Sundays are my designated grocery shopping days. It’s wonderfully therapeutic pushing my trolley up and down the supermarket aisles and even if I don’t really need a restock on supplies, I like bringing the kids along with me to pick up some apples, milk and a tub of ice cream.
Ok, I know lots of people who dress real nice, put on makeup and falsies for a trip to the supermarket and hats off to them but I’m not one of those people. My supermarket shopping outfit consists of flip flops, shorts and if I’m lucky, a tee that isn’t covered with baby-puree stains.
Admittedly, yesterday wasn’t one of those lucky days. I was out on my regular midday grocery run at my neighborhood supermarket, looking as auntie as I possibly could – hair out of place, decked in my favorite comfy shorts and a tee the husband insists should have been converted to a floor rag a long time ago. Baby Finn was on my right hip, dressed in an old hand-me-down romper and looking a little grubby. Next to me, Kirsten was wearing an outgrown dress that’s all faded from repeated washing. It used to be her favorite princess dress from a year ago but now, it’s worn out and 3 inches too short for her. But she insists on wearing it so I let her do it when we take these short trips out of the house.
At the supermarket, the first thing we usually do is get a trolley so I can dump the kids in it but yesterday, we were out of $1 coins so I dug out a 50-cent coin, two 20-cent coins and a 10-cent coin, headed over to the nearest friendly-looking lady and asked if she had a dollar coin to exchange.
The first lady I approached didn’t have any. I glanced around and spotted someone else.
“Hi, do you happen to have a $1 coin I can exchange with?” I asked, holding out my hand with the bunch of coins in it.
She looked at me like she didn’t understand a single word I just said.
“I need to get a trolley and I’m out of $1 coins. Do you have any to swap?” I asked again, this time giving the coins in my open palm a little jingle.
She glanced at Finn who was perched on my hip, then at Kirsten and back at me, with a look I couldn’t quite place.
By now, in my head I was a all like “C’mon lady, it’ll just take you 10 seconds to check your wallet. Surely your pack of grapes can wait 10 seconds.”
As if she could read my mind, she reached into her wallet and started digging. She found 30 cents. Then she started rummaging the rest of her bag for more loose change and after an uncomfortable minute or so, she managed to locate another 35 cents. She held the 65 cents and hesitated for a moment before attempting to shove the bunch of coins into my hand.
At this point, it suddenly dawned on me that OMG SHE TOTALLY THINKS THAT I’M BEGGING FOR MONEY. She must be like “Poor disheveled woman with the scruffy baby and the gaudily-dressed kid. Looks like someone has already given her some coins. Maybe if I give her 65 cents, she will stop harassing me and go away.”
I’ve never actually asked a stranger for money and certainly never met anyone who thought that I was asking for money so I had no idea how to react. I was like “No, no, I just need to EXCHANGE my money with your money so I can get a trolley,” gesturing to my coins and the trolley station like an idiot. “I’m really not trying to take your 65 cents.”
Behind me, the husband (who had witnessed the entire exchange) was trying his best not to fall over on the floor laughing.
I suppose there’s a first time for everything, even asking strangers for money.