Tonight, after work, I stopped into Trader Joe’s. It had been about a week since I had been and I was starting to itch for a TJ’s fix…plus I was out of cereal. I walked in, talking to my mom on the cell phone, but hung up with her as I grabbed a basket. I’ve discovered it’s dangerous to talk on the phone and grocery shop, I always end up with lavender dish soap and three burritos, and nothing I actually intended to buy. After a brief glance at the coffees and teas, I headed for the produce section, planning to grab some bananas and grape tomatoes. A TJ’s staffer was restocking the banana pile, and they were mostly green and still in large bunches of eight or ten bananas. She put down a promising cluster of slightly more ripe looking ones, and I grabbed it. I broke it up into two sets of four, put one back on the display and one in my basket.
As I turned around to move on, I realized I was kind of penned in. A distracted looking mom with two little boys has stopped her cart so that I was stuck between it and the box the bananas were shipped in. Without looking at me, she rolled on, saying to the older of her boys (who looked to be about four years old), “Honey, do you want some bananas? Why don’t you go and pick some out?” This cute little guy walked over to where I was standing, and looked absolutely bewildered. I picked up the other foursome of bananas I had put back the moment before and offered them to him. He looked at me with deeply serious eyes, hesitated and then accepted them. He walked over to him mom and held up the yellow cluster. She looked at it and said, “Perfect honey, good job.” It was then that he said the only words I heard him utter, “Mommy, a stranger gave them to me.”
In that moment, I was torn between letting loose an amused chuckle and having my heart wrenched with the realization that I was the stranger in that scenario. I realized that while I believe that all parents should caution their children about interacting with people they don’t know, that somehow in my head I still thought of myself as more of the child in that situation than the adult who might or might not be a threat.
* * * *
Tonight, after the trip to Trader Joe’s, I was on the elevator, heading back out. Mrs. B was standing in the hallway as I approached, and flapped her hands and me and said, “I pushed the up and the down button, when really I just want to go down. I blame it on old age!” I told her she was lucky to have an excuse, because when I do something like that, I just look stupid. She snorted, and the elevator arrived. She got off two floors later, to go play mah jong with some other women in the building. As she got off, Jo got on the elevator. I’ve had a passing acquaintance with this woman for the last couple of years now, and she always greets me enthusiastically when she sees me. Tonight there was no greeting, just “I can’t stop eating! I just eat and eat and eat! I think I’m going to have to do something drastic, maybe go on a liquid diet for a week.” Before I could say more than, “whatever works,” she was gone, exiting on the 12th floor.
Never a dull moment on the elevator.