There’s one grocery store open in Houston today, Christmas. It’s a Randall’s in an otherwise empty shopping center and three people are working. I’m sure these three people would rather be home, sitting by the fire, sipping eggnog or some otherwise spiked beverage, watching the Orange County Choppers marathon, and I’m sure they’re wondering why the thousands of people in line at Randall’s are not also home doing that very thing.
People who are not in their houses on Christmas are either at the movie theatre or the video rental store. At least this is what I always believed. Now I know that the streets are empty because everyone is at Randall’s.
We went to get some cooking twine to tie up the beef tenderloin we’re cooking for dinner tonight. (And by “we”, of course, I mean P.’s mom.) We thought we might pick up an extra bottle of wine too. Randall’s didn’t have any twine (we had to make due with several packages of needles for sewing up turkey, each with tiny length of accompanying string), but they did have lines. P. came up with a plan. I would hold our place in line while he hunted for the wine. The lines snaked around through the aisles to the back of the store. One ended at the meat counter, another at the pharmacy. We communicated by cell phone:
“Well, they have on German Riesling. It’s in a blue bottle. It’s $6 though.”
“Yeah. It’s the best thing I see.”
Randall’s may be open on Christmas, but people are not flocking there for the extensive wine choices.
The woman behind me was a chatter. Did I think the frozen pies she was getting would be good (as good as frozen pies can be, I thought), did I think the early edition of the Sunday paper was out yet (I have given this no thought at all, actually), did I think she was getting enough food? I smiled; I told her the pies were fine. I continued to do this for about 45 minutes. P. finally arrived with the wine and took over small talk duty. How did he think the pies would be?
She seemed mostly concerned about the cashiers. You know, the ones wondering why we weren’t all home with our hot chocolates spiked with Bailey’s. She felt so bad for them, working on Christmas. So, so bad. Seriously. Bad.
Finally, it was our turn in line. As our cashier was scanning our make-shift twine, she chatted with the cashier next to her, also scanning. They were pleasant as could be, and told us Merry Christmas with a smile, rather than the “why the hell are you here” they were surely thinking. And they busily continued scanning.
The woman behind us, the caring woman, so concerned about the poor cashiers, working on Christmas, raised her voice:
“Are you talking or are you scanning?!”
The cashier, still at this point fairly pleasant, answered, “we’re doing both.”
The caring, considerate woman was not appeased: “Well, I think you should concentrate on scanning. Some of us have places we need to be.”
That, apparently, was the end of the pleasant rope for the cashier, faced with miles of endless lines rather than a soothing beverage:
“Then maybe you should have done your shopping before Christmas.”
(We attempted not to laugh in front of the caring bitch of christmas joylessness.)
The woman stormed off to find a manager. We could feel the caring in her stride. We paid for our twine, wished the cashiers a very Merry Christmas, and left as quickly as we could.
I guess the caring woman, so concerned about the poor cashiers on Christmas Day, didn’t mean she thought they should be able to talk or anything.