Periscope Depth

I was only robbing the register; I hope you understand

Somehow I thought 10:45 PM on a Friday would be a good time to go to Shaw’s. Even with Hurricane Irene impending, I figured most of Cambridge and Somerville’s brightest would wait until Saturday to truly start panicking. Besides, all I needed were some Triscuits. Unfortunately, the Porter Square Shaw’s was the most crowded I’d ever seen it.

I ran into Megan, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, and her boyfriend. “He always comes over to my place to eat,” she said, “so we’re both out of food at the exact same time.” “I just came here for Triscuits,” I said. She hugged me.

At the self-checkout, a prematurely gray man in gym shorts whipped through his basket like the gun crew on a frigate. Grab, swipe, bag, repeat. He got to a loaf of bread and stopped, unable to locate the barcode. His eyes grew wider as he tumbled the loaf in his hands, looking for those telltale black stripes. The line behind him wasn’t making any sort of noise, but the urge not to let them down was crushing him. The pressure squeezed his heart.

Ahead of me, the young lady in the button dress had scooped up only the essentials: squash, sushi, Nutter Butter bites and vitamin water. That last looked like a good idea, actually, and I scooped a bottle from the convenient “impulse fridge” near the checkout line. On the other side of the line, another young lady whined to her boyfriend in Mandarin. I say “boyfriend” because she wasn’t his daughter and because most wives don’t have to whine to get a husband to do what they want. She realized how loud her voice carried when three checkout cashiers, half the people in line and yours truly looked at her. She smiled and quieted down, but continued tugging on her boyfriend’s sleeve.

I wonder if I ought to do all my grocery shopping after 10:00 PM. The Shaw’s in Porter Square sits in a fairly nice neighborhood, but even so you get a different class of consumer late at night. Or hell – maybe I should just quit my day job. Work the 11:00 PM to 7:30 AM shift and learn how the world really works.

(Got my Triscuits)