This afternoon I went to the local Meijer to pick up a few groceries and some postage stamps. As I was checking out, making small chit-chat with the lady running the register, a man came up in line directly after me. He placed eight packs of Rayovac D-cell batteries on the conveyer belt and waited for me to finish. He was tall, large, and wore a working man's clothes. I guess that he was an electrician or other skilled tradesman. As the checkout lady rang up my 12-pack of Sam Adams, she checked my driver's license. Now since the month is covered up by my wallet, I always make sure to tell the person checking it that my birthday is in July, which I did. After a moment she asks, "What number is that again? Six?"
"No," I say, "seven. July 23rd."
Then the man with a stock pile of batteries jokes and says, "That means he's seventeen." For a moment the lady pauses and looks concerned, then looks at me, smiles, and sort of chuckles.
Not be out done I laugh a good fake-supermarket-humor laugh and say, "Man, I wish," in my best 'we're all in this together' tone of voice. Then things got, well, odd.
The guy goes, "Man, you know there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish I could go back. If I could just have another chance." After he said this there was a pause, as if he was waiting for a responce. I looked at the checkout lady, but she was clearly not going to be any help.
Unsure of how to respond I lamely answer, "Yeah."
"I mean I made a lot of mistakes," he continued. "I should have gone to college instead of sitting around and getting high all the time."
Now what the heck was I supposed to say to that? How do you respond to that? My first instinct was to agree, and say, 'Man you've got that right. You really look like you should have laid off the drugs.' Upon further review though, that seemed rude, despite my good intentions of being agreeable. I said nothing instead, and blushed. Then the man says something like, "I have regrets everyday."
Already feeling like an asshole, I smile and nod understandingly and say, "Tell me about it." I walked away pushing my cart, feeling like a big douche bag. I'm not sure what to take away from this incident. I feel bad for that guy; someone so unhappy with life that he felt the need to confess this at the Meijer checkout lane. Perhaps he thought I was younger than I was and was trying to teach me a lesson, spurred on by the sight of my twelve pack. Nonetheless he did, in fact, look as though he had experimented with a few too many chemicals in his younger days and perhaps continues to this day. I'm not sure what the point is here, other than I might take care to avoid all conversation while purchasing groceries from now on. I mean I don't mind being polite, or even jovial, but that was just strange. All in another day's shopping at the local Meijer I guess.