Now I've got the choreography figured out at Shopi or Monoprix or Carrefour. Then I return to the US, where the pas de deux is different. Last month when I was in the States I automatically started loading my groceries into the bags at the Piggly Wiggly, and the cashier looked insulted, as if I were implying she didn't know how to do her job. I quickly thrust my hands to my side and to avoid the misunderstanding. She filled the sacks -- didn't ask "paper or plastic," but did ask if I wanted a helper to take the bags to my car. Talk about culture shock.
We sometimes forget how much these day-to-day transactions are very much the fabric of daily life, wherever we are.
Here in France, a blogger has been chronicling her life at the cash register at a grand surface, a huge supermarket. Caissière No Futur is a blog in French by a former supermarket cashier, 28-year-old Anna Sam. Seven years ago she began working as a cassière to help support herself and pay for her studies. After a few years on the job, she began chronicling the life behind the cash register on her blog. I find it to be gripping sociological drama. She also encourages submissions of supermarket anecdotes from both cashiers' and customers' views in addition to publishing her own observations. Anna has become somewhat of a media celebrity, appearing on French television, and her book Les Tribulations d'une caissière was just released this week.
Intrigued about a fellow blogger in France, I contacted Anna to ask if I might write a little article for anglophone readers. I ventured, apologetically, that some of her seemingly "rude customers" might sometimes be well-intentioned Americans in France, who unwittingly neglect to say "Bonjour" and "Au revoir" at the cash register because it's not always done in US supermarkets.
"In the US, saying 'hello' is optional?" she wrote back, incredulous.
I wish I could translate her blog for everyone-- there are so many great stories, some wonderful eye-openers. I look forward to reading the book.
And I wonder if she has an American counterpart, who blogs about life at the Stop & Shop, or Winn-Dixie, or Kroger, or Wal-Mart.