Thursday, July 25, 2013

The man from the cereal aisle

People find each other, if they need to.

Several years ago I saw a man  in the cereal aisle at the supermarket. He was darting from one brand to another, reading the side panel information, trying to decide.  He rushed, like he had to be someplace else, soon.

He looked like he took care of himself. He was neatly dressed,  wearing a golf shirt tucked into jeans, and out-of- the-box white sneakers. Probably late fifties.   

"Excuse me," he said to me as I passed.

He held up two boxes of cereal. "Do you think there's a difference between these Raisin Brans? I mean, have you tried both? Because, you know that if it looks healthier," he indicated the side panel, "it's not always worth it, because healthy things don't always taste so good, right?" He paused. "What kind of cereal do you like?"

He wore no wedding ring. I remember thinking, divorced.

I said, "I like the Kellogg's, but I don't think there's a big difference. You'll be okay either way, I think,"  and I moved on. Before I rounded the  corner, I heard behind me, "Excuse me." When I turned, he was approaching a man around his own age. "Do you think there's a difference between the Post Grape Nuts and the store brand?"

At the check-out next to mine he chatted  with a woman behind him who struggled to soothe her fussy baby and seemed seconds away from a meltdown herself.

"I used to use the coupons," he was saying while he loaded the belt. "But I just didn't like being forced to buy what was on sale, do you know what I mean?"  She responded politely, "I guess, yeah."  He placed the last item on the belt and turned to the baby.  "This is a busy place for a little guy like you, isn't it? It certainly is."  He was still moving in that hurried way, like he was late for something else.

I shopped every Wednesday when I had children at home and he was there half the time. Same type of behavior...scrutinizing bread, cleaning products, batteries, chips, one product after another in the aisles, finger moving back and forth while he searched, rushing  in that quick, quick, quick, pick it out way. Straightening when a stranger passed, "Excuse me."

Once he came up behind me in line.  "You know," he said, "I thought it would be a lot busier today, with the storm coming. I was really, really surprised to see so few people here, weren't you?"  I said something like, "I know, hard to predict."

I remember thinking, lonely.

After I went back to work, I didn't see him again.

Two weeks ago, I entered the supermarket parking lot behind a driver who couldn't select from four spaces that were all close to the entrance. Turn, stop, start. Turn, stop, start. While he crawled along, trying  to pick one, I crawled along behind him, blocked from the spaces he wasn't selecting.  

I remember thinking, decide.

A few moments later, I walked into the store behind this driver and his companion.  She used a cane and limped along while  he darted ahead, then fell back to keep pace, then rushed ahead, etc. He was everywhere, circling her like a mosquito, it was like being behind six people.  They reached the carriages, he placed her cane inside and she said, "No. I'll push." He agreed and they moved on. She moved carefully, while he bounced around like a pinball.

I could not get away from these people. I went left, they veered left. I went right, so did they. They stood in the middle of aisles, talking to each other across displays,  scrutinizing their selections . Stopping, starting, stopping, starting.  "No wait!" she'd say, "Look at this one, it's better."

In the Crackers aisle a man in a Duck Dynasty t-shirt stood halfway between us, looking at the Triscuits display. The man left his companion and approached him.
"Hey!" he said to the t-shirt man, as if he knew him.
The t-shirt man turned.
"I love your shirt!" said the other man. "Duck Dynasty! I love that show!" He turned to his companion, "Look at his shirt!"
"Oh my God," she said, "We love that show! We just bought the floor mats!"
The t-shirt man, glanced down at himself, "Yeah," he said, "Friend got this for me."
"We love that show!"  said the other man, again.
"We watch it all the time," said his companion.
"Yeah, it's a good show," said the t-shirt man. "Take it easy," he said, walking away. 

The man said to his companion, "I should get a shirt like that," and she said, "Or a mug. They have mugs, too," and now I recognized him. The man from the cereal aisle, five or six years later. 

He was  exactly the same,  darting this way and that, bringing his companion a product, saying, "What do you think?"

When I passed them in the aisle, I slowed enough to check. Sure enough, they wore matching wedding bands.  I wonder how long it took for them to find each other, but I like to think that she had choices, and picked him,  before he was late for something else.

People find each other, if they need to. 


  1. Life is funny sometimes, isn 't it? Glad the ending to the story is one that made me smile.

  2. I like the thought that for everyone there is a match out there. But I think love allows you to bend so that the matching doesn't have to be exact.. loved the post. virginia-FirstClassWoman.

  3. I don't even know why some people remain in my thoughts, but yes Sheryl, when I saw the rings, I thought, good for him.

  4. Great story--there's someone for everyone!

  5. Hmm. I have a client like that. Bad enough working with him a few hours several times a year; I would rather shoot myself in the head than live with him.

    Hopefully they are happy together, and in a way, it's kind of funny you hadn't seen him in 5-6 years. You would think, as often as we all frequent the grocery stores, that we would run into the same people more often.

  6. This is delightful. (Annoying to be caught behind the veering shoppers, but other than that...)

    Love this story!