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Paper or Plastic? And God

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The other afternoon, after a long grueling day of teaching summer school, I made what I hoped would be a quick stop into the grocery store. Despite my military-style grocery outing (involving a section location typed list, an updated coupon file, my price comparison iPhone app, camouflage apparel, bungee cord, taser, and the other requisite items needed to grab the last buy one, get one free item) over the previous weekend, I had still managed to forget a few things.


There were only three things on my list, and the evening was still early so I knew I would be out of the market in a few minutes. I quickly gathered what I needed—noodles, bread, salad dressing, and a fruit bowl (thrown in at the last minute) and headed for the “ten items or less” lane. I was happy to see a cashier with a bright smile working in front of me. I was even impressed by her skill. I actually believe she scanned my three items and had a total for me in less than fifteen seconds. I definitely planned on seeking her out on my next visit.


Then, after the usual checkout conversation, “credit or debit” and all the rest, my cashier said something else. My mind was already whirling in spaghetti-prep land, so I actually missed what she said to me so I asked her to repeat herself. She didn’t ask me if I preferred paper or plastic (those days are long gone in most stores). What she did ask me was the name of my church.


Well, in her own words, “What church do you attend?”


My immediate response—to look at her incredulously. First of all, she didn’t know me from a bag of sugar crystals. Why did she care what church I attended? Why was she even talking to me about anything outside of grocery purchases? I just wanted to get my groceries and go home. Still, remembering how my grandmother would have swatted my behind and my mother would have gone back for second lickings, I bit my tongue. The cashier was an older lady, old enough to have grandchildren in high school I imagined, so I had to be respectful. I quickly counted to ten and then verbally responded.


“To be honest, I haven’t gone to any church in a while,” I told her, without any remorse in my voice even as I noticed the cross hanging from her neck and the WWJD ring on her right hand. Although my family and I strongly believed in God, we considered church to be a personal choice. We prayed and treated others how we wanted to be treated, but we didn’t always feel it’s necessary to go inside of a building to worship.


My cashier, Righteous Ruby (I’m calling her that simply because I’m tired of her calling her “cashier”), looked at me like I had on a red jumpsuit and there were horns atop my head.


“You should go to church,” she admonished me.


I bit my tongue again and tasted blood this time. Both my parents were dead; it had been a long time since anyone had told me what I should do.


“You should hit the debit key on your register,” I told her in the nicest voice I could. It was most definitely time for me to leave the store before I forgot my upbringing.


Righteous Ruby could just not take a hint. “Do you want the street address for my church?” she asked me.


Alrighty, then. Ruby obviously received a discount on the cough medicine with the high alcohol content mix—because she was flying high in my opinion.


“No, I don’t, but thanks for asking,” I replied solemnly before grabbing my bag and rushing out the door. I didn’t even stop when she called me back to get my receipt.


Dear Reader, looking back, I must admit to being quite irritated by that whole experience with Righteous Ruby. I’m not sure why it left a bitter taste in my mouth, but it did. I’m a social person who is quick to talk to strangers, but I never talk to them about politics, religion, or my family. Some things just belong to me. It really got my goat though for someone I didn’t know to tell me what I should be doing. How would Righteous Ruby feel if our positions had been switched? What if I had been the cashier and stood before her, atop my pedestal, screaming, “You shouldn’t go to church, you know. Nobody should go to church. Do you want the address to where I hang out on Sunday mornings?” I seriously doubt if Righteous Ruby would have been impressed by my offer.


In conclusion, I would like to say that I honestly miss the days of  “paper or plastic?” because some of the plastic bags are really cheap and break open rather easily. What I wouldn’t miss are cashiers like Righteous Ruby. Then again, I’m not sure how Righteous Ruby really is. A few days later, I visited my neighborhood grocer again. I was too lazy to drive anywhere else (wish there was an online grocery delivery service in my area). I just planned on avoiding my churchgoing friend. Imagine my surprise to hear, from across the store (I was on Register 1), the angry voice of Righteous Ruby (on Register 9). Ruby was cussing the heck out of some teenage employee who had failed to bring her plastic bags as quickly as she wanted them. I could not believe my ears.


I thought about walking over and asking Ruby about the last time she went to church, but I thought better of it. Who am I to question Righteous Ruby?

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