“Let them pick it up.”
That’s what the man said, as I scrambled to collect little blue globes off the supermarket floor. Another voice chimed in: Yeah, it’s their job, look, that woman was going to get someone to clean it up. It wasn’t like I was going to pick them all up and put the carton back on the shelf, right?
This is what I get for not paying attention. I’d gone to the supermarket next door to pick up toilet paper for the apartment (as we’d gone through 8 rolls in what seemed like as many days), and while I was there I decided to pick up some strawberries. I’ve been meaning to go to our local farmer’s market, which convenes every Tuesday, but I never seemed to be able to make the three block walk over to buy fresh berries. So, I did the next best thing, and I started picking up the containers of berries and scrutinizing them.
And then, shit, a carton of blueberries plummeted off the shelf and broke apart like an egg. Blueberries littered the white floor like reverse constellations, and I immediately ripped off my headphones, crouched to the ground, and began to pick them up, berry by berry.
It didn’t even occur to me that what I was doing was strange until the aforementioned man asked me, “What are you doing?” I looked up at him, met the quizzical expression on his face, and started flushing what I imagined to be deep red (although so far as I know, I don’t do that). I explained that I’d knocked the berries over and was picking them up. He narrowed his gaze at me and asked, “Are you going to put them back?”
God, no! I explained that I’d bring the carton over to one of the supermarket workers and have them dispose of it as they saw fit, but that I didn’t want to just leave fruit strewn across a busy cart aisle. And then he said, “Let them pick it up.” A woman who’d been watching our exchange concurred, and pointed out the supermarket worker who had apparently taken a look at the mess and had headed off to the employee section of the grocery. So, at the suggestion of the man, I moved the fallen carton out of the aisle, and continued perusing strawberries.
The man then tried to talk to me in Chinese, which was the last thing I wanted to do. I feigned ignorance of the language (“Oh yeah, I don’t really speak it”) (which, honestly, is kind of true); he kept slipping in Chinese phrases while he explained that he’d been to Beijing and Shanghai before. I nodded politely and made cordial conversation, then turned back to the wall of berries.
Afterward, a supermarket employee came by with a broom and a tray and began to sweep up the blueberries. I turned away from the strawberries and said, “Hi, I’m so sorry about the mess, I wasn’t going to put them back on the shelf.”
She turned to me with the most disdainful look on her face; I snatched a random carton of strawberries and fled.
I’m a person who gets flustered a lot, but it’s been a while since the sharp sting of shame has pricked me, and now I’m sitting in my apartment listening to sad songs on repeat and wondering what I could’ve said or done to make that woman not loathe me. Maybe I should’ve kept picking the blueberries up, at least up until someone had come by with a broom or a trash can or something. Maybe I should’ve run to get someone immediately and claimed that someone else had done it (no, that’s really just low). Maybe I should’ve
I don’t know. But I can feel tears welling in my eyes, which is so incredibly stupid because it’s in the job description of supermarket employees to clean up messes, and it’s not like I did it on purpose, and I didn’t run away or anything so what, what could I have done, or something, or what. Just, what.
She must think that I’m some dumb college kid whose head is so up her ass that she just flails around, making life difficult for the service people around her. And sure, that generalization does have merit (I’m definitely in college and I sure can be dumb sometimes), but it’s not my FAULT that the strawberries and blueberries are packed so tightly together and that the edges of the cartons caught on each other and that the strawberries looked so damn appealing and
No. It was my fault, and I ran away from her because I didn’t want to look her in the eye while she cleaned up after my mistake.
And I feel quite, quite emphatically, like a total, complete, no holds barred, capital-A Ass.