I was grumpy yesterday. Unbelievably grumpy. Dangerously grumpy. I was so grumpy, I convinced myself that all the times in my life when I thought I was happy were a lie: I'd actually been grumpy and deluded myself into thinking I was happy.
And then I went to my two-hours-a-month grocery-bagging job (i.e., I did my monthly member work at the co-op we belong to), which I was pretty sure would put me over the edge. I decided ahead of time that my strategy would be this: To the average person I would pretend I didn't speak English; I would yell at anyone who looked at me funny and start a fist fight with anyone who was outwardly rude; cheerful, happy people would get a lecture on how they were not actually cheerful and happy, they were miserable and living a lie.
But it turns out that I love bagging groceries. One minute at the end of that checkout lane and I'd gone from Grump Factor 6 to Grump Factor 3. A couple of customers later and I was happy again, or at least living the lie of happiness.
Shoppers and (most) cashiers are grateful and kind to the non-English speaker bagging their goods. And I felt like an anthropologist studying the fascinating, complex grocery-buying habits of another culture: I had to stop myself from asking every single person one of the following questions: "What is that?" "How are you going to prepare that?" "What aisle is that in?"
Because our co-op is both a natural foods store and the local grocery store for a diverse community, there are many different kinds of shoppers. There's the tiny lady with tan, muscular arms and a French accent who spent hundreds of dollars on figs and greens and peaches and cherries, pastas and grains and nuts and spices, creme fraiche and cream in glass bottles, nice fish and fancy meat, bakery breads and pretty little teacakes, and six bottles of wine. And then there's the guy who trudged through to buy a can of soup, a can of Folgers, and a box of Shurfine-brand pinwheel cookies. There are the Bantu ladies, with their sassy teenage daughters and adorable babies, who buy bags of grains and bottles of Coke. There are the hippies (kombucha) and the college students (multiple boxes of mac-n-cheese) and the college student hippies (multiple boxes of mac-n-cheese and kombucha).
I shopped before I left, inspired by everything I'd seen, and when I arrived home (with peaches and cherries and pinwheel cookies) to face my messy house and deskful of work, I lamented the fact that I can't bag groceries whenever I'm grumpy. But then I realized I probably can. I'm pretty sure no one would notice if I showed up, put on a Member Worker button, and started bagging. And if they did, I'd just pretend I didn't speak English.