We scan our canned goods and weigh our vegetables. There's a helpful baggage merry-go-round thingy where you can set up your own cloth bags (the grocery store doesn't provide plastic bags anymore, but does offer paper bags, a nickel a piece). I scan the items, fumbling with the spaghetti squash and searching containers for the UPC code. My husband does the bagging.
He's not thrilled with this new system, which is nearly all self-check-outs and only a handful of full service. The full service ones all have long lines. Who wants to stand in a line? We're both in grumpy moods when we leave the store. I'm thinking about how we just paid an arm and a leg for three avocados and the privilege to scan them and weigh them and count them.
My husband's griping about the bags. Our car beeps.
We almost just hit that lady, my husband says. Thank God we have a car back-up camera. He goes back to talking about the bags, how we need sturdier ones, ones with flat bottoms, for ease of packing.
He jerks the car to a stop again. That lady, he says. Look at her just wandering.
I do look at her just wandering. She's older than us and weaving with her grocery cart from one side to the other, a sad brave smile on her face. She forgot where she parked, I say.
Well, it's going to get her killed, my husband says.
Eh, give her a break, I tell him. She's a ding dong.
We're both on edge. The same afternoon in our neighborhood there was a Proud Boys White Supremacist march. I saw it in the news and recognized the houses. These are streets where I walk the dog. Men with masks covering their faces were protesting a drag story time.
Some of the men had guns. They didn't like the idea that other people might want to go to a drag story time. A police officer high-fived one of the men. Later, the city's police chief said that was a form of community relations.
We're almost home with our expensive, carefully self-scanned and bagged groceries. At the corner of our street, there's what looks like a protest march, and I'm instantly tense. Men wearing gray uniforms, some of them holding huge... guns? It takes me a minute to realize this is a Christmas parade. People are dressed in costumes. The men in gray are the Ghostbusters. The guns are their proton blaster things.
The world changed somewhere along the way and I keep realizing it. Or it's always been this way and I have to learn it again and again. I'm the ding dong lady in the parking lot, gripping my cart, searching, grinning, hoping for the best.