Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt awkward.
Dang, I can’t tell if I’m the only one to raise my hand or if you all are feeling too awkward to raise your hands about feeling awkward. Man, that sentence was awkward to write. An now I’m sitting here in front of the glowing screen of my laptop, my hand pathetically raised, without a soul in sight. I guess that didn’t pan out as expected.
Well, my recent contest with awkwardness came while I was at Costco. Which is weird because I try to find a reason, any reason, to go to Costco. Maybe you’re a Sam’s Club fan, or an advocate of some other regional wholesaler, but you get what I’m saying. I don’t know if it’s the feeling of saving a few pennies on some industrial-sized item that will last for years in my house or if it’s the simple novelty of slaloming around the store, gawking at things that I want to buy while figuring out if the vehicle I brought is large enough to bring it all back home.
Anyway, I felt no awkwardness initially as I began to roam up and down the cavernous aisles. Feeling a bit like Gulliver in the land of Brobdingnag, I hefted massive things into my over-sized shopping cart. Of course, in the midst of my shopping and rubber-necking, I had to periodically stop on a dime in order to not make road pizza out of unsupervised small children as they darted carelessly in front of my Big Rig of a cart.
All was going well, but I knew awkwardness would be rearing its ugly head. I could feel it, deep down, slowly bubbling up to the surface. It would only be a matter of time.
Finishing the trip through the retail side of the store, I moved into the grocery area. And that was where it began.
I felt awkward picking up the monstrous containers of mustard which would probably last me until the end of days. Although, I may not be part of the raptured crowd, so whatever unused mustard remains when that happens might come in handy as a food source or even as a bartering chip during my post-apocalyptic endeavors.
I felt awkward buying the giant bag of M&M’s, which I knew would be shamefully devoured by the end of the workday on Friday.
And I felt awkward buying 439 sticks of butter. Ok, really it was only 11 boxes, but it could have just as easily been 439. After all, these are the 1.5lb (680g) boxes of Kerrygold butter…not just some single sticks. I sensed the leer of the nearby sample lady lasering through the back of my head. This woman who, without a customer to try her delicious sausage and cracker combo, was secretly judging all of my life choices.
Hey, I make good pancakes and some killer waffles lady. If you tried ’em, you wouldn’t be so hoity-toity. Besides, they’re made with love.
Completing my shopping, I headed to the front of the store. As I approached the long checkout lines, I surveyed my haul. This heaping pile of consumerism. And it’s at that moment when my awkwardness intensified.
It didn’t help that the guy behind me only had one item. One.Damn.Item. Granted, that one item was a cask of some kind of protein powder that, if poured out, someone could conceivably go skiing down; but it was one item nonetheless, and that did nothing to subdue my feeling of awkwardness.
I glanced around, trying to focus on something else. Instinctively, I started to investigate other people’s carts.
The guy directly in front of me had eight single gallon jugs of apple juice. Good heavens. Did the school cafeteria just run out of juice?
The woman next to me was buying three tubs of pretzels, which would arguably be enough to supply a pub for the next couple of years.
The man on the other side of me easily had 144 eggs in his cart. Being about a month and a half away from Easter, maybe they were for egg coloring. They could’ve also just been for some epic omelette action.
As the line slowly and silently lurched forward, the apple juice guy had moved on and was starting to make his way to the exit. I was up next, and after my examination of other carts, I started to feel marginally more comfortable. But then I wondered if I had only made myself feel better as a result of judging others.
I think that must’ve been the case because karma gave me a quick slap to the face.
Sure enough, as the checkout guy began scanning my items, he paused. I saw his mind processing the sheer amount of butter before him. Nothing must’ve come to mind, because he turned his head back to me and simply said, “Wow. That’s a lot of butter.”
He didn’t say one thing to the guy previously in front of me that purchased an entire apple orchard in liquid form. And I heard no comments from other cashiers about pretzel lady or egg guy.
Trying to think of some witty joke or comeback, my mind went blank, completely clouded by the fog of embarrassment. I swallowed hard, and “yep” was the only thing to make it past my lips.
I stood in awkward silence while my items were scanned, focusing so hard on my debit card that you would think I was reading a book about quantum physics.
The cashier snapped me out of my trance as the total was announced. My head lifted as I raised my card to pay. But as my eyes surfaced as well, a question popped up which helped ground my stratospheric awkwardness. What does it matter?
Everyone at the megastore was in the same boat as me. We’re all buying prodigious amounts of goods. In fact, the entire store’s existence is predicated on selling these very items to consumers. What does it really matter if this checkout guy was confounded by my butter purchase? What does it matter if other shoppers judge my grocery choices? Do I know for sure they even were? Did it matter to apple juice guy that I questioned the need for all of the gallons he bought?
The answer to all of those questions was: It doesn’t matter. Who really cares?
Why worry about what other people think of you or your choices? Everyone likes what they like, and everyone is going to do what they like to do. Whatever Ms. X or Mr. Y think about the choices I make has little impact in my actual life. Why concern myself with what they may (or may not) be thinking? Why waste the mental energy on such a thing?
The mind is a wonderful thing, except when it works against you; at which point you need to give yourself a reality check and put that jerk in its place.
And so, having said that, I’m going to enjoy a pink, sparkly, heart-shaped cookie.
“We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” – Ethel Barrett