Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Stuck in Time in the Piggly Wiggly
In our small town we have 2 Piggly Wiggly grocery stores (made famous in the movie "Driving Miss Daisy"). And yes, there are really grocery stores in business with that name. There is something to be said about small hometown grocery stores with cracked linoleum tile floors and friendly people working in them. If you have more than one bag, I can assure you that they are going to be carried by a nice young man who will discuss the weather as he walks you to your car. There he will carefully place them in your trunk or backseat. It is not up for discussion - more than one bag - someone is going to help you to your car. I have learned how to politely tell them "Thank you, but I'm Ok and I think you have your hands full with other customers", knowing my days as the "other" customer are coming soon.
In a quaint old fashioned way, only young teenage girls are cashiers at the check out counters and the teenage boys are the baggers and stockers. With one exception - in the store downtown, as long as I can remember, there is one older lady, Miss Eleanor (now in her 70s) working as a cashier. She works along side the teenage girls. Except, the young girls come and go, year after year - off to college, to get married, and some just leave town. But she remains, just like the institution.
The camaraderie among the workers is great. The guys pick on the girls, the girls flirt with the boys. You can over hear discussions about upcoming parties or ballgames. And Miss Eleanor is part of it all. While the teenagers wear jeans and t-shirts that say "I'm Big on the Pig", she wears neat navy pants and a navy smock with "Piggly Wiggly" embroidered on it with her sensible navy shoes. Her gray hair is perfectly done every time I see her.
One afternoon I was standing in her line behind a nice looking older gentleman who was buying some cigarettes and a loaf of bread. They chatted. He seemed very animated. She was very reserved but polite. When it was my turn, I smiled and asked her how her day was going. "Well, I was Ok until that gentleman came in." "Oh," I said. "He had the nerve to ask me to go to dinner with him?" "That was nice." "You don't understand, first they ask you to dinner, then the next thing you know they want to come visit you in your home. I'm not a spring chicken, I know what men have on their minds." There wasn't much I could say in response to that.
As I walked out of the store, watching the young men carrying bags for the other women, in a way, I felt like I was walking out of the 1950's. Miss Eleanor was stuck in time - like everything else is moving along and she has managed to stay safely in her 1950's world thanks to the time capsule of Piggly Wiggly. We just come and go, in and out, and she watches the world from her counter, happy for the rest of us but having no desire to move on.