Have you ever seen the Milky Way?

Have you ever seen the Milky Way?

It sounds like a cheesy pick up line, right? Or a joke. Either way I was caught off guard when someone asked me that yesterday in the check out line of my local grocery store.

I don’t go shopping much. It’s too much of a hassle. It’s to time-consuming. It’s mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. But I have to eat.

So there I was with R.J. standing in the checkout line waiting for the person ahead of us to be finished so we could leave. To be fair the man was doing everything in his power to leave quickly, but the cashier had just one more story to tell him.

That should have been the first warning. Well, maybe the first warning should have been her flair. Have you ever seen Office Space? If not, I recommend you do so immediately.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie flair is all the buttons and pins Jennifer Aniston’s character had to wear for her serving job at some TGIFs look-alike. The cashier yesterday had at least 25 pins on her smock. Yep, she had a smock on which no other employee there was wearing.

I had on my Planet Express t-shirt. From Futurama. You should also check that out if you’re into animated series.

Anyway, I’m standing in line, minding my own business checking out the latest celebrity train wrecks when the cashier starts reading my shirt. Out loud. Instead of doing her job and helping the man in front of us with his bags.

I look at her, kind of waiting to hear the punchline when she wiggles her eyebrows at me. I look at R.J. and then back at her and she does it again. Up til that point in my life I have only had dirty, old men do that to me so I’m a little taken aback.

This obese – she had to sit on a stool behind the cash register – middle-aged grandmother – this tidbit we gleaned from the stories she was telling the poor guy in front of us – was seemingly hitting on me. Maybe she wasn’t. Maybe she was just super extroverted and enjoyed making complete strangers uncomfortable.

Either way all I wanted to do was get out of there. I thought we were in the clear when there was a few seconds of silence, but I think she was just racking her brain for something else to say. Because out of the blue came the question.

Have you ever seen the Milky Way?

I honestly didn’t know what to say. Of course I have. It’s one of the screen savers that came with my laptop. Anyone can Google it and see it any time. But somehow I didn’t think that’s what she meant. So I awkwardly opened and closed my mouth and waited for her to continue.

Which she did, with gusto. She told us the only place, the best place to see the Milky Way was in Hawaii. That’s where she saw it. It was so beautiful and colorful. She said you can’t imagine how colorful it was. And I’m thinking, ‘sure I can. I see it every time I turn on my computer.’

But I kept my mouth shut because that’s not what she meant. I just stood there, making incoherent sounds to acknowledge that she was still speaking, all the time wishing she would speed up even just a little. I didn’t bother looking at R.J. I knew he was in the same boat I was in.

She finally, finally finished with our groceries and seemed to be winding down. Like she finally understood that maybe we didn’t want to hear how awesome her life was because she got to see the Milky Way in Hawaii while we were stuck in our miserable lives at home. But, no, she was only taking a breather.

We’re about to walk away when she launches into a whole other story about how no one is ever supposed to take lava rocks from Hawaii or they’ll be cursed by some god. Someone took her to a Post Office and the employee showed her a bucket full of lava rocks that had been sent back by supposedly cursed people.

I wonder if it makes a difference if they actually purchased them…

At that point it was either find a folding chair and sit with her for the rest of her shift or walk away awkwardly. We’re used to awkward so we walked away. I don’t know what stories she told the next person, but hopefully they didn’t have a full cart…

I guess this is meant to be a cautionary tale. The next time you want to ask someone a random question just to set up a story you want to tell take a moment – just a second really – to put yourself in that other person’s shoes. And realize that you may not like the answer you get.

So tell me, have you ever seen the Milky Way…


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