“Mom, do you have to talk to everybody?” Yes. Yes, she did.

The trip to the grocery store was not a necessity, it was a social event for my mother. She was the kind of person you don’t want to get behind in the checkout line. She would strike up a conversation with the cashier, but it didn’t stop there.


Mom. 1948 photo.

She also talked to other customers in line, the produce manager, the butcher behind the counter, the bakery staff, the shelf stocker, the guy doing “cleanup in aisle 5”.

Her first job as a newlywed was in a local A&P grocery store. She wore that uniform proudly.

So, she must have felt quite at home there, for a lifetime.

But there was more to it than that.

She was incredibly lonely, starving for adult conversation, a social being who didn’t drive, was mostly stuck at home with 6 children and a husband who worked extra shifts to support the family.

My life is so different than hers, but I often find myself doing the very same thing.

There are times when I use that self-checkout, usually when in a hurry. But I’m often aware of how many jobs that system must have eliminated.

And I think of my mother. She would have been 90 years old last week.


Post inspired by the news from Amazon. They are planning a brick and mortar grocery store that bypasses the cashier, purchases are automatically recorded and charged to your Amazon account as you exit the store. Somewhere, my mother is shaking her head.

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84 Responses to Cashier

  1. Hubby and I always engage in conversation with the checkout staff as they ring through our purchases. We know what a thankless job it can be dealing with Joe Public, and have witnessed people before us spending hundreds of pounds and not saying a single word to the person serving them. I hope your Mum is smiling on us.

  2. Val Boyko says:

    It does make me pause and reflect how little real human interaction there can be nowadays… I’m glad your Mom found a way to get her needs met though 😊

  3. She sounds like she was an amazing person Van. ❀
    Diana xo

  4. You make a great point about why we might avoid those automatic check-outs when time permits. Not only does the old way save jobs, but it a chance to smile and connect with another human (one who might really enjoy that moment). Happy belated birthday to your mom, Van.

    • Working customer service, I found out the need for human connection. Seniors/shut-ins would make unnecessary phone calls that would go on too long, at least for the stats on which utilities were being rated. It was sad to dismiss them. Thanks, Diana. πŸ’˜

  5. George says:

    I love this story and photo, Van. I can relate to your mom starting conversations. I enjoy doing the same thing, learning about people and I’m always amazed at how easily people open up in just a minute or two. It’s such fun..:)
    I love the outfit your mom is wearing and all that hair. I know what you wrote but she does look happy here. Maybe it was the uniform..:)
    Thanks for the story😊

    • Yep, she was in her element here, George. It was her working/pre-childbearing years. Like you, I enjoy those brief conversations, and the simple gesture of a smile. ❀️ Thanks.

  6. How I understand why your Mom did what she did but you as a child must have been mortified sometimes. Ah, gee, Mom, really? And as for the news about Amazon, what next? That company is so huge as it is! Gosh darn it, we need people to people interaction and cashiers is one of the ways to do so. Just shaking my head …. *sigh* Machines taking the place of humans. How sad. Little by little the human race is being erased …. or so it seems. ❀

    • The announcement just came out, and I wonder about the reaction?? Not sure where they plan to open their first store…it could go over in urban areas, maybe. There is a trend the other direction, I was in a Panera restaurant where they are now delivering food to your table…Interesting ? ❀️
      And mortified..for sure, we were kids. ☺ Thanks, Amy.

  7. J.D. Riso says:

    Reading this made me sad. I always try to have patience for the ild person in front of me who takes his/her time at the cashier. They are the same over here in Czech Republic. I know it’s probably the only social interaction they get all day.

    I didn’t hear of this Amazon news. How creepy, but unsurprising. Bezos is trying to get into every aspect of people’s lives. I admit that I always use self checkout at Tesco, because the cashiers are so unbeliveably rude (such is life in former communist countries). This sounds really bad, but I even know how to say, “I won’t be sad when a robot takes your job” in Czech. 😱

    • Oh, no, that you even need to have that Czech expression, Julie. Rudeness requires a whole different response, altogether. I get it. But, the reaction that Amazon’s proposal is getting…might just make a difference. Stay tuned. ❀️

  8. Sawsan says:

    Beautiful Van. ❀
    Is it her who used to wear Youth Dew by Estee Lauder?

  9. megdekorne says:

    I’m shaking my head right along with your dear mothers Van …beautiful writing …love and hugs , megxxx

  10. Elyse says:

    I’m with you — I am a chatty customer. I swear, I nearly went nuts while living overseas and I couldn’t communicate to the clerks!

    And I’m with you about the self-checkouts. The rare times I use them, I always need somebody to fix something, or approve something or something something! And labor costs are factored into the price of the goods I’m buying (which cost plenty!)

    Oops. I got chatty again. πŸ˜‰

    • Ha ha, no worries Elyse. Be as chatty as you like. ☺ Store coupons always seem to upset those self-checkouts. I feel sorry for the attendant, working 5 or 6 stations, always looking frustrated. πŸ’˜

  11. Erika Kind says:

    Oh my, that was heart-warming, Van! Your mom looks so beautiful and full of joy in this picture!

  12. Beautiful memory. The world becomes more efficient but often at the expense of the little things that make life worth living.

  13. I totally relate to your Mom. My husband and I are constantly cutting up in check out lines with the checkers and customers. (We don’t get out much, hehe!) I know it drove my nieces and nephews crazy when I would do it in their company, just like you with your Mom. She sounds awesome by the way. We could all use a lot more humor and humane interactions. Thanks for the reminder! I love the blog handle too.

  14. Odd how easily people could work through their problems in time past and now they seem to need a pill instead of doing what needs to be done. Your Mom looks great to have that many children and a job. I know how easily a clean house can become a tornado with little ones afoot. Her smile in this picture captures her core happiness.

  15. Nobody seems to have the time anymore given that society always seems to be in a rush, Van, but I always keep smiling and say ‘hello’. It’s the older folk who I’ll strike up a conversation with while waiting in line. They may not talk to a single soul again that day, but I hope my conversation makes their day.

  16. What a lovely post Van. It reminds me of going to the market with my mother and a trip that should take half an hour would take 2 hours or more as she literally greeted everyone and chatted up Mama X, Y or Z. I love talking to people and never been one for the self checkout counters except when it’s unavoidable. That sharing a little ‘how are you today or a little compliment makes a World of difference.

    • I was smiling at that lengthened grocery store experience…that was it, exactly. Thanks for understanding, J. A smile, a brief conversation…always makes a difference. Thanks. πŸ’•

  17. lbeth1950 says:

    I have been thinking of my dad. He would have been 92. I miss him.

  18. Thank you for sharing your mom with us! And the picture. I love this story. I’m glad the Amazon store prompted this. Why do we have to cut out so much human interaction? And I didn’t think ANYONE else remembered A&P. πŸ™‚

    • I remember the fresh ground coffee smells, the bakery products…they sold these amazing almond crescents in large boxes, produce displays, the laminated “sales pages” that you got at the door, and returned when you left.. so many things.☺ Thanks, C. πŸ’

  19. polymath0 says:

    It’s great that you do the same thing. I’m probably the normal person who is always in too much of a rush for conversation, or probably too much in a rush for superficial conversation. Sometimes I’ll observe strangers having lengthy conversations, and I realize how much I wish I’d learn to socialize. The other day I was getting my allergy shots and had to wait the half hour in the waiting room to make sure I didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction. A woman with a boy started a conversation with a couple and their little boy. Before long, the boys were comparing books and toys while the adults searched for every similarity they had to each other. If they’d have looked in my direction, they’d have seen a giant goofy smile from one who stared longingly at them.

    • It’s never too late to start, you’d be surprised at how a simple hello or a smile can lead to a conversation, superficial or otherwise. Technology has separated us, but I think there is a longing for connection that will not go away. Thanks for such a candid comment. I’m sure, you are not alone. Best wishes to you. πŸ’–

  20. paintdigi says:

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  21. joey says:

    I do chat in lines and whatnot, because good social graces, and it makes passing the time more pleasant. The Mister is a talk-to-anybody sorta guy and he’s a jaw-jacker — sometimes I hate that about him, cause I just wanna go home, but mostly, I admire him.
    I know it must be difficult for you at the holidays. ❀ I miss my mother and she's only in Florida.

    • This time of year..a challenge. From our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, her birthday, my birthday, Christmas…all of it within a few weeks. I always look forward to January.❣️ You and the mister, as Sagittarians..not surprising, that chattiness. Thanks, Joey.

  22. Deb says:

    Happy Birthday to your Mom! I think it’s wonderful that she talked to everybody, we all should do more of that, rather than averting our eyes as we pass people, myself included. We are all here together let’s appreciate each other!! Wow I had not heard that about Amazon, hmmm. Funny my Dad’s birthday is the date of this post, Dec 7. Fortunate for me, he’s still with us! xo

  23. Aunt Beulah says:

    What a poignant and thought-provoking story this is. Reading it cheered my gloomy, cold day.

  24. amommasview says:

    Funny you mention it… I just thought about it the other day while shopping. The self-checkouts must have caused many job losses… As much as I like them, I also find it a shame that the interaction with the cashiers is no longer there…

  25. Jacque' says:

    The wife and I really love this blog and appreciate the creativity and imagery you provide. We would like to encourage you to keep writing and never abandon this blog. When you decide to have a mobile app version, we would love to help. I appreciate the hard work you have put into this blog and wish you all future success in business and in life.

    Thank you for your time, it is the most precious thing we all possess.

  26. dgkaye says:

    We all need connection with people and sadly many don’t have that. That’s why checkouts, bartenders, hairstylists, and their likes become like therapists for many. πŸ™‚

  27. i think that’s why i love street photography…often i go out to see and be in community and perhaps, strike up a conversation…also that feeling of people acknowledging or remembering me…i understand your story…my father knew everyone…and i too see me in him….lovely posts…so enjoyed my coffee and the thread πŸ˜€ ❀ smiles hedy

  28. Hi I already follow your fab blog, so thought I would share that I am super excited as I am officially in the running for the UK BLOG AWARDS 2017! If you could click the link and choose FoodandDrink&Lifestyle on the drop down menu:
    Thank you kindly in advance your vote is much appreciated
    Melanie xx

  29. Bernadette says:

    We are isolating ourselves so much and I think the cost is our humanity. You need contact to be reminded of the value of your fellow citizens on this planet

  30. Here is the best Award ever. I’ll think you enjoy not participating. I haven’t used links, it does’t look right. I’ll learn as I go.

  31. A beautiful woman. And wow, 6 kids, social and stuck at home. I can see how she looked to talk! It’s unbelievable how we’re automating life and business. Of course there is gain in it, but loss as well.

    Hope it’s a great wk.


  32. Laura says:

    My very southern grandma never did meet a stranger. She came to visit us in Boston once and utterly stumped folks — grocery store clerks, department store employees, gas station attendants — they couldn’t figure why on earth this lady with the strange accent was talking to them. Classic!!

  33. nimi naren says:

    Such a beautiful post. What a lovely woman your mother was…!

  34. Anonymous says:


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