Trust Me; I Got This: Coming of age narrative

"Trust Me, I Got This" is a weekly column by staff writer and senior Christopher McDermott on surviving senior year, guided solely by this unconventional advice.

The grocery store, a place where all walks of life come to shop for food and other "essentials".  (Nicholas Eckhart/Creative Commons Flickr) 

As a kid I was a master of avoiding people. I didn’t have to start engaging much with masses of strangers until I started cashiering at 17.

I was naïve (probably still am) and at my grocery store by the train station, I got my share of eccentrics. My favorite customer was a retired mailman who used to come through buying five bottles of Listerine at a clip:

“It’s fifty-proof!” he’d say. “I tell my boss I have a halitosis problem so I can keep it in the truck.”

I chose to believe he was joking.

There was an energetic bald guy who came in every morning to buy bagels, butter and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” There were older people who bought TV dinners and cat food exclusively. Stressed out parents who tried to keep their kids from crushing the eggs, and blazed teenagers struggled to fish enough quarters out of their sweatpants to buy an Arnold Palmer and a bag of Funyuns.

But if customers were the Legion of Doom, Lex Luther was wearing a two-piece:

Buying a large bottle of suntan lotion, a 12-pack of Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Ritas and several potted plants was a woman of about sixty in a bikini. Just a blue bikini.

She had short grey hair, a summer tan and no other clothes.

The lady with the blue bikini was probably the most confident person I have ever encountered. She was wearing no clothes. It was a surreal parody of John Updike’s “A&P.”

I wasn’t prepared for it. I kept looking around for someone to speak up and say this is ridiculous. Not even necessarily to stop her. Just to acknowledge that what was happening was out of ordinary.

And she called me “sweetie,” which unsettled me.

She kept saying, “I’ve been working in my garden all day. I need some more lotion.”

At one point I asked for her rewards card for a discount and she responded:

“Let’s see, I have it here somewhere—“

I was afraid of where “somewhere” might be so I just plugged in the discounts.

She pulled a check out of an aggressively purple purse. She wrote her number and a winky face on the top part of it. Then she was gone.

The guy behind her was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses and a brown goatee. He just looked as she was leaving, smiled at the tiniest corner of his mouth and nodded. He was buying more Hawaiian shirts.

I was shaky, but not so shaky that I broke my customer service smile at any point. In retrospect, that acknowledgement of the ridiculous I was looking for might have been happening all along. Yeah, there’s crazy stuff of varying levels happening all around us, but you just got to roll with it. Like most people seem to be doing.

Next time an older woman wearing a blue bikini and nothing more walks through a grocery store, I hope to be that Hawaiian shirt guy.


Christopher McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.