So many interesting incidents take place at my local Hannaford supermarket. I’ve mentioned before that I may write a book someday entitled “It Happened at Hannaford.” It will be both tragic and comedic.

Here’s one of the more dispiriting stories, but at least I didn’t leave the stage littered with corpses, à la Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.”

I had completed my shopping, so I steered my cart into a checkout lane. The associates — cashier and bagger — were finishing up with one customer, and a second was awaiting their services ahead of me. I put my reusable bag and a large bottle of olive oil on the conveyor belt. Then I reached for a bottle of ginger ale, and realized it was diet.

Now, I never buy diet anything, but I especially did not want diet ginger ale. I buy it for medicinal purposes, and artificial sweeteners would just contribute to my tummy troubles.

I gauged the items remaining to be scanned and decided I had enough time to run back and exchange the ginger ale. I jogged over two aisles, grabbed the right bottle, and jogged back to the central aisle that runs between the food aisles and the checkouts. There I stopped. My carriage had been pushed into this central aisle. It stood there like a lost bison calf on the prairie.

Then I noticed a man, 60-something and wearing a cowboy hat, putting his items on the conveyor belt in the aisle I’d been in. I wheeled in my cart, and the associates looked at me with a mixture of embarrassment and fear. Was I going to pitch a fit?


Well, I wanted to when I saw that the Hat Man had taken my bag and my olive oil and placed them on the metal rim of the conveyor belt, to keep them from being carried forward.

He touched my stuff!

I put my items into my carriage. I had a temper when I was young, so I can say with authority that I rarely get infuriated anymore. However, this was an exception. I really wanted to kick this guy in the derrière.

Instead, I moved into the next aisle to avoid all temptation.

I must admit, it took me about an hour to calm down. This wasn’t about being usurped in line. I was on vacation, and wasn’t in a hurry. It just seemed to be one more example of the growing rudeness and self-absorption of so many Americans. When my husband, Paul, and I moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 1986, we were pleasantly surprised that grocery store clerks greeted us pleasantly and maybe even made small talk. That didn’t happen back home.

Now somebody pushes ahead of me in line and shoves my cart into the hinterland?


The cart without a shopper in a checkout line is an obvious social symbol. I have come upon it many times myself. I wait patiently. What’s the big deal? Somebody’s forgotten something. Give them a break.

I could have asked the bagger to trade the ginger ale for me, but that would have taken even longer. I leave my cart unattended only if the item I need is nearby. As an example, I forgot milk the other day. I graciously ceded my place to the gentleman behind me and trolled to the back of the store to fetch a half-gallon.

Hat Man is far from the only transgressor of social niceties in the supermarket. I was in one of the quick checkouts one day and had to endure a screaming man. He was using the service desk phone and screeching at, I believe, someone at the lottery commission. I believe he felt cheated.

Then there was the woman who was vigorously pushing a laden cart, her toddler daughter in the child seat. Her partner, who wore a hangdog look, was trying to keep up with her. “I don’t want this to turn into an (expletive) expedition,” she bellowed.

I couldn’t hear his reply, but she shot back. “I don’t care,” adding with another expletive that it was taking too long.

This was two days before Easter, so I assume they were preparing for that most blessed of Christian holidays. Or something like that.

As an educator, I couldn’t help but reflect that, in a year or two, when her daughter enters kindergarten, the child may have a problem with her vocabulary. If her mother talks like that in the supermarket, why can’t she do the same at school?

As I said — it’s tragic.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at

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