Kicking the Chicken.
It's fine. After people come to grips with the fact that the line starts at the back of the store (a realization usually punctuated with a "Wow"), they fall in and get on their phones, or stare off into grocery space.
The line moves fast enough to prevent any complaints. Everyone looks tired from the day. It's 9 p.m. on a weeknight. Trying to get dinner and get home.
On one such night, a thirtysomething dude, face and eyes red with drink, got into line behind me with his boyfriend. They talked about how long the line was. The boyfriend went off to get something. Then drinky asked me a favor. "Excuse me, would you mind taking my basket? I just need to get some potatoes." I looked down at his basket, which was piled high with at least two huge roasted chickens and sundry items.
Here are my guidelines for acceptable grocery line favors: You hold only the place in line, not actual items; you hold the place in line for no more than a minute and a half; you hold it for a single shopper, not pairs or groups; and the wayward shopper must ask for your permission and thank you afterward.
"That looks pretty heavy," I said. I had my own heavy basket to carry.
"Really?" he said in a pleading tone. "You can't hold my place? All you have to do is kick my basket. Just kick it, and when I get back I'll go back behind you in line."
This was pretty brilliant. He successfully guilted me into moving his heavy, chickeny basket the entire length of the store while he spent about 5 minutes getting other things. A guy behind me said, "You really got the short end of the stick on this one!"
I pursed my lips. "Well, what else can you say," I answered, slightly embarrassed because I obviously hadn't wanted to help, but got suckered in anyway, and this guy had witnessed my fail.
Well, what else you can say is, no. But I didn't want to be bitchy -- or rather, I wanted to keep my bitchiness largely on the inside. As I kicked the chicken, which was so heavy that it required two kicks for each step ahead (one for each side of the basket), I thought about what else I could have said.
"I'd love to, but I have a leg injury that prevents me from nudging large quantities of poultry."
"I'm sorry, because I can tell that you need a designated driver, but I'm already maneuvering this basket right here."
"Que? Lo siento, pero no hablo ingles."
"I would prefer not to." (that's from The Power of a Positive No)
The guy finally got back, thanked me curtly (perhaps because I hadn't shown enough enthusiasm for my task), and took his place in line, conferring with his still-absent BF by cell phone on his location within the store. They had managed to do half of their shopping while I held their spot, and their chicken, in line.
I went to my zen place while the pair talked about trying to restrict their eating and spending habits, and about having just spent $162 at the bar.
Well, they got their speedy chicken and I got a blog post out of it. But still I wonder, what was the best way to turn this request down?
Music: "Can I Kick It"
Labels: whole foods