I was standing in line at Trader Joe’s, fully grubbed out Sunday-evening style. Seriously, I was wearing harem pants that I have worn thrice this week, an overwashed tee that I should really just throw out, and a Seattle University fleece that I pulled on just before dashing out the door. Had you seen me, you might have said, “You might want to look into…muumuus.”
I’m not often standing in line at Trader Joe’s. The grocery shopping is something Bill does much, much better than me, evidenced by my ignorance and lack of confidence in getting the right kind of ground turkey for his weekly sausage making. (Huh huh.) I didn’t mind it, then, that the fifteen items-or-less line was moving at a snail’s pace. The more time in line, the more of a chance I’d get a thumbs-up or down on the trays of meat I found for Bill.
The super sunburned White guy in front of me was clearly perturbed. At first I just noticed him for his huffing and puffing. Then his flat-brimmed A’s hat, embossed with embroidered Japanese characters running down the right side. Then I noticed him because his lobster red arms were outstretched before me, presenting me with an empty TJ’s basket.
“Oh, thanks,” I said. “But I’m ok. I’ve got my bags already.” I had purposefully neglected picking up a basket for my TJ’s shopping because I only needed to grab three items. TJ’s on a Sunday night is a gladiator arena, so I just threw everything into my totes and headed straight for checkout.
“Well, this way,” he said, “You can put all your stuff into the basket on the floor instead of holding onto it forever. This line is taking forever.”
Okay, fine. “All right, thanks,” I said. I threw my two packed bags into the basket.
“And! You can scoot it with your foot.” He scoots his basket with his foot.
“That’s true. Thanks.”
The line moves forward so he scoots his basket and moves forward. Now that there’s space, I scoot my basket and move forward.
But it was not enough. He turns back, “Here, go like this with your foot.” He scoots his basket in demonstration.
I half-audibly sigh and scoot my basket all of two inches, because there’s no place to scoot it. I had already scooted it all it could scoot. “Thanks.”
I start checking my phone aimlessly.
“Are you from Berkeley?”
GODDAMMIT WE ALL KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING. But still, I give him the benefit of the doubt – maybe everyone from Berkeley scoots their baskets – and answer, “No.”
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, all that maple syrup must be nice.”
“Oh, no, I’m from Fremont, not Vermont.”
“Oh, okay, I thought you said Vermont.”
“No, that would be cool, though. Not much of anything comes out of Fremont” – except for lots of ENGINEERS! Kidding. We chuckle a bit. I must’ve jumped to conclusions on this one. He really is just making small talk.
“What about before Fremont?”
“Where were you before Fremont?”
Deadpanface: “I was born and raised in Fremont.”
“And what about before then?”
“What?” Did you just ask me where I am from before I was born? Because that is getting into some heavily philosophical shit.
“What about where your parents are from?”
“My parents are from China.”
I give a minimal pursing of the lips to acknowledge “Glad you heard me.” Then I go back to looking at my phone.
“Both of them?”
Why, what does it matter, and what do you intend to do with this information?
I’m looking at my phone, but then he keeps looking at me, and the angel and devil on my shoulders are debating my next move. Finally, I decide to continue talking. When else will I see this guy? How many other Asian girls will he corner at the grocery store?
Pointedly over-exuberantly: “Where are your parents from?”
He breaks eye contact and looks off into the distance. His sunburn grows redder. I’m looking back at my phone again, and he mumbles something that sounds like “Tents.”
In a tone not even feigning disinterest because I really am disinterested, “Oh, okay.”
“I was born in Portland, Oregon, but I was raised in Austin, Texas.”
Half-assed: “Cool.” Phone.
Lo and behold, Bill texts me back that the ground meat I got isn’t the type that goes with his stomach. Saved by the ringtone!
“Oop, gotta go.”
“What? What happened?” he asks, as if we were in the middle of some life-altering conversation.
“Got the wrong food. Thanks for the basket!” I’ll give him that much, having all your shit in one basket makes for a cleaner getaway, too. I hoist my loot and head back to the meats.
Reason #249 why I don’t do the grocery shopping.
And now, the obligatory #storyofmyasianwomanlife.com YouTube embed of 2013: