The Writer Goes to KrogerWhen I lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I was a student intern at a newspaper. I was broke and writing and happy.

Today I sit, munching on Halloween candy, and I remember that back then I used to love to go to Kroger, the large grocery store chain that was open 24 hours a day. There was a giant, gorgeous Kroger near where I lived that had golden, inviting lighting, colorful food displays, and wide, clean aisles.

I had pretty much no money (some things never change), but I loved to just wander the aisles looking at all the food. Strangely, this exercise in futility didn’t make me hungry, and it didn’t seem to me to be futile, either. It was a comfort to know that all that food existed and that I could be in the presence of it all. I’d like to tell you I only did this once or twice total, but the truth is I used to go there at least once a week just to be near the food.

I liked to go late in the evening when the store wouldn’t be packed with tourists. At those hours, it was mostly just me, and some second shifters. They’d be buying small baskets of random items on their way home from work, and I’d be there taking mental note of what they were buying—things like candy bars, fabric softener, milk but in small containers rather than by the gallon, pasta sauce but no pasta, ice cream, things like that. I liked to imagine that they went home to quiet homes and tried not to wake anyone, how the items in their baskets perfectly filled the small voids in their cabinets. (I gave them orderly lives.) I also liked to imagine them sitting up late, watching TV with a spoon in hand, eating straight from the ice cream container. (Well, not entirely orderly.)

And I loved that they always had candy bars. It was late, they were done with work, they got through another day in paradise and they deserved it, by george. (This I did not give them; this was written clear as day on their faces.)

Oh, those candy bars. Feeling tired, or a certain sense of accomplishment, or just having reached a stopping place for their day’s work, the items in their baskets said so much about what was important, and what wasn’t. I learned quickly to bet on finding chocolate in the baskets. In the many years of shift work since then, I’ve learned why.

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Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler who has waited tables in five U.S. states. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

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