The first time it happened to me, I shook it off as a fluke. The college-aged kid behind the register took forever to slide my celery, frozen waffles, and edamame across the scanner. He asked me whether I'd tried the the Cuban-style black beans before, and asked if I thought they were healthier than standard black beans. He stopped. Literally stopped, looked me in the eye and waited for my answer before scanning a bag of dried mangoes.
Meanwhile I was thoroughly distracted by his paw-like hands. Seriously. They were just enormous. He was a tall guy, but his hands - totally out of scale.
The next time, I thought it might be a joke. This day, the checkout guy was maybe post-grad age, dark haired and serious. He asked me about the weather outside - it was early spring, and just starting to warm up. I hesitated, then ventured that the heat was ok, I guess. He stopped short, made full eye contact, and asked in a sincere way why I wasn't sure about this beautiful weather. Mumbling about having already put away winter gear, I was feeling a bit flustered. Again, stopping short with the scanning he looked me straight in the eye and with a shy smile murmured I wish someone would sort my clothes out for me.
This is when I started looking around to see if there was maybe a Punk'd camera down in the frozen aisle. What?!?!
People? I'm 37. The days of picking up grocery-store checkers is long gone - oh wait, I NEVER HAD THOSE DAYS - and let's just say I'm nowhere near the league of Real Housewives of New York. I really haven't been hitting the aisles of Trader Joes in some sexy skinny jeans and a low cut top. You will forgive me if I thought I was somehow part of Ashton Kutcher's show.
I approached my next trip to Trader Joes with trepidation. I selected my items for the least conversational value, and dragged all three kids along with me. Just wanted to test a theory here.
Rolled up to the shortest line: lo and behold, it was Mr Unsorted Clothing. Several weeks later, there's no way he recognized me as his Clothes Sorting Mom, and he starts chatting with me about books. Books, people! Have I read To Kill a Mockingbird? Atlas Shrugged? Love In the Time of Cholera? He starts talking to me - at length - about an ethics course he took, and how it changed his life. Meanwhile I'm bagging my own groceries and wondering about the parallel universe I've entered.
I'm in the wilds of suburbia, trying to buy Gorilla Munch cereal and organic apples, and I am part of this kid's spiritual journey.
Today took me over the edge. Was just trying to buy a can of coffee. The kid at the checkout examined the label, and wanted to know if i thought his brother, who was a real coffee snob, would like my brand. And did I think it was worth it to buy the free-trade kind?
I've been too bashful to ask other mothers-of-a-certain-age if they have experienced this phenomenon. But now I've just got to come out - to tell the world that I am a HUGE FAN of Trader Joes' HR policies. Chat up the rumpled housewives - tell 'em your darkest secrets. Apparently, they'll be so confused you can load up their bag with the 42 extra packs of Cinnamon Flavor Soy Crisps without them even registering.