Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Return To Poor Person's Shopper's Food Warehouse

I don't know what it is about Poor People's Shopper's Food Warehouse, but I keep getting into the most interesting conversations in there. The other night I went in for a few things. The store wasn't crowded, but there was a backed up line at one register. An older black woman was in front of me, dressed to the nines. She had on a white raincoat with gold buttons, a white lacey hat, black dress, hose and shoes. She turned and whispered to me conspiratorily, "There's only one woman checking out," (meaning the cashier.) "Really?" I whispered back. She nodded like it was a disgrace and crying shame as in "what's the world coming to?"

We started talking. She told me she had been to a funeral at her church earlier in the day, and she said, "I was in such a rush to the get to the church on time I did something stupid." I asked what and she smiled and said, "I forgot to put in my teeth." Sure 'nuff, just a few scragglies here and there. I told her I certainly didn't notice because I was admiring her hat and thought she looked "real spiffy." She thanked me then started telling me about how she had found some real bargains (mint Life Savers.) Her cart was packed, and she was leaning over it with her cane.

She asked about a cake in my cart from the bakery, and I told her I had a friend with a birthday, and even though they said not to do anything, I got a small Italian cream cake and some candles to celebrate. She said, "When a man tells you not to do anything, they really mean for you to do it." I nodded. She went on to praise the bakery and how the woman who baked for the store was "a doll." I had only seen an older woman back there with gold teeth, so I guess that's who she meant. Next time in, I'll remember "doll," rather than "teeth."

She went on discussing the store in general, then we shifted the conversation. I had mentioned I was tired from being over in a house of someone deceased, clearing things out until late, and I was really dragging. I told her the woman had been 96 years old and living on her own, and that seemed to perk her up; thinking she might make it that way, maybe. We talked about what it was like removing things from a deceased person's house. She said, "I'm originally from Philadelphia, but I've been living down here for decades. When my mother took sick, my two brothers wanted me to move back to Philly to take care of our mother, but I told them "No. I'm not doing it." She paused and added, "That would be my brothers Jack and.....Jack Ass."

She stayed put in D.C. with no regrets. She said they still want her back up there, but she isn't budging. She talked about a man in her life who is "sniffing around her." Trust me, this woman had me howling with laughter. It was all in her expressions and timing. A store manager came up and split us up to go into two express lanes. I told her I didn't want to go because when that happened last time, the cashier was looking at my coupons and check and license, just short of biting it for authenticity, and everyone being held up was pissed, and sure enough, I got back into that cashier's line again. Same thing.

When I was done, I saw the church lady over by the pharmacy talking to a friend, so I went over and said, "I want to thank you for our conversation today. It absolutely made my day, and I had such a good time talking to you." Her friend turned to me and said proudly, "She goes to my church!" I told her, "Well, it's obvious everyone in the store knows her and loves her (they did know her, too,) and that she's a very interesting lady....and funny. My church lady turned to me and said, "I'm the Whoopi Goldberg of Aisle 3!" And on that note, we parted. Laughing.

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Blogger Cyndy said...

That made me smile.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

It was this story or me reviewing Suzanne Somers cocktail book. :p

1:31 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I loved this post. I have some great memories of meeting people I've spent only a few minutes with. The truth is you can meet people waiting in most any line. A conversation is usually more pleasant than the silence of waiting. Teeth (or lack thereof) do leave an impression, though, don't they?

11:17 AM  
Blogger home before dark said...

I found you today via Pigstown and wanted to see what you had to say about food before I forced myself out to continue garden cleanup. (I know, I'm late. Long story). Loved the post, and the PP&M song and felt a sadness about your hope to live the life you want to live, the issues of aging and time and something in the tribute to the allium "They are past their glory, but they stay fascinating in decay." I am adopting that line as my mantra as I celebrate my 60th. Thank for you for today's gift. Goodluck with the attic. Been there. Dung that.(p.s. the word verification was "dedfani"...perhaps a conspiracy?

11:29 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

What a wonderful vignette! It's worth going back there just in hopes she'll be at cashier 3!

I would LOVE to read your review of Suzanne Somers' cocktail book...or any review of this creature. She is a clone if I ever saw one -- of what I am unsure, perhaps a Stepford wife?

12:01 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Barbara: Luckily I am always talking to strangers I gain a lot of insight from them. The trick is to draw it out and listen. The woman in the market was a force of energy, and she was happy.

Home: Thank you for coming over from Pigtown. I absolutely love that blog. It is so well done. The walks through (unknown to us) neighborhoods, the pieces on architecture, food reviews, all things beautiful. One of my favorites. As for my life: rather sad right now. I have to find my tiny bits of happiness, and some days, like today, it's a battle. I'm back to death house and the filth tonight. I've pulled out enough books on Judaica to fill a synagogue's library. The woman was quite the reader. Religion, self-help and politics. Her trinity.

Kate: All right. Suzanne it is. It's a very strange book. I wish I had taken that lady's picture, and I know she would have let me if I had explained. I didn't even get her name, which is not like me.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous ma said...

You are nothing but fun, Cube and that's why you meet the coolest people. :)

4:19 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

I liked this post a lot. As you know, Cube, I am an introvert, but not nearly as much of one as I was BC (before computers). Having conversations with total strangers in the grocery store was something I'd never done before maybe 10 years ago.

One of my favorites (and one of my first) was one Saturday night in a VERY LONG pre-snowstorm grocery checkout line at Giant. I struck up a conversation with a young Asian lady behind me and, when my turn to check out came, I was sad. It was a special, it only existed in that moment...and it was over.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

MA: I'm a sad sack these days, MA. Not fun.

Sheri: Your life did a turn around when you moved. I wish I could get out of here.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous twinkie said...

You have a good heart! It's not everybody that would take the time to talk to an older eccentric lady. Most people would just nod at her attempt for conversation and move on.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Twinkie: I try to remain open to all walks of humanity, despite some things that have occurred over time, where I should go into full lock down never come near me mode. It's one little thing that gives me hope that I won't grow into some hardened, embittered person, and trust me, I feel I have every right to end up that way, but I keep watch, wondering if it will still happen and maybe that watchfulness staves it off. I don't know. Obviously I am writing this after having come through another really bad day, so ignore it.

7:43 PM  
Blogger home before dark said...

washington cube: I came back you to share your story with my husband, and see that another bad day has come your way. They have a way of ganging up on us. I just have to say the way you took my post about James Beard's mother's biscuits and wove a story of fascination and truth could have been done only by a southern woman who loves words and food with equal abandon. As one who has grieved and grieved again, there is a modicum of hope to be found in life. Hold on, girl. Your best may be yet to come. And, by the way again my word verification is like a tea leaf: elopi.
I elopied with reality until I could marry it. Good laughter and good night.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

There's a lot of those going around these days, Cube.

I think we're all due for a helluva 2010.

Old people are the best story tellers, if you'll only stop and listen. Bon and I have been beating ourselves over the head for not taking 30 minutes to visit w/ his grandma - who we KNOW is going to regale us of wild and outlandish tales of our youth (most of which never happened - example: she insists I baked her a cake when I was 12 as thanks for letting me swim in her pool. I have never baked anyone a cake, but I know I want to hear the story).

9:07 PM  
Blogger Ryane said...

What an awesome post. I love to meet people like the cuff but totally real. I once 'met' an old Native American man in the parking lot of the Giant in my home town and he made me memorize an Indian prayer before our conversation was through. He was fantastic.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

What a sweet story.

Did you know that on Facebook there is a group dedicated to Aretha Franklin's inauguration hat? There are reasons to love facebook.


8:59 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Home: ...and they just keep coming. I wonder when things will get better. I'll settle for mildly pleasant.

Phil: I wish I had my grandparents as a young adult into adult. So much I would ask. And I agree, I love listening to the stories of the elders. There's a wonderful opening monologue Tommy Lee Jones gives in "No Country For Old Men," where he says "He would listen every chance he got." I feel the same.

Ryane: I love that you went with the flow of the conversation and saw it to it's proper conclusion. Full absorbed into it. No watch watching.

Reya: I can believe it. I hate to think what Facebook has going in it's fullest capacity.

12:15 AM  
Blogger jessica said...

Hi...Nice pictures.

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5:10 AM  

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