What Have I Done For Me Lately?

Before I moved in with CC and the kids, the only meat I ate was fish. I hadn’t had a cold cut in probably fifteen years. Suddenly I was living with six carnivores and if I didn’t want to get eaten, I needed to learn how to at least purchase meat, if not cook it.

Cold cuts for school lunches are the one thing we don’t buy on our weekly hot date. We save that for Monday night since Monday (being our day off) is throw-money-at-the-kids-so-they-can-eat-crap-at-school day. Usually CC gets the lunchmeat, because he knows me and the deli counter, and because he’s a good man.

My grocery store has an electronic ordering thing for the deli, which is how I prefer to do it. It prevents me from completely melting down and leaving without lunchmeat. I don’t have to speak to anyone. I can browse the menu at my leisure without the line behind me getting all Jersey, without having to reveal that I am not of Italian descent and do not know the differences between salamis. But when the deli counter is slammed, they shut that system down.

Second cat from the right.

But the other night , at 8pm CC was still with #4 at the long and far away softball game (freezing his ass off, I might add) while I had earlier been at #5’s short and nearby baseball game (with blankets, because I had frozen my own ass off the night before and knew better). Unless I was going to be a complete jerk, I had to get the lunchmeat.

I walked in, saw the line at the deli counter, saw the electronic system shut down,  heaved a sigh, took a number and got on line.

Usually three people work the counter; only two were on. I realized that one of them was my least favorite employee of all time. You have one somewhere too, don’t you? The one employee you’ll go out of your way to not have to deal with? If they’re at the gas station, you will drive on fumes and pay ten cents per gallon more to avoid them; if they are at the genius bar, you will walk out and skip that appointment you booked three weeks ago because it was the first available; if they are your barista you know there’s no point in ordering what you really want and you just get black coffee.

Mine is Short-Attention-Span, Slow-Moving Woman at the deli counter. Let’s call her Debi. Because it’s all she would be able to remember were she named Deborah. I met her when CC was out of town last year and quickly learned that whenever she waits on me I end up cutting my order short and getting more expensive prepackaged crap from the aisle around the corner. I can’t take it. For a task that’s already so daunting to me, she makes it like herding cats in quicksand. Except way less amusing.

So I pull a move that makes me worthy of my New Jersey residency status. Debi calls my number and I turn to the woman next to me and tell her she can go ahead because I have a lot to order.

She’s quite surprised at my generosity. Giving up your place on line is really more of an Indiana thing than a Jersey thing. We swap our little numbers because there are still like fifteen people behind us.

Meanwhile, the other employee, Regularly Efficient Man, goes to the back to get a hunk of turkey. He is gone a long time. There then begins a conversation between the two women currently being waited on.

Nice Jersey Lady #1: I had a good spot in front of the TV and then somebody decided he was out of ice cream!

Nice Jersey Lady #2: Oh yeah, it’s a good night tonight! I’m DVR-ing it.

{Exchange related to some TV show I’ve never watched}.

I’m thinking that being out of ice cream is a perfectly good reason to go to the store. I’m thinking in fact that it was mere hours ago that I went out just for cookies. For me. That I ate by myself in the car. It takes me a minute to realize they’re including me in the conversation. My offer to trade places has broken the ice. They mistakenly believe me altruistic when the truth is that I was trying to fix it so the other guy waits on me.

I smile blankly and stay silent.

Nice Jersey Lady #1, rolling her eyes knowingly: My husband doesn’t know the inside of a grocery store.

Nice Jersey Lady #2, in sympathy: Oh no. Never. The one time my husband went to Costco he was hungry and nearly bought the whole store out.

I smile uncomfortably again because they are staring at me and it seems to be my turn to complain about my husband.

Me: I’m lucky. My husband usually does all of this.

I gesture in the general direction of the entire grocery store.

Their mouths drop open.

Me: He’s still at the softball game, so I had to come.

Their mouths drop open further.

Meanwhile, Debi has asked the woman I let in front of me no less than four times how much of this ham she wants (3/4 of a pound. Surprisingly, the answer is the same every time). Regularly Efficient Man finally returns with the turkey. I am very, very afraid that my plan has not worked; he’s been gone a really long time.

Nice Jersey Lady #1: My God, I thought you were back there plucking the feathers off of that bird!

Even with the plucking, he still finishes before Debi. Only by seconds though. I step up to him before Debi can call my new number.

Nice Jersey Lady #2: Thank you again, so much!

Nice Jersey Lady #1: That was such a nice thing that you did, letting her go ahead. There should be more people like you.

I am quite sure that there are far more people like me than she realized.

What good turns have you done lately? Who’s the service person you go out of your way to avoid?


25 thoughts on “What Have I Done For Me Lately?

  1. I would TOTALLY do something like that! My least favorite “helper” is Jack at the supermarket checkout. (All the people serving at the deli weigh over 250 pounds and move at a glacial pace so I just try to go in the middle of the day to ease the pain.) One time I was checking out and when he asked me if I wanted to donate an extra dollar to the American Cancer Society and I said no (because I give to about a hundred other causes that I prefer) … and he gave me such a snarl I couldn’t believe it … and he’s never forgotten. He literally can’t stand the sight of me and I’m too much of a wimp to say, “Hey for a guy with an atrocious comb-over, you’re pretty judgmental.” So I always go to the self-check out and curse my way through the constantly “See Attendant” rebukes because I bag my groceries too fast. Drives me nuts. I do all the food shopping and I don’t mind anything about it — except Jack.

    1. I am so incensed at Jack on your behalf! Technically, you give to AT LEAST 365 other causes that you prefer. What a douchebag. There, I said it. I am mad that he judged you so I judged him back. How awful of me. I hate it when I do that. But how can he be mean to you? God, he probably has cancer. There’s nothing worse than a douchebag with cancer. Okay, I’m going to stop talking now.

  2. You’re right, there’s a someone. In fact, there’s probably five or more. But I’m not going to tell you about them because your story is more amusing. It’s always funnier when someone else is getting frustrated. Let’s just say we’re on the same page. What I will tell you is a little vignette that’s the opposite of your nice lady scheme. In my story I too had to pass on the electronic ordering device because it was (once again) defunct. People were four deep and six across waiting to be served by two incredibly slow workers. And also like you, I HAD to get lunch meat for the next day. So I took a number and waited. And waited. And … well, a good fifteen minutes passed before my number was called and then some moron (guy) tried to squeak in and place his order. I went full menopausal on him. Yup, lost my shit right in front of everyone, then threw my arms up in the air and walked away. You win, buddy. If it’s so important to you that you have to butt in and cut me off after I’ve waited fifteen minutes and you’ve been here three, have at it. Naturally, a few minutes later … somewhere around isle five, I had to encounter him again. He laughed and tried to tell me he was just “joking” when he butt in, and I lost my shit all over again. His sense of humor was SO lost on me. I’m pretty sure I made that point. My other favorite deli scenario? Customers who have to do their ordering like a 3-way conversation between them, their spouse (kids, significant other, Mom, etc) and the incredibly slow, easily confused deli worker who let’s them! (“Ask her if she wants regular, cracked pepper or BBQ chicken breast?”) It’s not a game show, folks, it’s meat and cheese! Let’s not make this any harder than it is! 😉

  3. I mostly avoid all places, so I don’t have anyone in particular that I go out of my way not to deal with. If I can, I go to the grocery store when I work a night shift. Love the empty aisles at 11pm! I don’t do counters where you have to order from real people when it’s busy. I’d rather go hungry. But then I live alone, so I have that option.

    1. Before we started shopping together on our weekly “date” I would always shoot for the 11pm hour, but yeah, you definitely can’t do the deli counter at that hour because they’re closed. There’s nothing that *I* want from that counter, but everyone else in my house has a different opinion!

  4. And then you ran home and kissed CC for being so awesome.

    I too can NOT stand the deli counter. It’s a joke in our house. Even though they give numbers I’m always sure people are gonna jump the line somehow and I just start sweating. Do we REALLY need cold cuts THAT badly???

    In a house full of picky eaters the answer, unfortunately, is yes.

    Nice to see you. I miss you.

  5. Wow, I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve never had to take a number at a deli counter! If there are two other people there ahead of me, I am sad and feel put upon. I’ve never had a problem with the employees in the deli of my regular store, but the people in the deli of one of the less-expensive grocery stores are Twlight Zone weird. When I got home from one shopping trip I actually threw out the pea salad I bought because the woman was unreasonably rude and I realized she had taken the tray over to a different counter so I couldn’t see her put the salad in the container. I was afraid to eat it!

    I’ve been going to the same grocery store for about 15 years and for ages I avoided one particular grouchy checker. A few months ago the checkout lines were all full except his so I had to chance it, and the man was cheerful. He was BUBBLY. In 10 years, I’d never seen this man look anything but perturbed no matter where he was in the store, and this time he was smiling. He’s been cheerful ever since. I’m happy for him. 🙂

    I always smile and say, “Excuse me,” when I almost run into someone at the store, which is at least 7 times every time I shop. Does that count as a good turn?

    1. Smiling and saying “excuse me” totally counts as a good turn. . .unless you’re actually doing it on purpose. 🙂 I would have thrown that pea salad out too. I have to see what they’re doing. Otherwise they might be putting bad juju in there.

  6. Oh yes, there are the ones I avoid, for sure. But they are in the checkout line. Deli counters are for those much more hearty than I. There is a duo I just can’t stand. I will wait in the longest line to avoid them, the checker and bagger, knowing that no matter how long the line, I will still be done faster than if I am in their line, and my groceries will fare far better (and less shmooshed).

    1. It is convenient that the store tends to put them together though; that way there’s just one particular line you have to avoid. It would be awful if your favorite checker got paired up with your least favorite bagger or something.

  7. I don’t do the deli counter either. I don’t eat the deli meat and I definitely don’t order it. I dread the inevitable day when our system (him: stand on deli line; me: scurry around store with the list, ferrying everything back to the cart) breaks down and I end up doing the deli meat for some currently-unfathomable reason. (You may wonder why I don’t just take the cart, because that sounds on paper like a pretty bad system. It’s because our grocery store was designed by idiots, and using carts in it ruins your entire life. We really only use the cart as a barge to carry all of our collected food the 20′ or so from the deli counter to the check-out lane.)

    My good turn of the week: taught the 3-year old a “fun” “new” way to get pushed on the swings: from the front. ie, put your legs forward when you swing forward, and I will push on your feet. This is my patented ultra-stealthy way to start the early stages of tricking kids into learning how to pump even when they wail and sob if you dare suggest that they could swing ALL THEY WANTED, without waiting for a grown-up to push, if they learned how to pump. Because, sorry, this Little League game is 2 hours long and I will just feign deafness after the first 15 minutes of “push me push me push me!” and you will either learn to pump or you won’t. So far, 3 is firmly in the “won’t” category. Normally if I dare say, “Can you push your legs back? Straighten them in front of you?” while pushing him on the swings I am met with a crescendoing wail; he knows what this is about, and he has no interest. I don’t blame him; if I could go back in time, there are a few things I wouldn’t learn how to do, just so I never had to do them. But now he is obsessed – obsessed, I say – with front-pushing. I think he likes it because it dirties the hell out of my hands and he thinks it’s great that a) my hands get completely caked with dirt, and b) I don’t mind. He is not yet nearly old enough to wonder, suspiciously, why I am totally, 100% psyched to have his muddy shoes kick me in the hands repeatedly.

    All in good time.

    1. I completely understand why you don’t want to take the cart around. There’s one grocery store in our town that if I go any time other than the hour before they close, I can’t take a cart. It’s just a never-ending game of chicken in an entire store with aisles that are only one cart wide. Nice work on the swings there!

  8. “Because it’s all she would be able to remember were she named Deborah.”

    BEST LINE EVER. <—No pun intended.

    Peppermeister gets irate that I spend more money for what he calls 'silly' reasons.

    Just last week, I spent $120 getting my DOG a haircut just to avoid the [cheaper] groomers who, at last visit, told me my dog was underweight. Because obviously I don't feed my dog and spend all my money getting him groomed. Also Uncle Jesse pooped on their carpet, clearly letting me know how he felt about them.

    (Side note: The expensive groomers are so much nicer, and did an amazing job. Doodle-rific.)

    1. Thank you, thank you very much. Hey, $120 may be expensive, but Uncle Jesse is worth it. Those other people just said he was underweight to make all the other dogs feel better about themselves. He knew he was only underweight because they cut too much of his doodlecurl off. Plus he’d just taken a poo.

  9. We’ve come to know the grocery store clerks from a distance, when we’re gauging which line to get in. It’s complex strategy. “Oh, that’s the cat lady who hates her job. No. That’s the guy who can’t bag properly. Ooh, that’s the really fast lady! Go go go!”

    1. That’s really good that you can see them from far away. Our layout is such that you actually have to get in the line to see their faces. We have a cat lady who hates her job too. Does yours also tell you about all her physical ailments?

  10. Just about any Starbucks can be frustrating to us simple straightforward guys who remember when your only choices for coffee at the deli were “regular”, “light”, or “black”. Now every dufus in front of you in line orders something like a “half caff decaff Emilliano with a double shot of cheese wiz” ; just saying that puts a New Yorker five minutes behind schedule and of course it has to be repeated several times to the English impaired barrista. As a former Boy Scout I try and do a good deed every day; today I refrained from shooting the Starbucks guy.

    1. Wait. . .before I thank you from refraining from firing, which Starbucks guy was it? The one who can make a latte in three seconds, or the one who can’t find the tea bags? Frankly, I’m always shocked when real New Yorkers like you who have for eons gotten “regular” in a Greek cup from the deli even go into Starbucks. But I guess the fact that 80% of the delis have been replaced by bank fronts must account for some of that. And I do applaud your willpower to not frequent the cupcake store for your coffee. A black coffee there is like six hundred calories.

  11. You know why I love this? Because, as a fellow (previous) Jersey resident, whose sisters still live there, I totally, totally get the whole Deli Counter in Jersey Thing. In fact, two months ago when Shiny New Niece was born, I went to the Shop Rite for my sister and posted on FB that you know you’re in Jersey when there are 14 people in line at the deli counter. It’s quite intimidating. Now… did you get any Jewish pickles?

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