a not-so-brief rant

There’s this weird thing about being home and in bed every day, which is that I feel like I need to post something here every day. I’ve never been a daily blogger before, so I don’t know why I feel the sudden pressure. I think it’s partially because I’m bored, and also because I want to make sure my brain doesn’t atrophy while I’m lying around feeling sorry for myself.

So, ok. We have this grocery store, and I shop there at least once a week. There are two different women who work there who both have young children (like toddler-aged), so they always ask me how I’m doing and commiserate about pregnancy woes and all of that. They’re both polite, they keep the conversation light, they never tell me any horror stories, and as a result, I like both of them.

Then there’s this other woman who works there. Now, I’m guessing that if you’re in your 50’s and you work as the checkout clerk at a grocery store, maybe your life hasn’t gone exactly according to plan? I would think that it probably isn’t a lifelong goal for very many people. I’m not passing judgment on her for what she does, I’m just trying to find an explanation as to why she is such a completely horrible, nasty, bitter person. So far, that’s my best theory.

Way back before I got pregnant, she would lecture me about the items I was buying, which always struck me as wildly inappropriate. I went through a phase last spring where I was obsessed with strawberries and cool whip (because seriously, have you ever tried them together? Heaven.), and she would stand there and tell me about how many chemicals were in cool whip and how horrible it is, and how it screws with your glycemic index, blah blah blah… And, ok. I’m sure she’s right. But is it really necessary to tell your paying customers that they’re making unwise selections? And if she feels that passionately about it, shouldn’t she go work at Whole Foods or someplace like that?

(It’s also worth noting that this woman is, herself, no vision of perfect health. I know she’s a smoker because the lines on her face are that obvious, plus my hyper-sonic pregnant sense of smell has caught more than a slight whiff of tobacco coming off of her. And she’s at least 50 pounds overweight. Again, no judgment, I’m just sayin’.)

I’ve gotten to the point where I will happily stand in a different checkout line for an extra ten minutes if it means I can avoid this woman. But earlier this week, I got stuck. It was one of those deals where the manager came over and said “oh, there’s no waiting on lane 5,” and he literally moved my cart for me over to her line, so I didn’t see how I could object without looking like a freak. Fine. I figured I would just try to keep the conversation as minimal as possible.

Around this time, Baby Girl shifted herself so that she was pressing on a nerve ending, and I had a shooting cramp go down my left inner thigh. This has been happening a lot lately, and the quickest way I know to relieve it (other than immediately sitting down, which isn’t an option at the supermarket) is to shift my weight back and forth. So I was kind of rocking back and forth, from my left foot to my right – almost like a boxer, I guess – and I suppose I must’ve looked sort of strange. Like hey, mind if I boogie down right here to the easy listening Muzak on the intercom? But it’s something I do without thinking too much about, since the alternative is to be in excruciating pain. No thanks.

Anyway, Horrible Woman asked me how I’m holding up, and I was like, “fine, thanks, just trying to get her to change positions in there.” She asked me how much longer I had until my due date, and this was right after my OB appointment on Monday, so I was all happy about the fact that there’s finally an end in sight to this damn pregnancy. So I think my response was along the lines of, “oh, any day now, but if she hasn’t shown up by January 29th, they’re going to induce.” Don’t ask me why I shared that bit of information, it was really stupid on my part.

I don’t remember too much of what came after that, because I think I lost consciousness for a moment when I was sucked into her Swirling Vortex of Negativity. It was basically a tirade against the entire medical community combined with every worst-case childbirth horror story you can possibly imagine. All I really remember hearing is “oh, don’t you dare let them induce you, that’s the worst thing you can do!” And there was also something about, “Don’t get an epidural, my back has never been the same since!” I believe there was also a reference to fecal incontinence, but it’s all a bit hazy. Maybe it was the pain from the cramp in my thigh, but I do believe I might have blacked out for just a second there.

It took every fiber of my being not to scream, “shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!!” What kind of person tells these stories to a woman who’s 9 months pregnant? It’s just mean. Not to mention that this woman’s most recent experience with childbirth was twenty years ago (she told me that her youngest child is 19), so really, I don’t think any of her input is all that valid.

The problem is, I don’t know how to tell her to keep her stories to herself without coming off as totally rude. And I’m just not one of those people who can be nasty to someone who I think has a crappy job. (Case in point: a waitress can give me the worst service in the world, and I’ll probably still be nice and leave a decent tip, just because I feel bad for anyone who has to handle other people’s food for a living.) And clearly, avoiding her doesn’t work, since I’ve tried that tactic and it failed. I seriously fear what kind of crazy-assed ravings she’s going to have when I go into the store with a baby.

I’ve thought about anonymously calling the store and telling the management folks that they need to do something about Horrible Woman, or at least tell her to keep her damn opinions to herself while she’s at work. But I don’t know, isn’t getting her in trouble with her boss worse than me saying something to her face? I’ve also thought about just going to our one other grocery store more often, but they don’t have the salad bar with the taboule that I love so much and eat almost every day. What to do? I’m at a loss.  

5 thoughts on “a not-so-brief rant

  1. Um, hi and happy birthday! Sorry I’m a day late on that one. As for the Mayor of Insanity Village at the grocery store… If it happens again, I think you should just look her right in the eye, smile, and say, “I’m sorry to interrupt you. I hope this doesn’t sound unfriendly, but thinking about all the things that could go wrong makes me uncomfortable. I’m sure you meant well, though.”

    And then just don’t engage. Be polite, but firm. (I like sing the Meow Mix jingle in my head when I’m trying to block and deflect things like that when dealing with the public at work.) If she says anything about the baby when you go in, same deal. Eye contact, smile: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but we’re in a hurry today.”

    I once went into a spa in Lancaster for an eyebrow wax. While I was there, the waxer went on and on about my skin. She actually used the phrase: “You can see your pores from space!” Then she gave me a free facial.

    I’m sure she was just trying to drum up business, and like an idiot, I used the coupon for the free facial, because…. FREE FACIAL. Anyway, she didn’t remember me at all. She kept saying things like, “Oh, who’s treating you to this today, you lucky girl?” and nodding at the gift certificate. Oh-KAY. It was YOU, ya freak. I lied and said it was my mom.

    The extracting tool hurt so much it made tears spring to my eyes involuntarily with every blackhead she attacked. She went on and on about how overly sensitive I was. We got on the subject of my moving to Miami in two weeks, and she would not shut up about “how men in Miami are going to love [my size 20 back then] body.” She said, “Ooh, they always say, ‘Meat is for the man and bone is for a dog.” She used the adjective “meaty” in describing me THREE MORE TIMES. I tipped her, bought a line of skin products she shamed me into (which caused dry patches around my chin- eek!)

    I went back, asked to speak with her in private, and said basically what I suggested above. “I don’t mean to sound unfriendly, but I was very upset when I left here yesterday. I’m sure you meant well, but your comments made me very uncomfortable.” She was pretty receptive and apologized. It caught her a little off guard, but I felt hugely better. Meaty=compliment? Uh, no!

    Be firm, but polite. That’s my two cents. Oh, last thought. My chiropractor specializes in pre-natal adjustments for women with the nerve-pinchy pain. Maybe you could find one in your neck of the woods? Hang in there.

  2. She probably won’t get fired for being told that she needs to be quiet at the checkout. I think you should call and talk to the manager. That is my passive vote.

  3. Sally’s right, but I have the same problem confronting people who work for hourly wages. The lady clearly has a miserable life and this is probably all her idea of light banter with her beloved customers. If you don’t want to make her life harder than it already is, you could try the etiquette approach.

    Miss Manners always suggests changing the subject. “What an interesting pin! Where did you get it?” “What did you say your son does for a living?” or whatever. No transition, just abrupt Change Of Subject. Focusing the attention back to her will give her something else to talk about. If she goes back to you, Change The Subject again. I’ve used this tactic a few times (especially at the office, where everyone is too nosy) and wow, it really works. You won’t regret possibly having hurt or embarassed her.

  4. I like Angie’s suggestion, too, but I personally would NEVER have the nerve to pull someone aside and say something. I always wish I was one of those people who could do that.

  5. Or! Get on (or pretend to get on) a cell phone call when you’re in line. Or put ipod buds in your ears.

    Does the store have a suggestion box? That might work. I was actually just considering this problem myself as I had a very nice pilates class yesterday with an instructor who didn’t shut up the entire hour long class about her love life. Good class, irritating instructor. What to do?

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