Mystery Shopper

Story Image 5344

After yoga I stopped at a health food store for whole grains, dried fruit, and free-range eggs. My next stop was the supermarket, where I browsed for organic English muffins, fresh blueberries, and pomegranate juice. Filling my basket, I felt virtuous.

At the checkout I stood behind an elderly woman who piled her items on the counter: three bags of bright red gummy candy, three cartons of pink frosted cupcakes, three jumbo packs of Ramen noodles, and three large cans of artificial pink lemonade mix. Not one gram of protein, fiber, or vitamins existed in any of her purchases. It was all I could do not to gently suggest that she reconsider her food choices. The cashier asked the woman for her bonus card.

"Oh dear," she said. "I don't have it." She turned to me. "Could I borrow yours?"

"Sure." I handed her my plastic discount card. "Looks like you found some sale items."

"These are for my three grandchildren," she said with pride. I envisioned a trio of toddlers sitting down to a dinner of sodium and sugar—washed down with a glass of chemically formulated lemonade-like beverage. By the time they were adults, they'd be crippled with obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

"You saved her four dollars," said the cashier.

"Thank you," the older woman said with a faint smile. "All three of my grandsons are serving in Iraq." Suddenly I saw sadness in her eyes. "This is what they look forward to at the end of each day."

As I left the store with my organic food, I felt guilty. Living here, safe and secure, means I can choose healthful food. But in Baghdad what would I want to eat? A pepperoni pizza? A hot-fudge sundae? Maybe just a cold beer. Those young men could eat anything they wanted, and with my blessings.