When I was a kid, I used to go to the grocery store with my mom.
Back then, you paid with paper checks, and the cashier would ask to see your driver's license and write your driver's license number on the check.
And, back then, your driver's license number was your social security number.
That would never happen today.
I went to the grocery store with my mom often, and I'm sure there are tons of visits that I have no memory of. But, there's one that I have kept with me and replayed and been so curious about my entire life.
I was standing at the end of the checkout line, while the cashier scanned every item, and the bagger put the groceries into the bag. As my mom was paying, I saw a grocery item of ours in the “waiting to be bagged” area.
I was 99.9% sure that it was ours. But, I didn't want the bagger or the cashier to feel bad.
So, I said nothing.
Back then, the bagger would put the groceries in the cart and wheel them out to your car for you.
The whole way, I’m thinking, Oh my gosh. One of our grocery items is being left behind.
But, that was it. I couldn't say anything. I was frozen.
And, I still don't know why.
Was I really uncertain?
I don't think so.
I think I knew that item was ours. My mother just paid for it. And, we're leaving it behind. And, I'm the only one who knows.
And, I said nothing.
When we got home and unloaded the groceries, my mom realized that the item was missing.
That is when I spoke up. I told her that it was left on the checkout stand, and she was so angry with me.
Now, we're home. An item she thought she had purchased, that I'm sure she needed for a recipe, isn't with us. And, I had the knowledge in time for there to be a different outcome.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the years, and I imagine that I was more afraid of hurting someone's feelings that I don't even know than I was getting in trouble by my mom.
And, that baffles my mind.
And, I still face it today.
I was just at Trader Joe's. I always take my own bags.
And, by always, I mean almost always.
I left the house to go visit a friend and was going to go to Trader Joe's on my way home. I was already halfway to seeing my friend when I realized I left all my bags at home.
Okay, I'm just gonna have to get paper bags and pay for them.
When I got to the checkout stand at Trader Joe’s, the cashier asked me if I needed bags.
I said, “Unfortunately, yes.”
She said, “That’s okay.”
And, I said, “Well, yes it is. But, I always bring my own bags, and, for some reason, today I forgot them.”
She was like, “Okay.”
Then, she goes over and gets another cart and says something like, “I'll just put the groceries in this cart.”
I don't know. It wasn't clear to me.
So, she starts scanning all of my groceries and just putting them immediately into the other cart, which made me start to wonder if perhaps we had miscommunicated.
But, I didn't say anything.
That would have been the optimal moment to just acknowledge, Hey, just making sure that I didn't miscommunicate. I do need bags.
I didn't say anything.
She keeps putting all the groceries in there. I'm thinking maybe she's putting the bigger things in there, and she has a plan of how she's going to bag them. I don't know, and I don't want to make her feel bad.
The more she scans without putting anything into a bag, the more I realize she probably doesn't think I need bags.
Okay, I have a choice. I can tell her that we've miscommunicated, I can tell her that I need bags, or I can say nothing.
I chose the latter.
This time with a lot more awareness than when I was a child. And, still with curiosity.
Who cares if she and I had a miscommunication? Who cares if she thought that I didn't need bags and now I do?
So, I'm standing there, silent.
Actually, having a full-fledged conversation with her about our weekends but saying nothing about the bagging issue.
I am well aware that I am now going to have to push my cart out to my car and unload a full cart’s worth of groceries straight into my trunk with no bags.
That was my choice.
I still don't understand this part of myself, fully.
I get it that I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable. I also get it that I usually bring my own bags.
In a way, her misunderstanding gave me a third option I hadn't considered which is putting the groceries directly into my trunk and then putting them into my reusable bags once I get home. Which is what happened.
I was an hour-and-a-half drive away from home.
I had frozen items in my trunk on a hot summer day, hanging out, because I didn't want to deal with the discomfort of letting the cashier know that we had a misunderstanding.
Time may have passed.
My mom might not be upset with me for this decision to stay quiet. I'm the one that had to deal with these repercussions.
My awareness around the issue has changed some.
But, clearly, my choice to stay silent has not.