I worked in grocery retail for 5 years in a produce department. After meeting up with some former comrades of corn and cantaloupe, I became a bit reflective on the paradoxes associated with working among such a vast array of customers. Here are my most memorable...
  1. The customer who started off hollering at me, and ended our encounter with my holding her while she helplessly sobbed.
    She wanted red grapefruit. All we had was white. She spit off about how a produce dept. should have red. All I could do was shrug. She fell into bitter weeping as she told me that her pregnant daughter-in-law passed away unexpectedly and buying her grieving son groceries, including his favorite grapefruit, gave her a sense of "doing something." I hugged her while she cried. I hugged the SHIT out of this sobbing woman. And I sent her off with white grapefruit, because it's all we had.
  2. An elderly lady driving an Amigo asked if she could have a discount on organic cauliflower because of a [nonexistent] brown spot...
    I told her no, but there was a sale on regular cauliflower if she wanted that. She smiled at me sweetly, still clutching the expensive vegetable, and rolled off. I resumed my task of putting away bagged carrots when suddenly, not an inch from my temple, the offending, non discounted vegetable had been lobbed with the force of a fastball and splattered on impact with the display. I looked up in time to see the woman's Amigo take the corner on two wheels and speed away.
  3. One morning, around 4am, a man the size of a sequoia screamed at my bakery friend about an item that wasn't where it ought to be and the tags confused him. Her apology wasn't good enough and he proceeded to actually FOLLOW my friend, who's maybe five ft. tall with a fairly timid presence, and called her everything but a human.
    I saw her fear and went right into super hero mode. However, when I wedged myself between them and was able to look into his crazy, unblinking eyes, I nearly shat myself. I stood my ground and bore his cussing and raving until my friend could call for assistance and the midnight store director could woo the man away with a coupon. His anger certainly wasn't about misplaced bakery products that night, but we sure took the brunt of whatever the hell it was.
  4. I was stacking celery on Christmas Eve, when a customer ran up to me and pressed a $20 bill into my palm.
    "This is for you. Merry Christmas!" And she booked it out of my department. I couldn't even. Literally...even. There were no words good enough for that moment. If you're on li.st, benevolent pay-it-forward lady, God bless your face all over the place.
  5. I was stacking out-of-season clementines and a customer asked me where they were imported from...
    "Spain," I replied. She rolled her eyes and said she wouldn't touch fruit "from Mexico." I corrected her... "Um... Spain?" She TSKED and walked away saying "Same thing!!!!" No, lady. Noooooooooo...
  6. It was summer and our store was pushing the local produce.
    A customer asked me if I could direct her to the "Michigan grown pineapple." I laughed thinking she was making a funny about our promotion. Yeah... She was serious. "Pineapples don't grow in Michigan." I informed her. Visibly annoyed, she was all "Ummm... That's why they have GREENHOUSES?" I slow blinked for a few minutes and she resumed her search for Michigan-grown pineapples at our competitor.
  7. A perfect human, elderly and impeccably dressed in a suit, tie and vivid purple-framed glasses, came in every other day, like clockwork, to pick up two bunches of mint.
    He was super friendly and informed me, one day, that he bought the mint regularly for his best friend, Sweetie Pie... a calico colored Guinea pig. He showed me fuzzy pictures of his precious Guinea swine on his flip-phone and loved that the mint gave her "sweet, minty kisses." To my devastation, he stopped coming in. I still don't know why. But I hope that he and Sweetie Pie are still sharing sweet, minty kisses.
  8. And finally, a herd of hot, hot firemen from the local fire establishment where they live, work, oil up and ready themselves each day to rescue kittens in trees, approached me early on a weekday morning...
    A tall one asks "Excuse me, ma'am... could you direct us to the Cuties?" After about a half hour of processing his request with a perma-creep smile on my lips, I shakily pointed to the teeny, tiny Cutie brand oranges which are apparently popular with the fire-fighting industry. I look back on this moment and would happily trade one ovary and a load of Michigan-grown pineapple to go back in time and cackle "YOU!!!! YOU ARE THE CUTIES!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!" Regret so bitter, like bruised cauliflower.