Going to the grocery store is not my favorite chore, much due to the fact that I have never found a local grocer that meets all my needs. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore my little neighborhood store as well as my local famer’s market, but even together they cannot meet all my culinary and domestic needs. And guess what? The older I get, the more I need…. or at least…. want. OK, I admit it. I want the grocery shopping task to be “an experience” from the minute I enter the property. I want super clean surfaces that have no cracks or stains on them. I want landscaping and a parking lot free of renegade carts. I want a large variety of fresh foods and a tiny spattering of processed foods. I want the store employees to speak in complete sentences. I want complimentary coffee and real half and half in a little pitcher next to a little chalk board that tells me what flavor the coffee is. And I want gentle instrumental music to dance me through the quaint little aisles. In the town where I live, we have several grocery stores that meet some of my needs, but none of them meets all of them. In order to find my perfect grocery shopping experience, I have to drive a distance not so convenient when dinner is due in an hour. So what’s a girl to do? Well, I go to the store that has the largest collection of the things I buy over and over. It has no music, the aesthetics are utilitarian to say the least, and there is not a single tree shading the asphalt upon which I sweat as I load ice cream and milk into my car in the summer. Although all of the employees are pleasant and helpful, they often seem somewhat sad to be there. Sadly, this store does not have everything I yearn for in a grocery store. What this store does have, however, the one thing that I look forward to seeing every time I go, the single element that gives my shopping task a little kick is a woman named Shirletha.
Shirletha is my favorite cashier. She is young and cheerful. She remembers my name and is quick to remind the bagger that I bring my own bags. She remembers that every time! During football season, she wears Saints regalia and during Mardi Gras she always has a colorful moat of beads dangling around her neck echoing her movie star smile.
“Hey Miss Donnaaaaaa!” she will yell to me from register #3 as I cruise the lanes of cashiers seeking her out. I will wait in her long line rather than leapfrog to another because I know that she is sincerely happy to see me. Then when I begin placing my items on the belt, she will put a hand on her hip and proclaim something supportive such as, “ I sure do like your short haircut! I love it, but I wouldn’t have the nerve to go so short. It sure looks good on you though. Sassy! ”
Then she will shoot me a million dollar smile and toss in a wink for good measure. Yesterday she was wearing a pair of reindeer antlers on her head. When I gave her and her antlers an approving nod, she put her hands on her head and wiggled them as if they were waving to me. Yesssirree. Shirletha is Mr. Rogers, Minnie Pearl, and Whoopie Goldberg all wrapped up in one person. She is probably the reason that other resigned shoppers regularly grace the door of her employer. We could go somewhere else that is not as expensive, or is closer to home, or smaller, or lots of things. But we keep going back to her store because sometimes, antlers make all the difference. So here’s to you, Shirletha. Merry Christmas, and thank you for injecting a little zest into my days of many errands. Keep it up my dear, for you are doing a gentle service to all of us who keep coming back to your store in spite of a host of logical reasons not to. Yes ma’am. You are doing a sterling job, even if some days it may seem just a little less than what you had hoped for.