I have been saying for years — forget the Trader Joe’s cookbook, what they really need to come out with is a How to Treat a Woman book.
The men who work at Studio City Trader Joe’s are like superheroes in the area of charm. And, like any heroes, they need to protect their identities. Superman had to hide himself beneath the black-rimmed glasses of his alter ego news reporter Clark Kent … .
Well, ladies (and gentleman, please, listen gentlemen!), my Superman hides his identity under a Hawaiian shirt while bagging gluten-free groceries.
DING-DING-DING! Remember the saying, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings”? Well, next time you’re marketing at Trader Joe’s and hear that loud ringing of the bell notifying a Trader Joe’s guy that attention needs to be paid up front… don’t question it and for godssake don’t complain. It’s a signal… some special lady is just about to get the attention and time and eye contact she so deserves.
OK, it’s true I’m a single mom with a full-time floundering writing career, so balancing my daughter’s school work, piano lessons, playdates, feeding HER lizard, our cat, our dog and being able to draw a Tim Burton character from Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas or Edward Scissorhands at a moment’s notice, while squeezing in my ever-changing, sometimes abundant, sometimes failing, always willing to show up and say yes to anything career as a Hollywood writer… ah, hell, what I’m trying to say is, Mama don’t get out much.
And that’s when I began to notice… my weekly trips to Trader Joe’s were bringing me home with something far more than just a sugarless, wheat-free apple pie. No, it wasn’t what was in the bags that was putting a smile on this single mom, woman in her sexual prime, dateless face. It was the boys bagging the pie that made my heart skip.
And it got me thinking, what was it about those granola-selling studs that had me all perky and flushed in the face when I’d exit the sliding doors with my eco-friendly bags of goodness?
What wasn’t it about?!
The minute you enter Trader Joe’s you feel the WHOOSH of clear eyes and sparkling smiles looking up from their registers and taking you in. In the beginning I often went in my paint-splattered sweats and torn T-shirts, but soon I began to break out the good stuff: clean sweats and a hole-less T, sometimes bra-less (not recommended for C cups or higher), and a dab of lip gloss. After all, it’s a health food market — less is so much more.
Next, strolling, strolling up and down the aisles, one after another, and always, ALWAYS there one is, sometimes crouched down stocking the coffee, sometimes on a ladder hanging a sign, and sometimes in the wine sections stocking up the Chuck for a buck wine.
They see you, they notice you, and they speak to you,
Are you finding everything OK, miss?
MISS. Not Ma’am or Mrs. or lady, but the symbol of neverending youth… Miss. And you can be walking with a cane or pushing a stroller and still… Miss. Miss. Miss.
Oh, yes, thank you.
And they smile, nod, then,
Well, let me know if you need anything.
Oh, god, you have no idea what I need, babe. Starting with those smooth, tan arms holding a case of sparkling water… I’d like you to pour that water all over my body and… sorry, I digress.
Now everyone has their favorite point in a date. Sometimes it’s the food, sometimes a joke, sometimes a kiss. For me, it’s all about the check-out. After all, it’s all about you and him in that moment. Total one-on-one time. And they make every scan count.
Taking out your items and sliding them across the counter, they already know so much about you — “Oh, this meatless chicken pot pie is really good, Miss.” Scan. Scan. They see you have a cat, a dog, a child, scan, scan, scan, and through it all they look up at you, right in the eye and with all the care and kindness in the world they ask,
How’s your day been?
I have been on dates at the Four Seasons and not been asked those simple four words! My Trader Joe’s Superhero doesn’t just ask — he really wants to know. How do I know this? I’ve tested it out. One time I said, Fine. And he nodded, then added, Why just fine?… Another time I answered, Kinda crappy. And he nodded. Sorry, you deserve much more than crappy. And then the ultimate, once I couldn’t answer, because tears welled up in my eyes.
My dog had just died that day. He had been killed by another dog at a park. I hadn’t been outside the house once that day, but when I realized I needed some food for my daughter’s school lunch, I went up the street to Trader Joe’s. Still wearing the sneakers I had been in on that fateful hike, spots of dry blood on them.
I entered Trader Joe’s.
I don’t remember much about much that day, but there I was, at my check-out, my moment, and this young, beautiful man with the biggest brown eyes I had ever seen asked the question,
How’s your day been, miss?
He was staring into my eyes and I couldn’t respond. Couldn’t speak. He saw my tears and stopped scanning. He didn’t say a word. He just kept looking into my eyes with such concern and care.
Finally, I just looked away and nodded,
It’s been a hard day.
He kept looking at me, until we both could feel the people in line growing impatient. He finished scanning my items and put them in my bag.
You have a daughter, right?
I nodded. He smiled, and tore off a sheet of Trader Joe’s stickers and placed them in the bag. I had only the one bag, barely containing anything, and still he said,
Hey, do you need a hand with that?
He knew, and I knew that I absolutely didn’t need a hand with this one light bag, and yet, for the first time ever, I said,
Yeah… yeah, I think I do. Thank you.
All those times I had boxes of water and plants and food and my daughter in my arms and my dog on the leash out front and sick with the flu and more bags, never had I accepted the offer of help to my car.
And yet here, this time, this day, this one single bag I knew I didn’t have the strength to carry it myself. And out we walked to my car with him gently placing my one bag in the backseat. He looked at me,
The day’s going to get better. It will get better.
And as our date ended and I watched my Superhero turn around and walk back inside Trader Joe’s… off to help another woman in need…. from outside I could hear the bell ring.