I went to the grocery store today to stock up on frozen veggies, and as I was looking over the selection, an elderly man shuffled towards me down the aisle. He was carrying an empty grocery basket while talking on his cell phone, and I could hear his side of the conversation.
“Yes, I know the size of the bag. The small one, right?”
He seemed good-natured and had a distinct accent — perhaps Irish — and was engrossed in trying to find what he’d clearly set out to hunt and gather.
“Oh, OK. The large one then. I got it.”
I saw him open the freezer doors and pull out broccoli.
“Oh, this isn’t it,” he realized. The person on the other end must’ve asked what he’d picked up instead. “Well, it’s a big bag of broccoli. No, no I know you don’t eat broccoli, that’s why I’m putting it back this instant.”
I snickered. He realized he had an audience, looked at me, pretended like he was going to put the giant bag of broccoli in his basket anyway, then winked as he put it back in the freezer. He went back to looking at the offerings as he continued talking.
“OK, well I’ll see you at home then. Goodbye.” He hung up and asked if I could see the peas and carrots.
“Together in one bag, or separate bags?” I asked him.
“One bag,” he said.
“I was afraid you’d say that,” I said. “I see separate bags, but not a bag that’s mixed.”
“Yes, I noticed those and was wondering if I could get away with bringing them back,” he said. “But not only are they not mixed, the bag isn’t even the right size!”
He spotted a store employee at the other end of the aisle and shuffled towards him, calling out in his lovely accent. I went back to trying to decide between the carrots and the asparagus. Seconds later, the employee and man were back in front of the freezers, determined to find peas and carrots in a single, large bag.
I scoured the selection with my eyes, quietly trying to help them. I couldn’t see anything of the sort. Okra, broccoli, carrots sans-peas, peas sans-carrots, mixed vegetables, edamame, cauliflower and broccoli together, and black-eye peas stared back at me. I was beginning to lose hope for the man.
Suddenly, the young employee found the peas and carrots. “Here they are!” he said.
“Oh, well would you look at that. Peas and carrots together at last,” said the man as he made a grand gesture befitting of the stage. “But,” he said with a dramatic pause, “the bag is small.”
He seemed dejected, but then I realized he was just playing around.
“I’ll bet three of those would be more than fine to take home,” I said.
The man inspected the bag, nodded and looked at me, then ended his agreement with another wink. He left with a cheery, “Well, that’s a wrap. Have a nice day!”
Tonight I am thankful for my small encounter with that man today, and for the charming interaction we had. He brought a lightness to my afternoon that I didn’t realize was lacking, and I’m thankful for the employee who was able to find the man’s sole grocery item that someone was counting on him to bring home. Broccoli would’ve been no good, and separate bags could’ve been mixed, but his determination and subsequent elation at finding the combo bag was nothing short of adorable.