For a long while, I have had a small-yet-mighty crush on one of the NE Seattle Safeway checkers. This particular fellow’s not especially handsome, nor does he give me free produce. Nor did he card me the first time I bought Riesling. Nope, my crush is simply and directly related to his voice. And yes, by the way, Husbandio knows. He knows, and he thinks it’s funny . . . just one of about infinity reasons why I’m so glad I married him.
But let’s get back to the well-voiced checker.
I wish I could post a recording for your listening pleasure, maybe one where he is asking, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” (along with my response: “Why, yes. Yes, I did.”)
But since I think that might be both weird and illegal, I’ll say this: his voice is a vat of warm maple frosting, the kind Top Pot puts on its maple old fashioned donuts. Yes, take that frosting down two octaves, add a shot of bourbon, maybe one-two cups Nat King Cole and there you go. That’s this guy’s voice.
Well, at some point this winter, I happened to be standing in his check-out line, even though there were shorter lines on either side of me, even though waiting in his line meant waiting behind a lady who was using about a thousand coupons and paying with A CHECK.
But that was all right because this lady’s antiquated method of paying for groceries gave me time to think about the importance of compliments.
That sometimes, if you compliment someone on something, jut totally out of the blue, that makes that person feel good, and because he feels good, he may do some very small act of kindness to or for someone else, and then, that person goes on to ripple her goodness and kindness out to someone else, until, before you know it, everyone has put down his AK-47 and her Let’s Kill the Abortion Doctors sign and while we’re not exactly all holding hands, at least we’re not shooting and bombing and bullying and hating one another.
All because the Safeway checker with the very nice voice got a compliment.
Yep, that’s the way my brain works.
Feeling pretty certain that I could change the world with roughly eight words, I put all my courage up on the conveyor belt alongside my Gogurts and granola bars and Honey Nut Cheerios and wine and more wine and Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese.
I swallowed hard and gave him a bright smile. “You know?” I said. “You have a really nice voice.”
And this, my friends, is where my story becomes one of those cautionary tales. Like “Little Red Riding Hood” or that dark Edwardian poetry by Hilaire Belloc, admonishing rhymes directed at kids, with titles such as, “Matilda, Who told lies and was burned to death,” or “Jim, Who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion.”
Here, dear readers, is my 21st Century cautionary tale, titled: “Sarah, Who Complimented a Safeway checker then turned into a mute, blushing idiot.”
Yes, children, think twice before you compliment the Safeway checker on his very nice voice, unless of course you happen to be the CEO of a Radio Voice Search company. Then it’s probably OK.
If you are not such a CEO, however, I suggest you avoid complimenting a stranger’s voice, especially in Safeway, because 1) suddenly you feel like you’ve just offered this compliment over the loudspeaker, and 2) complimenting someone’s voice, you realize too late, is one of those intimate compliments not meant for strangers.
You wouldn’t compliment a Safeway checker on her nice breasts or her nice toes or his nice shoulders, would you? No. Not unless you’re weird, you wouldn’t. And let me tell you, “voice” and “breasts” are in the same camp of intimacy. I don’t know why, but it’s true. TRUST ME.
To make matters worse, when you accidentally flirt with a Safeway checker at what feels like loudspeaker volume, you instantly feel like one of those lonely, 40-ish moms who, because her kids are finally in full-day elementary school, has the luxury of not pushing one of those stupid red car carts or hollering at her kids for trying to sneak the Lucky Charms into the car portion of the car cart. She can go to Safeway alooooone. Ready to flirrrrrt.
And then you realize, much to your chagrin, that on that particular day, you have dressed up a bit, not for the benefit of the well-voiced checker, but because you are going to Bible study, and while you are sure God wishes you’d spend more time cleaning up your potty mouth and serving those in need than you do buying EUC shoes on EBay, you feel better when you’re a little dressy.
Yes, I think I was probably also wearing a swishy skirt and perhaps a cheery scarf because a bit of color is nice in the dead of a Seattle winter when the whole world is the color of concrete and poi.
So of course, the moment I shouted my compliment over the Safeway PA system, I felt like maybe this guy thought I had dressed up for him, then ditched my kids and high-tailed it down to the Safeway, under the auspices of “buying groceries” when really my sole mission was aggressive, premeditated flirtation.
It was pretty much the only time I wished my kids WERE with me at the grocery store, because right as I realized the mistake of my overly-intimate compliment, I could have used my children as distractions.
I might have said, for example, something like, “Hey Buddy. This man has what we call “a radio voice,” meaning that he could easily do commercials and other nice things on the radio. Isn’t that cool? Wouldn’t that be cool to be on the radio?” and then Buddy would have nodded and said something like, “Yeah.” and then run off to join Sweetie at those tables of utter crap that they inevitably plead for as we are pushing the cart out of the store. That they really neeeeeeed the Moon Sand Excavation Simulator Easter Bunny Spraying Pool Toy. That it’s really the oooooonly thing they have ever wanted in their whooooole entire life! And this checker and I could have rolled our eyes and chuckled at the general goofiness of kids. And that would have been that.
As he passed my bagels across the scanner, he gave me a very kind smile. “Thanks,” he said, blushing a little. “I’ve done a little radio . . . trying to break into it. It’s harder to do than most people assume.”
Well, shoot. Am I crazy, or was that just a very nice, very normal response to my compliment?
Perhaps this checker didn’t, in fact, see me as a lonely hussy trolling for men on a Thursday morning. Perhaps this is the first cautionary tale with a happy ending, which I suppose renders it just “a tale.”
Regardless, seeing him blush made me start blushing and there we two were, just a conveyor belt between us, in some sort of blush duet which just exacerbated both of our blushing, and man, talk about ripples!
Maybe not world peace ripples, true. But aren’t blush ripples a nice way to start? Because I think when you blush with someone, you create a bond, a connection with someone. And that is precisely how we get everyone to start being a little kinder to one another: we create bonds.
Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s a very, very small step. But I think even the smallest of steps is pretty good for a Thursday morning, especially whilst wearing cute shoes purchased (for a screaming deal) on EBay.
In fact, I think it’s just what The Dr. ordered.