When my wife and I decided to make the move from the city to the northern New Jersey suburbs, I had visions of becoming the unofficial mayor of our block, then neighborhood and, one day, maybe even the whole town. The guy who knows everyone, knows the lowdown of what’s really going on even just a mere mention of his first name incites complete enthusiasm from whoever is in earshot. Essentially, I want the Norm treatment.
Fast forward two and a half years later and it hasn’t really worked out as I had imagined. I know like two people in town and I get, at best, polite greetings.The truth of the matter is, I’m still in the city five to six days a week and I’m just rarely in a situation where I get to talk to fellow town folk. And with that in mind, this past Sunday while in the town ShopRite I decided to be present and go out of my way to be friendly and even attempt to make some small talk here and there. What I mean to say is, I forgot to charge the sweet wireless headphones I got for Christmas and right in the middle of my grooving in the produce section to Flea’s tasty bass lines in “Soul to Squeeze” they just died, leaving me to awkwardly nod my head to a price check.
Walking around without the sounds of my carefully curated “Shopping (Play)list” playlist, I nodded at my fellow neighbors and even helped a woman grab a slightly out of reach jar of olives. And then came Latoya, the seafood counter lady. Waiting my turn, I couldn’t help but notice that man before me wasn’t too friendly and, possibly as a result, Latoya wasn't appearing to be digging the gig too much. Having spent what felt like years as a waiter at a T.G.I. Friday’s but what in reality was just three months (the required flair and zany hat being the primary culprits), I know what it’s like to despise being at work. As a result, I was super friendly and polite, as I asked for my pound of salmon.
That’s when it happened. As Latoya effortlessly placed the fish onto the scale, barely reacting when it weighed in at exactly one pound. I, on the other hand, was just blown away and this was the following exchange:
ME: Whoa! You just got it precisely right on the first try!
ME: Do you know how amazing that is? I’ve only witnessed once and that was at the Sam’s Club deli counter when the guy got it on the money right out of the gate, and that was in 2011.
LATOYA: Yeah, that’s never happened to me before.
ME: (Glancing at watch) What’s today? January 6th? Remember this day Latoya, that was incredible.
LATOYA: (Cracking a smile) Thank you.
I walked away both happy that I made her smile and horrified that I was capable of being that level of dork. Continuing on to the checkout line, the bag boy noticed I didn’t have a full size cart and we then had the following exchange:
BAG BOY: Hey, do you need a hand?
ME: Nah, I’m good but thanks for asking.
BAG BOY: Are you sure? That’s a lot of bags.
ME: (Grabbing up most of the bags) Oh definitely, check this shit out.
I snagged the remaining few bags as we said our goodbyes and I walked out of the store with great confidence. The moment I made a right onto the sidewalk I dropped a bag. Forced to get down one one knee, put down the entire lot and reconfigure, I wondered if the bag boy would have gloated had he been witness.