Please Don’t Anger the Deli Gods

A shopping cart filled with bagged groceries l...

 

“Smile,” she whispered urgently.

I pulled my attention away from the two toddlers climbing their mom like a tree as she tried to choose a loaf of bread, and focused on my partner. I wouldn’t get credit for accompanying her on this outing unless I stayed present and attentive. But my stamina was flagging. So I said:

“Huh?”

My partner’s smile widened to a disturbing dimension. She whispered through clenched teeth.

“Smile at the lady or we’ll never get out of here.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but I smiled anyway. Or I tried. Unfortunately, my forced smile looks very much like a rictus of pain (if years of photographic evidence is to be believed) and my partner visibly winced.

“Nevermind. Stop that.” I relaxed my face in relief. “Just try not to make eye contact.”

“With who?” She gestured in the direction of the two ladies in hair nets manning the meat slicers behind the deli counter.

“The deli gods. If we anger them, we’ll be here all day. But if we smile and say please and thank you, and never ever get caught looking impatient, we might get out of here in a few minutes.”

I eyed the hair-netted pair and knew she was right. The ladies at the deli counter had all the power. Our cart was groaning under the weight of a week’s supplies for our teenagers, this was our last stop before the checkout line, and I really wanted to go home.

One of the hair nets turned toward us. I panicked and tried smiling again. My partner elbowed me. I stopped. The hair net approached the scale, laid the offering on it, and spoke:

“It’s not quite a pound. Is that close enough?” My partner’s smile could have lit the heavens.

“That’s perfect. Thank you so much.”

“I thought you ordered a half a pound,” I whispered when the hair net turned away.

“It’s close enough,” my partner hissed and smiled again as the deli god handed the meat now wrapped, bagged and labeled across the counter. My partner glanced at it, then handed it to me to put in the basket. I did.

“You know that was smoked turkey, right?” I whispered. “Didn’t you ask for the Cajun chicken?”

“Do you want to go home sometime today or not?”

“I like turkey. Turkey’s fine,” I asserted.

I went back to watching the young mom with the two toddlers. The taller boy had just dropped a box of donuts into the cart while the little one was endeavoring to scale the opposing side. Mom turned back from the shelf she had been perusing, noticed the teetering cart, and made a frantic lunge for her youngest just as gravity began to assert itself. Righting the cart, she pulled the little one off the side and settled him on her hip where he clung like a koala bear.

I felt a little guilty for being amused. Just a few years ago, I was that woman. So I knew that shopping with little ones is not for the faint of heart. I had learned the hard way that the key to food gathering with small children was to get in and get out as quickly and efficiently as possible, before they had a chance to ransack the shelves, slip too many things into the cart while I wasn’t looking, or to poke at each other until one of them inevitably melted down before I got halfway through my list.

I looked back at the deli to check on our progress. One of the hairnets was handing another package to my partner. That should be the last one. We were free! My partner pushed the groaning cart over to where I was standing.

“They’re adorable, aren’t they?” she said nodding at the young mom and her boys. Her voice had a wistful tone. Now that our boys were teenagers, this happens to us sometimes. It starts with this poignant, bittersweet pang when you see a young parent with little ones and graduates to a lump in your throat and teary eyes as you remember that you’ll never again rock your babies to sleep or fix their boo boos with a kiss and a Band-aid.

A few feet away, the young mother had paused at the intersection of her aisle and the bakery area. The little one was now firmly ensconced in the seat in front of the cart a kiwi in each little fist while his brother was standing next to his mom waiting, calmly and patiently. They looked like angels.

“Do you miss it?” I asked, knowing the answer. The little one chose that moment to twist in his seat, pull back his arm, and launch a kiwi at his brother’s head. His aim was remarkable. The older boy burst into tears and starting wailing like a mad foghorn. The little brother looked shocked at this reaction and then started wailing too. The mom heaved a sigh, scooped up the older boy, kissed his head and carried him to his brother who looked heartily sorry.

My partner’s wistful look was gone. She looked at me, grinned, and said:

“Not so much.”

And we headed toward the checkout line and home.

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3 Comments

  1. sherrie stringer

     /  January 30, 2012

    Hilarious!!

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Coppertop!

    Reply
  3. hello, Tori… it’s been a while. i hope things are okay, your side of town… 🙂

    just dropping by to see if you’ve a new post and to say, am tagging you, dear. hope it’s alright. it’s for the super sweet blogging award. btw, will come back to give details about the nomination. thanks, warm regards to you and your loved ones. 🙂

    Reply

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