This girl was not a foreigner. My mind was starting to churn. Either her parents were foreigners, which would explain why she did not know the English names of such common produce items. Or, whoever is feeding this poor girl is mighty secretive about their recipes. I could not think of any other reason why someone at her age could not recognize such normal, everyday vegetables.
In complete shock, I continued to rattle off the names as she held each item up. Yellow squash. Asparagus. Kiwi.
Are you kidding me?
Is she pulling my leg? If not, my heart is breaking. What in God’s name could she be eating everyday? I can forgive the butternut squash ‘cause it’s such a beast to prepare. For as much as I like it, I will only buy it on the rare occasion. But, asparagus? Kiwi? Freakin' zucchini? Pfft!
FINALLY, here comes my cheese. I shove it in its coveted spot. But, really, by this point I am almost in a daze. I couldn’t stop thinking about this fragile creature who (God forbid) could be living off McDonald’s and KFC for all I know. That night, after we finished eating our dinner, I was putting the leftovers away. But, I hesitated. Oh, how I so wanted to bring that Tupperware container to Walmart and feed that poor girl.