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Written by: Robert Miller
Published on: Wednesday, May 1, 2024 @ 09:57:48 am

“Reggy,” announced an exasperated assistant store manager, “please finish bagging the groceries. I’m sure the customer will be glad to hear about your mother’s recent illness once you’ve finished.” She gave Reggy a tight smile that looked more like constipation than a smile but it was all she could manage, this being the fourth customer this morning that had to listen to the tale of the sniffly mother.
“Oh, yes, OK,” replied Reginald, nodding his head vigorously. “I think I had covered everything already.” Reginald hated being called Reggy but since no one other than his mother ever called him anything but Reggy, he reluctantly accepted it.
Reginald for the most part enjoyed the job, but it was sure much more complicated than school where everything was so much better organized. Here he was expected to be friendly with the customers but at the same time bag their groceries and sometimes carry them out. It was the combination that caused all his consternation. Talking took so much concentration that he couldn’t keep putting all these different shapes into the bags. Putting a huge assortment of things in the right bags was really difficult as well, especially with the rules:
“Milk cannot sit on top of eggs.”
“Nothing can sit on top of bread.”
“Six things in a bag unless they’re small.” How small was measured was its own set of complications.
There were rules about double-bagging certain things like bottles, but not all bottles. The same for milk cartons even though they were paper, but nothing else made of paper needed double-bagging.
In the three months that Reginald had worked in the store, he had learned most of the rules, though the cashiers always seemed to find new things to tell him, or make corrections to rules that he had already learned, or told him to be quiet because he was talking too much and the customers were in a hurry and why didn’t he remember not to put the bread on the bottom and here let me help you with that. Reginald seemed to switch stations with another bagger quite a bit for reasons he couldn’t quite place. Then it was time to go collect the carts from the parking lot while there weren’t many customers.
Every day was its own set of challenges, and today was more hectic and rude than normal. Monday was a holiday and there were a lot of moms buying groceries early today. Reginald finished the current bagging and was told it was time for his break. As he was heading to the back, already thinking of the fruit and granola bar his mother always packed for his morning break, he heard a high pitched scream from the aisle to the left. It sounded like a little girl screaming and Reginald broke out into a run down the rest of the aisle and made a U-turn around the end cap tortillas shelving. Rushing down the aisle, he saw an overturned cart, several groceries spread out to the side and a girl with her leg under the cart. Reginald had never been very good guessing ages but he could tell she was older than a toddler but not much older than that. Her screaming was matched by her mother yelling “help!” as she was trying to move the cart. The cart wasn’t budging and the screams intensified each time the cart was moved.
Reginald may not have struggled a bit with rules but he was an expert on grocery cart behavior. Rather rudely, he grabbed the mother’s arms and pushed them away. He then got right down on the ground with his face facing the screaming child.
The girl stopped screaming and just stared at this strange man laying on the floor with her, pain forgotten by surprise.
“It’s going to be fine,” Reginald said softly. “You just got your foot stuck, that’s all. I get my foot stuck, too.” He came to a sitting position, still facing her, and stuck his foot near her face. Wiggling his foot back and forth a few times, he continued, “your foot will be like mine as soon as I get this fixed.” He gave her a a big smile, then stood up, leaning a bit over the cart.
By this time, the assistant manager, several cashiers, and several shoppers were gathered around the cart. The girl started crying and screaming, but the screaming was more subdued than before.
Reginald pushed several large items out of the cart and onto the floor. He started to lift the cart but the girl’s scream stopped him and he slowly let the cart down again. He took a quick step to the side to where the girl’s foot seemed intertwined with the wheel.
“Ah,” said Reginald to no one in particular. “The wheel is eating her shoe. I sure wish they’d make these cart wheels less hungry.”
He got down on his knees and tried to move the wheel but it was plainly stuck. “Don’t hurt her!” yelled the girl’s mother. “Maybe her foot is broken!”
“Nah,” replied Reginald. “These wheels like shoes, not feet.” He noticed the shoe used a couple of velcro straps just like his shoes. He quickly pulled the bands loose, then stretched out the top of the shoe. Feeling a bit of freedom for her foot, the girl started pulling her foot while Reginald pushed on the shoe. As soon as her foot was free of the shoe, Reginald jumped up, grabbed the cart and lifted it back up.
Carol, one of the cashiers, looked startled and said to the customer standing next to her, “I had no idea Reggy was so strong.”
With the cart out of the way, the girl’s mother reached out quickly to her daughter’s leg, asking, “does this hurt?” The girl hugged her mom and said, “just a little, not like before.”
Reginald smiled down at the girl, then turned to the cart. “You don’t get to eat any more shoes today!” As he bent down to loosen the shoe from the wheel, the assistant manager nudged him aside. “It’s alright, Reginald. I’ll take care of this. Thank you for everything you’ve done.”
Reginald turned to go to the break room but was interrupted on his way by Carol, who gave him a hug. “When you get done with break, Reginald, please come work at my station.” As Reginald continued on his way, hearing a loud “thank you!” from the girl’s mom, he realized no one had ever asked him to work their station before. Maybe this grocery thing could be better than school after all.

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