I can't post her photo here. First of all, I've broken every camera I've handled in the past two years and I do not now, nor will I ever, own a Smartphone. And besides, I don't have her permission. Lastly, if you knew who she was, you might be tempted to steal her, to be your very own "Stop and Shop Lady". So, Jane will remain almost anonymous. Although, Stop and Shop surely won't mind having their photo here.
She works at the "front end". She's probably my age, maybe slightly older or younger.. Semi-retired. Seems like she's always there. She says she's not, it's just that I'm the one who is always there and our hours match. Sometimes, when I go in to the store, she's not on duty and I panic, almost. But most of the time, it's as if she's standing at my side the entire time I find myself at the self-check registers. When I, for some random act of God, do not need her assistance, she still finds me anyway and we exchange those things that women exchange under those circumstances. It is when I do have a hiccup in the process that the janitor key chain that she wears under her black apron gets whipped out and the magic card that makes everything happen, swiped. Problem solved. Sometimes, she'll simply spy me checked out already and with a big smile she'll remark "looks like everything went well today!" Rarely.
We have a bonus Stop and Shop market. It was designed with "seniors" in mind. It's not a "Super Stop and Shop" as are the two others within driving distance of our home. I use this one almost exclusively, feeling like a newbie whenever I happen in to one of the others. I'm not comfortable in large stores and nowadays, I don't do those huge shopping trips that I once had to do when we were all together as a family. I love the fact that we can decide half-way through the day and make a quick trip to our store down the street.
My "relationship" with Jane started a little over two years ago when I over-taxed the system. My mother's illness and our need to fulfill each and every of her needs and desires, brought me to the grocery store and pharmacy sometimes two or three times a day. At that point, the smiles and nods started to turn into actual "hello, how are you today?" and we progressed to "you're in here a lot!", mutual agreements. It was at the little self-check registers that I had control over my life and time to breathe while doing mindless work, swiping tiny cans of juice, baby wipes and cottage cheese containers. It was at that time my "Supermarket Lady" first learned of my role and soon after, as I struggled through the first months of sorrow, followed by resentment and confusion, of my new role as the "Daughter Who Takes Care of Everything". It was "Hi! How are you?" and "For you or Dad today?" as she approached me and listened with the ear of a friend since Kindergarten would, to my frustrations with time management, food selection and methods of payment. It was with kindness and the patience of a saint that she put that little magic card into action and re-did some of my swiping, fixing whatever mess I had gotten into while I was on my learning curve. Always, an exchange of words to make me feel better in some small way. One-on-one, me and Jane, day after day.
I just hope Jane never fully retires. At the very least, I want to be able to see her off on that last day, into the parking lot. I might even follow her home. I have a feeling she lives alone, not far from the store. I want to steal her janitor key-ring and take that magic card off so I can have it bronzed. I want to say "thank you" one more time and hug her. Sometime in the very distant future, please. Until then, I will continue to shop with Jane at my side, hearing my confession, soothing me and cheering me on. She knows already that I value her. I've told every front manager how I feel and if you really do want to see her photo, you might ask for the Employee of the Month archives. I'm sure she's there, smiling.