The Red Badge of Courage: Fibrotown edition

Posted on October 3, 2010

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you’d be under the impression that I spend a fair amount of my time at the supermarket. I’ve been lost in there. I’ve witnessed lost love. Today, I left inspired.

I know. From the supermarket. There’s more to Fibrotown than meets the eye.

It all occurred at the checkout. Again. (Really, you’ve got to spend more time there.)

My checkout chick and I were making small talk. Laughing at the holiday-makers who’d just spent $978 for a weekend’s worth of food.

“$978!” I shrieked. “Were there 20 of them?” She laughed. No, just the four.

“They made me feel kind of bad about myself, actually,” she confessed, eyes down, scanning away. Blip, blip, blip.

I looked at her. Fresh-faced. About 18. We’ve spoken before. She’s always bright, friendly and perky. And always, it seems, there.

“How so?” I asked.

“Oh, just in that talking down way that people have with us sometimes,” she replied, waving one arm around to indicate her fellow workers. Blip. Blip.

I channelled Eleanor Roosevelt. “No-one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you let them,” I said. She smiled and looked at me like I needed to get out more.

Our conversation moved on to how those crazy holidaymakers should have shopped with a list. “Do you always do that?” she asked.

I responded in the affirmative, outlining all the reasons why a list is a good thing (I don’t write finance stories for no reason, you know).

“I try to do that,” she said, setting me up for EFTPOS. “I cook a lot of my meals all at once and then freeze them. It’s hard to fit them in with studying for my HSC and working here, otherwise.”

I looked at her. She froze them? She must have seen the questions in my face. “I live by myself,” she said, still smiling. “I go to school, work here and then go home and study for my HSC. I’ve always wanted to be a police officer.”

Suddenly I remembered a previous conversation we’d had. Six months ago, she’d taken her pre-HSC police exam. I remembered her telling me, incredibly enthusiastically, how it would save time when she got her exam results. She’d be able to go straight off to the Academy. At the time, I admit, I listened with one ear, smiling and nodding, as she relayed just a little too much information. (Now I realise that maybe she told me because she didn’t have anyone else to tell.)

She’s all of 18. She’s doing it on her own. She’s still smiling.

Next time I see her, I’ll ask her how those exams are going.

{image: TheExtentOfSilence/Etsy}


  1. Mira Narnie

    just catching up on some posts i missed!!

    ** beautiful story – thanks for sharing ***

  2. River

    She’s only 18 and she does all that? Wow!
    I’m a checkout operator too for almost 8 years now and I love some of the conversations I have with my customers. although I sometimes have my mind on other things and listen with only one ear, just like they sometimes do, I’m sure.

  3. MultipleMum

    That supermarket is such fodder for blog posts huh? What a little sweetie?

    I used to hate it when people assume stuff. I did my fair share of blip, blip when I was at uni. Just because you are a check-out chick, doesn’t mean you don’t have a life 🙂

  4. Justine@msdilemma.com

    WOW what a fantastic post and such a strong message.
    My husband taught me one of my greatest life lessons.
    You never really know someone until you have walked in their shoes.
    Whenever I see someone I always check their shoes – not because I took him literally LOL but to remind me to really listen and treat everyone equal.
    I spose I’ll keep him.
    *from the neat freak fridge lady lol* xox

  5. Lucy

    I love your supermarket, and what you discover there.

    What an amazing girl.I suspect she will go far.

    Thank you.

  6. Bronnie and family

    Oh bless her – and you. I learned in NZ that it was okay to chat to check-out chicks and men. I don’t know why I never really did it before. I guess I was always in a hurry.
    It was just in NZ the check out operators were really friendly and talky. They would look at the products I was buying and comment on them and even the headlines on the newspaper/magazine. I thought it was weird at first.
    But then I began to loosen up and talk back.
    Gradually, we began to share things. They got to know my kids’ name and feed them cheerios for free.
    They always had a smile on their faces, or something nice to say. Or tell me when there was a promotion in-store that I’d be interested in.
    Now I’m back in Oz, and I’m quite chatty when I shop. A few people look at me weirdly but most respond very enthusiastically. It’s amazing how just having a conversation with someone, a friendly word, a smile, can make a lot of peoples’ days better. Thanks for reminding me.

  7. livinglifeasme

    I love that you take the time to talk to people. You are so right when you say she talks to you because she may not have anyone else to talk to. It is so important to interact with those in our community serving us. Will look forward to hearing how she’s going. Y

  8. Sarah Eccleston

    Hi Alison, I don’t know how I stumbled upon your blog, but I love your style of writing and will definately be back… Sarah

  9. Victoria

    Smart dedicated young lady. She sounds great. I bet should would really appreciate you saying hello and chatting to her next time. So curious as to why she is doing this all by herself too.

  10. Katie

    Good for her! Makes me NOT want to take 2 naps a day.

  11. Seraphim

    Tell her if she needs any help with her essays I’m available 😉

  12. Posie Patchwork

    Oh doesn’t it make you irate when people are rude to service staff, i just wonder what they’re children will be like. Gosh, what a stellar girl. I’d have to resist bringing her home with me, cooking for her, sneaking her a movie voucher or something, to make her life a little easier. Amazing to think she’s working so hard to continue in another line of service. If only she worked on bonus for $978 shopping spree idiots – what were they buying, a BBQ, an esky, a fridge, alcohol for NYE & everything to go in them?? Makes our measly budget of $150 a week for a family of 6 look sad, love Posie
    PS my word verification was ‘looded’ but i think ‘stupid’ for people spending that much on groceries for 4, clearly they don’t buy generic!!

  13. suburp

    “She smiled and looked at me like I needed to get out more.”
    that’s a great observation. it’s so easy to have wise words when something happens to someone else.
    very touching story, and i agree with you that in mundane surroundings we can make the most astounding discoveries and meet extra-ordinary people… ( i have never found out what a fibro really is tho.. )

  14. Julie-Ann

    That is a fantastic story to hear. I know so many young people who need a good kick up the butt and are just so lazy. What an incredible young woman. I hope she achieves all her dreams:)

  15. Dovic

    I love fibro town. Love it and love the life you put in to the many difference layers of beautiful people in it xx

  16. anjwritesabout.com

    What a different story to that of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, huh? I love it when a younger woman can inspire me so…

  17. Kath

    Just goes to show that we shouldn’t make assumptions about anybody else or what they’re like, as the Weekenders did with your check-out chick. Good for her going it alone and quietly getting on with realising her dream!

  18. Toni

    WOW! she restores my faith in the Younger Generation.

    Some people have so much and do nothing with it, while others achieve great things in their own lives, the hard way.

    No wonder you spend so much time in your local supermarket!

  19. reality ravings

    Off topic – did the $978 grocery bill include booze for their weekend away?

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