You take your chances at the Safeway checkout in Thunder Bay. Today, I got Donna Mae and a whole lotta conversation.
“So,” she said, swiping through my six litres of yogurt, “I was reading this book last night? On the menopause? And how you have to eat for it?”
“Uh huh.” I smile and nod.
“It’s like you can’t eat anything!” she continues. “I’m reading this and thinking, ‘What can you eat? Nothing!’ You want your milk in a bag?”
“Oh, no thanks,” I say.
“And calcium. Calcium is very important. I mean, I drink a big glass of milk every day, but some of the food you eat has cheese in it and that, too.”
Nod and smile.
“You’re supposed to take a multivitamin every day,” she tells me. “ But I don’t do that. I just figure you should get your vitamins from what you eat, right? If you eat good?”
“Uh huh.” Nod and smile. Four years after moving to this town, I am no longer surprised by the friendliness of the cashiers, their propensity to comment on the food you buy. “Leeks?” the woman behind the checkout counter will say to me. “What do you use them in, anyway? I’ve never tried them.” Or, “That’s a lot of apples! You making pie?” One time, a cashier told the woman in front of me, who was reading People in line, “Excuse me, Miss, this isn’t a library.” I looked up, horrified and slightly thrilled, at this unprecedented display of unfriendliness, and both women burst into laughter. Turns out they were friends.
“And nuts!” says Donna Mae, shoving a case of soda water back underneath my cart. “You’re supposed to eat a lot of nuts. But” — and here she pauses to take my credit card — “how much is a lot of nuts? A handful? And nuts have a lot of fat in them. So, I don’t know. You know?”
I love a lot of things about living here. And there are a lot of things I don’t miss (amidst the lot of things I really miss) about Toronto. But I’m still not quite resigned to the Thunder Bay supermarket checkout confessional. I just want to buy my yogurt and my milk and my leeks and my apples and get the hell out of there with a little Toronto surliness to let me know I’m still alive. Is that so wrong?