Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Is Good? What Is Evil?

“So, what’ve you been up to?”

This question was posed to us Sunday afternoon by the cashier at Trader Joe’s, as we waited for our credit card to be approved.

“Oh, not much,” Andrew said. “Relaxing.”

“Just a relaxing weekend,” I said.

“So what’d you do?” the cashier persisted.

After exchanging panicked glances (okay, only my own agoraphobic glance was panicked), Andrew said, “Well, we went to Ikea. Bought a lamp.”

Unbelievably, this was not the end of the exchange. “I’ve never been to Ikea,” the cashier said. “I should go.”

“You really should,” Andrew said. By this point our receipt had long since printed, yet Andrew found himself becoming tangled in a rather lengthy explanation of Ikea’s layout, prices, and weekend crowds. “You should go,” he concluded.

“I really should,” said the cashier.

Outside at last, Andrew and I remarked on the utter awkwardness of the exchange. This isn’t the first time this has happened—it’s happened to us before at Trader Joe’s, and at the co-op as well; perhaps it’s a California thing to pose such oddly specific questions: “What’ve you done this weekend?” “What’d you do today?” It only takes one overzealous cashier to push things further: “What are you thinking?” “Are you happy?” “How have you come to this point?” “Why, really, are we here at all?”

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