Sometimes when I’m grocery shopping I get a sinking suspicion that I’m being secretly videotaped. This is because several years ago, I was secretly videotaped at the grocery store.
Nothing too creepy–get your mind out of the e-gutter–it was for a VH1 reality show called The Pickup Artist. They were filming at Sunflower Market in Tempe and requested every shopper sign a waiver giving permission to be filmed.
I was working for an elected official at the time, and this broke all kinds of rules, so I opted not to sign a waiver and instead was given a colored wristband to alert the crew I was off-limits footage. Clearly the system failed, as ingenious as it was, and I ended up front-and-center in several gratuitous cameos. My phone blew up with calls and texts from friends who’d seen the episode.
I learned three important things from this experience: 1) Don’t run errands after working out because if a television crew happens to film you, you’ll look terrible; 2) Many of my friends at the time had very poor taste in television programming; and 3) Weird things happen in grocery stores.
I remembered this story last night when a stranger approached me at Sprouts to ask my opinion on lettuce leaves.
Stranger: “Hi. Excuse me, can I ask you a question; have you ever had lettuce wraps?”
Me: “Yes, last night actually.”
Stranger: “Oh! Ok good. Well I’m making them with ground turkey, and the recipe said to use butter lettuce, but do you think I could use romaine?”
At this point I stopped to look around and make sure there were no hidden cameras capturing this bizarre exchange. I also made sure that no one was working in cahoots with this woman, poised to grab my purse as I became distractingly engaged in a conversation about appetizers.
Me: “Well, I think I’d use iceberg. Iceberg lettuce gets a bad wrap but I really enjoy it. It’s crisp.”
Stranger (completely missing my pun): “ICEBERG! I DIDN’T EVEN CONSIDER THAT! I can do that. I’ll use ICEBERG. Thanks so much, I just needed a woman’s opinion.”
I’m all for talking to strangers–I think it’s entertaining–but this was so peculiar. It was 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening and I feel that if I hadn’t happened upon this woman in distress, she could have lost her mind.
It’s interesting where we feel comfortable engaging with strangers and where it feels uncomfortable. Would this woman have asked the same question of a fellow shopper if we hadn’t been in Paradise Valley, or if I was dressed differently? What if it was 2 a.m. on a Wednesday?
It’s also remarkable to consider the decisions we struggle with versus those we make in an instant. An adult who presumably was able to drive herself to the store and plan a meal was entirely stumped by subtle variances among lettuce leaves.
People are funny. Grocery stores are funny. And lettuce wraps are delicious.