This man has worked in the store the entire six years I've shopped there, and we always exchange hellos and make small talk. He is, as Mike and I have noted numerous times, undoubtedly among the two nicest staff members in the entire supermarket. Those of you who have worked retail know just how amazing his kind of constant pleasantness with the public is. I have never been there with children, but for whatever reason, this employee greeted me last week with a cheerful "How are your little ones?" and because I knew ("knew") that he would realize his mistake the second I walked away from him and I didn't want him to feel embarrassed, I simply said, "Oh! Fine. Thank you!" and wished him a good day and kind of scampered off. Strike One. It threw me off, and I clearly wasn't graceful in my quick getaway, but I thought nothing more of it.
Until the next time it happened, when he said my "little ones" sure must keep me busy and then asked me if they were in school yet. You would think that that would have been the moment I'd have corrected him and that we'd have had a good laugh about it and that would be the end of this, but it was not. Apparently, the words "little ones" set off the Shy Person Panic Alarm in my head, for I felt like I was rooted to that spot of the store aisle and my mind came up with nothing except "Uhh, no." And I raced toward the checkout lines, leaving this man looking puzzled by my uncharacteristically curt response. I have been trying to tell myself that surely ("surely"), I must have at least called a more-gracious "Thank you!" or "Have a nice day!" over my shoulder as I ran away, but I don't think I did. Strike Two.
And now, more than a week later, because I know the jig is up and I need to correct him--which we all know will now be more mortifying for me than my having corrected his error in the first place would have ever been for him--I have been avoiding this man altogether, unable as of yet to steel myself for what can't help but be a sink-through-the-grocery-store-floor-in-embarrassment moment. Gah! The only even somewhat intelligent explanation I have been able to think to offer this person--and it is flimsy at very best--is that I work with children and thought he meant that "my little ones" at work must keep me busy, but. . . flimsy, like I said. It is all I have come up with, though--Mike is enjoying my predicament too much to be of any help--so one of these days, I need to bite the bullet, seek out the employee (so he doesn't catch me off-guard and throw me further off my game with an inquiry about my kids' names or birthdays or something), and explain (with a fair amount of charming laughter at my own expense, if I can muster it) our "misunderstanding." I try to tell myself that nice people are nice people and that they're not going to stop being nice just because I have something embarrassing to tell them, and I know the entire encounter, when I do ultimately brace myself to have it, will only take a few seconds, but I am just not ready to deal with this yet, and day after day, I have not been ready. And that, dear readers, is why I have been doing my food-shopping between 6-7 a.m. this week. I am actually typing this right after returning from my latest quick-get-to-the-store-before-this-man-starts-his-shift-at-work grocery store jaunt. How do I get myself into these stupid situations?!