In the Grocery Store

Debbie says:

So I’m in the grocery store (medium-sized, not overly corporate, chain store with a reputation for friendly and helpful staff), and one of the things in my cart is a flat of large water bottles, twelve bottles, each probably holding something like 24 ounces. I’m guessing the flat weighs somewhere around 20-25 pounds.

The friendly young clerk says, “Do you want help to your car with the water?”

“No, thanks.”

So far, so good.

And then she says, “Are you sure?”

I just said, “Yes,” and finished dealing with my change and left the store. I didn’t realize until later that I was angry.

The same thing happened to me last Thanksgiving when I bought a large turkey at the local independent butcher. The guy who helped me there also didn’t seem to believe me when I told him I could carry it to the car.

It’s simply not respectful to check again with someone who says they don’t need help. This is common currency in the disabled community; it should also be common currency in the able-bodied community. (Though I do think that a piece of this is that my gray hairs somehow have started taking me out of the able-bodied community, at least as I’m perceived by strangers. This is, among other things, funny, because I am one of the more able-bodied people in my social circle.)

Next time this happens, I am going to say something; ideally something polite and respectful encouraging them to trust my own judgment (and by extension all of their customers’ own judgment) of abilities and limitations.

4 thoughts on “In the Grocery Store

  1. If you figure out what to say let me know cause it drives me nuts too. And I don’t even have grey hair. I *have* been known to ask if they’d like to come home with me and carry it up the steps…


  2. This is a double-edged sword, because I’ve seen people who need help refuse it. I thought it might be about keeping control rather than giving it over to the person helping. Then I watched a friend my age who routinely accepts help from the strapping young grocery clerks to load groceries into her car, and I saw that she watches them like a hawk, and rightly so. They could load the car in such a way that it would be much harder for her to unload it once she got home and had to cope with large pet food bags and stairs. She was very cordial. But it was socially difficult to keep control of her stuff, while turning over the actual physical loading to another person. This friend has no qualms about being seen as a bossy old lady, but not everyone is good in that role. One last thing about help offered in mobility situations. A much older, plus-sized friend with health problems, who was always getting offers of help out of cars, pointed out to me that if people don’t know what they’re doing when they “help”, they could haul her up like a sack of potatoes and actually injure her.

  3. Something about this got to me, but I’m not sure what or why. I don’t think I mind being asked if I need help, even repeatedly. There have been times when I’ve initially said no, only to realize I’d overestimated my ability. I’ve actually been grateful to hear the question asked once again.

    I, also, don’t usually mind being “talked down to” when I’m being trained. I usually tell my trainer to go ahead and treat me like a dummy. That’s because I want to “get” it, and I’d prefer to be underestimated than overestimated. It’s hard for most of us to strike just the right chord.

    I understand what you said about it being a common currency of respect not to recheck with offered help in the disabled community. I wonder if that’s more true in the Bay Area than other places. Maybe; maybe not. I really don’t know.

    I think that some of what bothers me is the impression that you feel sort of deeply “insulted,” and I’m not quite sure about what. That they don’t accept your assessment of your need, or that you are perceived as someone with need in the first place? My most common response is, “Well, okay, but my car is parked at home which is about X# of blocks away. Are you sure you want to do this?” If I really do have a ride waiting I usually let someone else do the carrying unless I have a reason to want to do it myself, or to really not want them to do it.

    This could just be my own stuff, too. I can’t tell you how tired and irritated I’ve gotten hearing over and over how healthy all of us fat people are. Well, I’m not. I am fat, and I’m getting old, and I’m still not Jack Lalane. I know what the sentiment is about, but ultimately I want the right to be an ugly, stupid, unhealthy, old bitch in need of help, even if I am fat. In a way, it’s even more important than the right to be seen as a beautiful, intelligent, and healthy sweet young thing who can definitely take care of herself.

    And will the world ever really know who I am? Most of the time, I don’t care, or I just as soon they not know the “real” me. So, I’d back you in a desire to manipulate your own image.

  4. Betty,

    I think this just falls into “different strokes.” I completely hear you that you want to be asked repeatedly and you’re willing to be talked down to. And I absolutely don’t want to foster the myth that all fat people are healthy any more than I want to foster the myth that all fat people are unhealthy.

    I am lucky enough to be healthy, and I really enjoy it. I guess what I don’t like is the assumptions. At the same time, it’s certainly impossible to deal with each other without assumptions, so I guess the best we can do is try to respect each other’s preferences about them.

    Thanks! I really appreciate your point of view, and your voice.

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