Short Story: Supermarket Love


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He loved his long, sometimes weary 12 hour shifts at the supermarket, greeting familiar faces with the usual load of groceries or meeting new ones and getting to know them from their weekly buys. Although he has only worked there for a year, he made many new friends, young and old. He also learnt new recipes as well as various gardening methods for the different species of plants.

Working at the supermarket gave him a different dimension of life; he enjoyed capturing the person’s most intimate details. After all, as the cliché goes, ‘You are what you eat’. From the type of detergents one uses to the brand of shampoo and sanitary napkins says very much about the individual. Some go through the trouble of cutting out coupons for discounts; others are victims of the insidious advertising industry, earnestly trying out the latest fad. For every item’s barcode he scanned, he felt like he was collecting a part of the individual shopper; enjoying the beeping sound as he scanned each item. To him, it was a melody akin to little consolatory notes.

He always wondered if the frozen microwave meals were any good. He had never had the opportunity to try any himself, given that he loved cooking and experimenting with the culinary arts. He always knew when one was throwing a party, and his regular lazy customers that eat nothing but microwave meals and a variety of processed foods.

He particularly liked receiving big notes and giving change because it increased his time of contact with the customer. Whenever he had the opportunity, he would gently touch hands while returning change in a discreet way. Giving away change was also a brilliant way to make his work easier at the end of his shift as he could avoid the hassle of counting too many coins and smaller notes that delayed closing the cash register float of the day.

There was a particular girl who would always come with loose change and pay with all her coins and little notes. Sometimes, she held the queue for an impossible amount of time, delaying the other people in line. She might as well have brought her piggy bank to the store to sort out the change. She was an average looking girl who bought nothing but chocolates and fresh vegetables. An odd combination for a regular grocery-shopping trip, he couldn’t imagine having chocolate and salad at the same time and wondered what she made for meals. In any case, he was always polite, but he refrained from making conversation so as not to make her more nervous as she counted her palm full of coins. With these very same items in her shopping cart, it always added up to denominations of 2 to 7 cents.

One day, she came in to buy a succulent slab of steak, nothing else. This took him by surprise as he started to look forward to ‘Change Tuesday’ where he would serve her with patience and a tender attentiveness when she sieved through her pocket full of coins. He couldn’t hide his disappointment as he monotonously packed the little packet of meat into the plastic bag.

She notices this and asks, “Had a bad day?”

Before he could reply. She carries on the conversation on her own.

“Me too. Every day for a year now, I’ve been trying to use up all my change in my broken piggy bank, and I’ve gotten used to it. It’s sort of comforting to know that I can pay the exact amount. It’s all finished now, and I have to face the uncertainty of how much change I should get back. I was never good at maths and it really frightens me that I would end up losing all my money by getting the wrong change each time.”

“Ah ok, that explains the situation much better.”

He wasn’t surprised. Everyone had his or her own personal habits, fears and dislikes.

“Oh well, for today no more coins” She dug into her pockets to empty whatever contents she had as she shrugged her shoulders in resignation.

“I suppose it’s time to break out of monotony to buy something new, and cook something different. And to pay with this 100-dollar bill…” handing him the note with some hesitation.

“Don’t worry! You learn from every new experience. In fact, I can give you some tips to cook steak.”

“That would be brilliant! When do you finish work?”

“My shift ends in half hour. Meet me at the café round the corner.”

With a change in his daily monotony of scanning food labels. He meets the girl of his dreams who knew nothing more than loose change, salad and chocolate.


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