Paper or Plastic?

             I walk across the white tile floor, waiting for a customer to come to my lane. People stroll past aisles one, two and three, holding their shopping lists.  Women sling their handbags over their shoulders, men check the time on their wrists, and almost every passing child whines "Mommy, are we almost done shopping?"  It is during moments like these in which I begin to think about what else I could possibly be doing, besides standing here in between racks of In Touch Magazine and greeting complete strangers. "Hi, how are you?" "I'm good thanks, how are you?" I smile at them as they walk past.  Maybe it's the fact that I basically can't move more than ten feet from my lane, or maybe it's the knowledge that I'm stuck here for three more hours, but either way, I feel restless. It is the moment of anticipation, the moment of want yet disdain that fills my chest as I wish for someone to fix my boredom, but I dread anything that involves saying "Would you like paper, or plastic?"

            Finally I see the top of a head bopping above the racks, and I am saved from reading about why Miley Cyrus is no longer engaged to Liam Hemsworth. A woman who looks about forty wheels her overflowing cart in front of me. This is my cue.

            "Do you have a Weis club card?" I say, as she begins to load her groceries onto the belt. "Yes, I do." She hands me her jingling keys, the familiar gray and red card dangling amongst the Giant, CVS and Wegmans ones. I scan it, and the sharp beep hits the air. "You can pack it in plastic."

            I scan Diet Coke, Dole orange juice, and Ocean Spray cranberry juice, each barcode causing another beep.  They all fit in one bag.  Chicken nuggets, Lunchables, and Chips Ahoy cookies fit in another. She must have children. Next, I ring up ten cans of cat food.  I guess she has cats.   

              When my aunt called me on the phone a few weeks ago, she said "Don't you find it interesting seeing what other people buy at the store? You can learn so much about their lives." That statement is beyond true. My brain goes into autopilot with almost every item I ring up.

            When my aunt called me on the phone a few weeks ago, she said "Don't you find it interesting seeing what other people buy at the store? You can learn so much about their lives." That statement is beyond true. My brain goes into autopilot with almost every item I ring up.

            Ham, American cheese, white bread, grapes; into one bag, and I remember when I was little and I went on a picnic with my mother. I didn't like eating sandwiches whole, so I had to pick off the meat and cheese and eat it individually. A goose walked over and tried to steal my bread, so I screamed and threw a piece of pretzel at it; four year old common sense. I saw its big black beak up close, and its brown wings flapping in excitement.  My little baby hands grasped onto my mom's for dear life. It must have been quite an occasion considering I still remember it fifteen years later.  I hope this woman isn't planning on going on any picnics.

            I begin to load the packed bags into the now empty cart. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and honey mustard dressing fit into another bag. Maybe she's on a diet. I look at her small frame. Maybe I should go on a diet. She's also buying breakfast protein shakes. I really need to join a gym or something. I ring up two steaks, potatoes, corn, and a can of peas. This could be dinner for two. The woman gets a phone call and answers it. "Hi honey, how are you?" I bet they've been married for twenty-something years. I can see her wedding dress, beautiful white lace with pearl buttons running up the back, and her bouquet of red roses losing a few petals as she walks down the aisle. I imagine a black limousine parked outside the church, waiting for the happy couple. Are they meant for each other? Are they in love? How many years should there be between when you love yourself, and someone else loves you?

            "Do you have any coupons?" I ask, feeling as if I know her, but I do not.

            "No, not today."

            "Okay, your total is one-hundred thirty-seven dollars and fifty-two cents. You can slide your credit card."

            I press the 'electronic tenders' button on the register screen. A receipt prints out.

            "You saved ten dollars and nine cents." I hand her the receipt. "Have a nice day."

            At the end, I always wonder if people do end up having a nice day. I wonder what their lives are actually like. And in my seemingly perpetual state of reciting transaction totals and pulling apart plastic bags, I await the next customer.