Do I Feel Lucky?

"Lucky Supermarket." I don't know how to act in this store.

Shopping here reminds me of midnight runs to an old, unrenovated Safeway that lurked on a hill above my college: aisles empty of all but a few desperate programmers, serial killers.

Yet, in this slightly grim location, the Lucky store personnel are unflaggingly cheery. Like they might just, with a little extra banter about debit cards, tip you out of that suicidal depression or budding psychotic rage. It's especially out of place in Silicon Valley. No one has time for that.

Late one night, I was slumping in the grocery line trying to flog enough neurons to understand what I was looking at: a tiered display of gum in neon colors and horrendous flavors. I don't chew gum much. Like a war-weary visitor to a mystical retreat, I was trying to comprehend this world where someone would buy sage and acai flavor gum. Maybe the guy on the shopping scooter with the sparkly bracelet? Or the pained marathoner who looked to be in just a little too much of a hurry, late at night in a deserted store?

At that moment, The Friendliest Employee On Earth asked how I was, and after a pause and my unconvincing reply, she asked if I would like to move to the next checkout stand, since the person in front of me was taking too long to graciously extricate herself from the cashier's monologue on Lucky membership cards.

Another pause as I tore my eyes from the glowing gum wrappers and considered moving 3 cartons of milk to the neighboring conveyor belt and reconvening on the next garish gum display. I was pretty tired--a mom of two punishingly active kids, working as a kid therapist--and my mouth was a little out of synch with my brain that night.

"Thanks, I'm just going to zone out here and wait--take a little break," I told her, not realizing how bad that sounded until she answered, "I know how it is. You need a break when you can get it. Well, enjoy your break," she chirped, not unkindly.

Enjoy your break.

I laughed aloud, but... Jesus. Hold on to that pity. I'm not quite ready for it.