The entire family
“Kids, get dressed, it’s time to go to Cub. Your father’s been drinking. Hopefully he’ll stay in the car this time.” He hasn’t. Neither parent notices that their youngest son is repeatedly ramming their cart into yours. Small messes are scattered behind them in each aisle.
Notable items at checkout: a twenty-four pack of orange Gatorade bottles most likely intended to be sold individually, Hot Pockets, assorted colors of Jell-O
The high kids
You just know they spent five minutes in the car discussing their game plan, preparing to confront the minor affliction of being high in public late at night. They scuttle straight for the frozen food aisle. One of them has long, stringy blond hair and glasses like those your father wore in the 80’s. They bemusedly try to figure out the self-checkout station until an employee approaches and tells them self-checkout cannot be used after 10 PM.
Notable items at checkout: Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food, Ben and Jerry’s Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream, Weekly World News
The scraggly old man, waxing poetic in a top hat
He’s been fixedly contemplating cans of soup for twenty minutes. He’s not using a cart or basket. At some point he casually waltzes over to you (literally waltzes) and asks which way Walt Whitman’s beard points tonight. Before you can answer, he drops a can of soup on your foot and promptly bends down to caress your ankle as a sort of condolence. You slowly back away while he sinks further onto the floor where he remains prostrate, motionless for some time.
Notable items at checkout: 12 rolls of toilet paper, a plastic container shaped like and designed for storing an onion, wooden spoons
The pale kid with huge headphones
If you replaced the cupped hands of the figure from Munch’s The Scream with headphones, it would be this kid exactly. He gazes at a shelf of Ramen Noodles as if it were a sea of spindly waves clawing at the banks of his forsaken soul. Eventually he goes with Lime Chili Shrimp. He leaves a trail of muddy footprints, which is strange because it isn’t wet outside.
Notable items at checkout: a single package of Lime Chili Shrimp flavored Ramen Noodles
The smiling cougar
Most grocery shoppers avoid eye contact at this hour, but not her. She gives you a beguiling smile every time you two cross paths, and you’re beginning to notice that you encounter her more often than anyone else in the store. She’s wearing a purple velour track suit and black stilettos. You linger by the Hostess products to avoid standing by her in line.
Notable items at checkout: whipped cream, strawberries, a paperback copy of Nicholas Sparks’ Dear John
The man in a bath robe
It’s sky blue and is peppered with yellow ducks and small holes. He is slovenly, unshaven and seems too cliché to be real. You have a sneaking suspicion that he’s the guy you’ve seen creeping around the garbage cans in the alley behind your house. Every morning after this happens, all of the garbage cans have been emptied, and it’s not trash day. Since entering the store he’s acquired a milk mustache.
Notable items at checkout: 4 dozen eggs, 2 pounds ground beef, ranch dressing
David Foster Wallace
You could swear it’s him. The hair, the bandanna, the way he politely backs his cart out of your way. He seems infinitely patient as he waits for the cleaning crew to finish mopping the bread aisle. In your weary state you catch yourself almost asking him if he’s David Foster Wallace.