Elizabeth’s Law: The number of strangers wanting to chat with Elizabeth is inversely proportional to the degree to which she is in a hurry.
I decided to cart Little Bean down to my favorite grocery store in our nearest big city on Friday because there were a few items I really needed that I can’t get here in my little town.
I wasn’t in a huge hurry, but I was operating with the I-need-to-keep-moving-while-Little-Bean-is-in-a-good-mood mindset. If you’re a parent of a wee one, you know exactly what I mean.
If you’re a parent, you also know that wee ones attract a bit of attention wherever they go.
As I rowed my little cart through the sea of Boy or girl? Cute baby, how old? Precious! What’s her name? and even, I kid you not, How much for the baby? (Hardy har har), it shouldn’t have surprised me that a few of these interactions would turn into full blown conversations.
Ah, but it did.
It always does.
Standing in front of the growling peanut-butter-grinding machine, salivating over the gooey goodness, I was approached by the first stranger.
“She’s watching you,” a woman said, gesturing at Little Bean. Yes, yes she is, I replied, she’s an observant little thing. And I turned back to the grinder.
But of course that wasn’t the end of it.
“That’s about as fresh as it can get.” She nodded toward my peanut butter. Yes, it is. I like it because it’s fluffy and doesn’t separate. “What is it–oh, peanut butter.” (She leaned closer to inspect the machine.) “Does that add oil to it?” Um, no. Just peanuts. Unimpressed, she turned back to the Bean. “How old is she?” Three months. “I was going to say three months. I’m good at guessing ages. What’s her name?”
And that is when I found myself officially accosted by a stranger’s conversation. Middle names. Full names. Nicknames. What her nieces and nephews called their aunts and uncles, because I, ahem, care about these things. The conversation continued long after I finished with my peanut butter. I began scooping my rolled oats. Finished that. Moved on to the flour.
And that’s when a second woman joined in the conversation.
“Look how smart you are, bringing your own container.” First woman breaks in: “That’s what I was telling her!” (She was.) Well, I got tired of using those awkward thin bags for items like flour and then tossing them out when I got home. This is easier. “So do you have to weigh it?” Yes, you just put it on the scale over there and write down how much it weighs. “I should do that. I have plenty of containers at home.” And then she begins to describe the flour container she should have brought along but didn’t. In detail. Because I, ahem, care about these things.
And then the conversation turned again to Little Bean.
Ah yes. So much for being in a hurry.
I breathed a sigh of relief to move down the aisle to the bulk coffee beans. A young, quirky, tattoo-clad fellow was grinding enormous bags of beans because he worked over in the coffee bar. (I heard him tell this to another customer.)
Unfortunately, it took me a second to locate the beans I wanted, and in that second, he pounced. “Doesn’t ‘The Grind’ remind you of that old MTV show?” I looked at him with raised eyebrows and a fake half-smile, as if to say, I don’t know or care about that, but whatever, I’ll be nice and acknowledge that you just addressed me. He interpreted it as, “I’ll offer you more details about the show to see if it jogs your memory.” After a few more descriptors, I still didn’t know what he was talking about, but that didn’t stop him. “Or Real World. Remember that show? Puck and those guys.”
At this point, I’m thinking to myself, do you not see that I have a baby in my cart? Do I look like somebody who has something to say about 1990s MTV shows?
“I don’t watch MTV anymore,” he sighed. “I don’t have cable.”
Finally, I poured my coffee beans and made a break for it. He too-cheerily wished me a good day.
Though the rest of my conversations were relatively short–the guy in the bulk spice aisle, the cashier, the woman in the bathroom while I was changing Little Bean’s diaper–they were substantive enough to cause me to ponder a question my drive home:
Do I walk around with a sign on my back announcing to strangers that I blog about community, or does this sort of thing happen to everybody?