Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Checking 'em Out at the Check-Out

Is it me, or does the check-out line at the home delivery section of Carrefour tend to be a flirting magnet? First there was Mr. Tousled Hair . Then last week, a new round.

In the livraison a domicile line in front of me was an attractive grey-haired man. Nice Italian loafers, crisp blue button-down shirt and jeans -- an air and slight paunch of healthy affluence and joie de vivre. No wedding band! He was pushing a tottering pile of party food in his cart. Shrimps and patés and crackers, chocolates, heads of lettuce, hams, pickles, sparkling water, cheeses. Cases of champagne and bordeaux and Kronenburg trailing behind on the floor, unable to fit safely in the oversized grocery caddie. As there was another full cart ahead of him, Mr. Party disappeared into the depths of the store to retrieve a few last-minute items. He returned five minutes later with four roasting chickens. With a winning smile he apologized for abandoning the line. After he inched his groaning cart forward, we exchanged some witty pleasantries about where to find a certain items in his pile. "I sell eet to you for a price!" he teased me charmingly as he disappeared again to get some thing else. More chickens, I wondered?

Another eight minutes later the young couple at the head of the line finished transacting all of their business. Mr. Party was no where to be seen. The cashier was waiting, I wouldn't have moved in front of Mr. P's cart, but I literally couldn't anyway, because his beer and wine cases on the floor were too heavy for me to maneuver. So, in order to get the process going, I simply began unloading his items onto the conveyor belt. The clerk and I were doing our female-bonding tut-tutting about men and grocery shopping as I uncovered squashed tomatoes (under wine bottles!). Finally Mr. P returned, really apologetic and funnier than ever, thanking me profusely. He eventually got to the bottom of his cart, where a case of eggs 100% broken was oozing yolks all over the floor. More jokes, shrugging shoulders. Would we wait while he returned to get a new flat of eggs?

Why not? At this point the party was happening right there at the caisse. He thoughtfully offered to leave a check and his carte de visite (we laughed about this too -- he meant to say carte d'identité) with the cashier so the order could get processed. I peeked at the carte. He was Belgian. But darn -- I couldn't find the age or name without my reading glasses.

Eggs returned. He then disappeared yet again to get a discount card, but as he was mostly finished the cashier was able to begin processing my order. I didn't have my discount card with me, I explained to her, thinking that since I had been so nice and helpful and we had "bonded", she would give me the discount anyway, like at Stop & Shop in the states. No way.

Just then the prodigal Mr. P returned, and, smiling broadly, offered "Why don't you use MY discount card? It's the least I can do."

"Ah-ah-ah," said the cashier, "you can't do that. Madame here has already explained that you two are not together."

"Ah, but we are," he protested, eyes twinkling. "For several months now, we are together. Un vrai couple! Actually, I must admit, it's quite longer than that. Madame and I and I actually have three children together," he added with a concupiscient nod in my direction.

"Oh, oui," I chimed. " It's just that the children are not au courant about the matter."

That totally won Mr. P. We had successfully out-charmed each other in this little encounter, so now, alas, it was time to leave. In a flurry of goodbyes and thank yous, he dashed off to his next errand.

"Don't forget to mail my invitation!" I laughed, only half kidding.

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