All Lined Up

Customers line the aisles of the Safeway at the University Plaza Shopping Center Wednesday evening during a shopping rush in preparation for the incoming storm.

I overheard a conversation the other day. I was standing in the middle of a long checkout line at the market. I was minding my own business as I surveyed the items in the shopping carts around me and silently made snap judgments about the drinking habits and sweet teeth of others. Looking in one cart, I thought to myself, “Self, somebody really likes kale.”

Ahead of me, a perfectly charming person struck up a conversation with another perfectly charming person. A price-check delay had placed all of us in that peculiar limbo of modern-day trips to the market. So, Perfectly Charming Person A turned to Perfectly Charming Person B, smiled brightly and said, “my people owned a grocery store.”

Perfectly Charming Person B smiled and said, “Is that so?”

And off we went... down memory lane with Perfectly Charming Person A.

My first inclination was to volunteer to assist the young lad who had gone off on a quest for the price of a jar of sliced Greek pepperoncinis, but I decided to hold onto my place in line and allow the professionals to do their jobs.

The tale of the grocery store people continued unabated. I glanced at my watch. It had taken Jason and the Argonauts less time to find the Golden Fleece. I noticed others within earshot surreptitiously join me in scanning the store for the lad on the mission.

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Yet, as Perfectly Charming Person A continued the tale, I began to feel a pang of envy. The tale was told with affection and deep knowledge of people in a beloved place and time. I realized I do not have anything similar in my background to hold in thrall an audience, even hostages to mispriced pepperoncinis.

My people, wonderful and loving as they were, and are, never owned a grocery store. I come from long line of public servants and employees. The adrenalin of entrepreneurship did not quicken their hearts. Instead, we shared stories of failed businesses of yesteryear. These were always cautionary tales, akin to the old joke: “How do you make one million dollars in the publishing business? Start with two million.”

So, my people found success managing things like grocery stores, electric cooperatives; enterprises created by others. Don’t get me wrong. This is not criticism or disparagement of “my people,” may those who rest, rest in peace. It’s just that a story of my people would be triggered by a different set of circumstances.

Bingo! We have the price for the pepperoncinis. The line is moving. Thus ends the story of the grocery store people beloved by Perfectly Charming Person A.

The story of my people might be triggered in a copy room, in a queue with colleagues who are waiting for a repair technician to clear a hard jam in the photocopier. I might turn to a Perfectly Charming Colleague behind me and say, “My people knew how to run a mimeograph machine...”

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