We’re all different
(An essay about observation… perhaps judgement… and definitely pet peeves)


She didn’t know I was watching her.

(Ok… let’s hit pause for a moment. First of all, that sounds creepy. Far too creepy, and not at all what I intended to create for an image or a setting. And second, she darn well did know I was watching her. Or, at least, she knew I was there. (Which again sounds a bit creepy. Let’s try again…))

I had stopped at the grocery store. Nothing beyond a normal assortment of items was on my list… orange juice, a loaf of bread, eggs and a vegetable to go along with dinner. Pretty ordinary stop for a day’s shopping.

(Oh wait, milk. I need milk. Don’t forget the milk. Back to the store…)

I hadn’t eaten breakfast at that point… had work to do when I arrived home that could easily carry deeply into the afternoon… and decided to swing through the bakery section to pick up a donut or two.

And that’s when I saw her. She was in the middle of packing up about two dozen donuts, was moving along somewhat methodically and I wasn’t in too big of a rush. So, I stepped to the side of the aisle to patiently wait for my turn.

That’s when I began watching her. And since I was standing all of ten to fifteen feet away, I know she was at least aware of my being in the general vicinity.

The funny part of the scene to me was watching her select and pack her donuts. In some ways it was hysterical and ha-ha funny… and in others it was strange weird funny.

She was using boxes that were designed to hold a half-dozen pieces of pastry. And, for each box, she carefully slid out a flattened sheet from a shelf under the display cabinet, looked it over, and either slid it back to consider the next sheet or began folding it into a container for her purchase.

She was also moving trays of donuts from higher racks in the cabinet to lower racks. (This was driving me bonkers, since all of the racks were labeled and her new arrangements had several trays in the wrong place. This would be bad enough when chocolate frosted was being called glazed cake, which is an error quickly corrected by sight… it’s another story entirely when moving something into the gluten-free area or re-locating the ones covered in peanuts. I don’t personally have allergies, but for the store to be making the effort to separate and identify these things… yeah.)

At this point, she looked directly toward me. I can’t honestly say she knew I was watching her before this, but it was as she had finished putting together her fourth box that she made eye contact with me, and expressed an understanding of the thought that I was waiting for her to finish. She politely offered an apology for slowing me down, which was quite nice of her but unnecessary. And that’s when the really strange weird funny part took place…

She moved her cart away from the case, reached for her purse, and pulled out a roll of tape.

Yes. Tape.

And as I grabbed a plastic bag and two donuts for myself, she had begun sealing her boxes with the tape.

I was… well… stunned would be a good word for it.

People carry tape around with them. That part was fine. I’ve just never before seen someone pull out a roll in the middle of a grocery store. And yet, her approach to it gave off every indication that this was an understood, probably done many times before, absolutely natural part of her shopping adventures.

Quick pause for consideration. Lots of folks walk into home improvement stores with their own tools. Happens all the time. Ever seen a contractor grab a tape measure off of their belt while looking over some lumber? Sure you have… and if not, the image comes clearly into view.

I know of individuals and families that go out shopping with their own containers. Not just reusable bags… containers… which they use for making their own packaging and ultimately reducing waste.

The list goes on.

But this was a roll of tape. Not a pen being used to mark the boxes… say as if they were being brought into an office, with initials or some sort of symbol being placed on the box to indicate how it would be distributed to co-workers.

A roll of tape. And try as I might… creating thoughts of a past emergency where donuts dropped all over the floor as a terrified patron screamed “NO” while silently promising to never let an unsecured package of baked goods ever ruin her shopping experience again… I could not get over this woman reaching into her purse, pulling out a roll of tape, and sealing the boxes.

And yet… I’m sure… for her this was perfectly normal and perhaps even common. So common, in fact, that she wasn’t even thinking about it. Grabbing the tape and sealing the donut boxes was just the thing to do before heading over to the coffee aisle. (Where I imagine she would use the battery powered grinder residing next to the roll of tape to grind the whole coffee beans she would likely have selected.)

What are my strange behaviors in a store?

Checking the best buy dates of the milk? Nah… that’s not really strange. Same for looking over the eggs to make sure they aren’t cracked.

I do like to take the lid off things like sour cream to make sure the seal inside hasn’t been broken. I suppose that’s unusual. Not “pull out the roll of tape” unusual, but ok.

Am I being judgmental about that tape? Is it me? After all, I was having a private conversation in my own head that included: “Tape? Did she just pull a roll of tape out of her purse? Because that’s just… that’s… wow. Look at that. Tape!”

Now I’ve brought a bit of my little therapy session to this essay. I’m sharing it fully convinced that… sour cream packaging be darned… it’s not me.

The thing is… I also know that chances are very good that, if I could ask her, she’s convinced it’s not her. If she was in a bakery, they would seal her boxes of delights with tape for her. Just so happens she’s in a self-service bakery at the local market.

And so here I am wondering about normal behavior. Not deeply… not losing sleep over it… but wondering.

Just wondering.

I don’t consider pulling a roll of tape out of a purse in the middle of a grocery store bakery to be normal. I find it odd.

Is it the rest of her actions that qualify me to arrive at my conclusion? Her box selection process and relocating of products providing evidence in support?

Don’t know.

I did enjoy my donuts. (I also forgot the milk.)

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com