The woman who bags my groceries thinks the world is going to end in December.
This bit of information, oddly enough, was revealed in a discussion of Healthy Choice Baked Entrees. Both the woman bagging my groceries and the checkout woman were looking at the fat/calorie/salt levels in the food I was buying. I’ve never liked when clerks do that. Sure, they’re just looking at the items they’re bagging as they come down the conveyor belt and looking closely at items they probably haven’t seen yet, but it’s still an odd practice. It’s like they’re giving some sort of review of your entire life, a judgment based only on the food and other items that you’re buying. Not that it’s an completely inaccurate way of figuring out what a person is like.
So the two women are talking about how much fat and salt is in the chicken and potato dish when the bagger says “oh, you might as well eat this stuff anyway, since the world is coming to an end on December 21.” This wasn’t clever, sarcastic humor. She was serious. The other woman had a shocked look on her face because she had never heard this news before and was wondering why a couple of people had said the same thing recently.
Clerk: Why are people saying that?
Bagger: According to the Mayans the world is going to end on December 21. The planet is going to tilt to one side and we’re all going to slide off into space.
Clerk: Do you believe that?
Bagger: Oh, DEFINITELY. I believe Nostradamus and all that stuff.
Clerk: [concerned look]
Me: [pause.....] Boy, that’s really going to mess up the new Fall TV season.
I always try to break weird tension with humor. The clerk laughed and the bagger just sort of smiled weakly. Now this wasn’t some wide-eyed lunatic bagging my groceries, this was an ordinary woman in her 50s. Probably a housewife with kids who looked forward to watching American Idol every week and worked a full-time job and maybe even had grandkids. So I wasn’t even sure how to respond to someone who says that they honestly, sincerely, deeply believe that this world is no longer going to exist in three months. And she said it with the casual air of someone discussing how it’s going to be colder and snowy at the end of December too. (Which makes me worry about how people are going to react the actual week of the so-called event.)
Not that you can have a deep conversation when you’re just buying groceries and you have to slide your credit card into the machine and there are several other customers behind you all waiting to also get into weird discussions with the clerks. I guess I could have thrown in a little laugh and seriously said “oh, that’s not really going to happen. Scientists have confirmed that the Mayans made a mistake!” or some similar line to ease their worries. But how do you quickly use logic and reason with someone who believes this? Shouldn’t they be more worried? Get busy stocking up on canned goods? Canceling their subscription to Entertainment Weekly?
As I carted my groceries away I said, “I’d make sure I still paid my bills though. You know, just in case.”
The Letter is coming. Been sick the past couple of days – scratchy throat, fever, sinuses clogged with what feels like wet packing peanuts, tired. Look for it in your mailboxes soon.