I have written many times about disastrous grocery store experiences with Mae. Recently, we
had one that was not at all terrible, it was funny and sweet and reminded me that almost nothing
looks the same to two sets of eyes.
Last week Mae and I headed to our local giant Safeway. It is the kind with endless aisles of
colorful boxes. Giant stuffed animals sit on top of the freezers in the frozen food section.
Everywhere you turn there is a something: batteries, bubblegum, pyramids of cereal, and to top
it all off, music pipes out of invisible speakers and there are pretend thunderstorms in the
produce aisle. I do not think that the pretend thunderstorm makes the produce more enticing
and question it as a marketing strategy.
Because the store is an intense sensory experience no matter who you are, when I am with Mae
and all of her sensory issues I try and get in and out as fast as possible. Which is why we found
ourselves essentially alone in the checkout line at 7:45 in the morning. The two women who
were checking us out were deep in conversation about how they had both worked at Safeway
company for years and were senior with the union. They were commiserating about training
new hires and how any day they expected to be bought out of their union contracts. They asked
me what I thought of service at Safeway on a typical day, so that eventually the three of us were
engaged in an evaluation of Safeway’s hiring practices.
After we ran out of things to say they tried to engage Mae in conversation about her furry pink
boots, Mae ignored them. They tried to catch her attention with a balloon. Mae ignored them.
Ordinarily, I would have hurriedly explained that she was Autistic and pre-verbal and shut the
whole thing down, but we were almost finished with the transaction and I just didn’t feel like it.
I don’t have a Safeway Rewards card. Instead I use my mother-in-law’s cell phone number to
access the various discounts. The number actually isn’t registered in her name either. For some
reason it appears on the receipt as “Miguel Hernandez”. When a checker is good at their job,
they will hand me the receipt and say “Thank you Mrs. Hernandez,” at which point I smile and
leave. On this particular day, as our giant receipt appeared and the checker looked down, you
could practically see the light bulb go off over her head. She looked at my beautiful Chinese
daughter and said “Hola! Como esta?” at which point I bit my lip so as not to laugh, took my
receipt and said, “Adios!” as I pushed toward the automatic doors.