On Friday, I served My Chemical Romance.
Okay, it wasn’t the My Chemical Romance, but it may as well have been.
The motley crew were a trio of kids, representing almost the full spectrum of troubled youth. They looked dysfunctional, but were defiant, clearly asserting that they had as much right to be shopping as anyone else did.
The one who stood out the most was a girl with dyed black hair and, on quick count, with eight piercings in her head, mostly confined to her face. A second girl was a faded blonde whose arms were covered with scars and large white bandages. Accompanying the two was a boy in an oversized hooded jumper. While his female companions had emo/pseudo-goth and self-destruction covered, he contributed by being young and disoriented.
Quite young, actually. The two girls seemed four years his senior, and they were only eighteen at most. And quite disoriented – he followed the entire proceedings with a dazed expression on his face, moving only to take instructions from his friends.
The shopping transaction in all other respects was like any other. People needed to be fed and so they were buying food. In surveying their purchases – two bottles of salad dressing, one lettuce (the only vegetable), chips, biscuits, frozen goods – I deduced that they were new to the whole grocery shopping thing. That or they were stocking up for a few days on their own without parental supervision.
‘Do you all live together?’ I commented casually.
The raven-haired girl responded for all of them. ‘Yeah, this is the first time we’ve gone shopping for groceries.’
‘We’ve bought so damn much this time – luckily we won’t have to spend very much the next time we come out.’
She broke off to gently chastise the other two for picking out so many things. ‘Jesus, you guys, this is going to cost me something like two hundred dollars.’
The young boy looked bewildered and apologetic. The other girl replied defensively, ‘Nah, it’s not going to come up to that much. One-thirty max.’
‘I say one-twenty,’ the boy finally piped up.
‘Well, okay, but this is going to send me broke, y’know,’ said the black-haired girl.
There was a quiet moment in which I processed their items without saying a word. Beep, beep. Bag. The three talked amongst themselves for a moment, with the black-haired girl moving back and forth between the groceries on the conveyor belt and her two friends at the completed end of the checkout. Without warning, she turned to me.
‘Do you have kids?’ she asked, completely out of the blue.
A little thrown back, I replied, ‘Uh… no, I’m a little young for that.’ I said the words hastily and wondered whether I’d chosen my reply wisely. I couldn’t be sure whether the young boy wasn’t hers. They did seem too similar in age, but you never know. And I’m not just saying this because she seemed “troubled”, as any prim adult might call her.
‘Well don’t ever have any.’ She jostled the boy. ‘This guy is costing me a fortune.’
‘He’s not yours,’ I blurted.
‘Nah, he isn’t. But sometimes he seems like it.’ She ruffled his hair affectionately and he gave a small smile.
As we approached the last twenty-odd items, the trio put forward a new round of guesses as to what the purchases would come to.
‘One-eighty,’ the black-haired girl said firmly.
‘No, it’s going to be no more than one-sixty,’ said the blonde.
‘One-seventy!’ said the boy.
The final total came to just over one-sixty. Pulling out a card, the black-haired girl reluctantly punched her pin number into the eftpos machine and pressed enter. She sighed. ‘At least it won’t cost so much next time.’
I was just glad that she wasn’t using a credit card. Considering their monetary concerns, using credit would utterly ruin them, if not managed correctly.
When we parted, the three waved congenially to me and thanked me for their help. Despite appearances, the three of them were actually much more normal – and friendly – than many of my other customers. It’s a shame that others won’t judge them to be that way.