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TWELVE_ITEM_BLUES

I got my drawer from the office and passed Chow Lady on my way through Wine. She chomped on a banana and chatted with Luke as he multi-tasked on Wine Demo. 

“So what’s your band? I’m gonna go on the internet. Friday is library day,” she said proudly. 

Luke poured for a mom type. “Um, search Casual Sex,” he said, red faced. 

“Casual Sex! I’m gonna find it!” Chow Lady pounded a fist on the “bar” and made a swig motion to her mouth, as if to say, “Hit me!” 

Luke shot me an emotive smirk and I thought, At least Reg 5 faces Wine.

I came to relieve Ali Heart. She rang a three bell, and Carol, the ex-golf pro, came to open her drawer. My next customer was an older black man with a small cart.

He had about thirty items.

Ali Heart mouthed over her shoulder, “Sorry, I didn’t see that!” as she weaved away with her drawer.

People can get really touchy about the twelve items and under line. 

It was five o’clock. The sun reflected off of the T as a herd of commuters exited the cars. I had the traffic pattern down to a science: it took five to seven minutes after the latest T arrival for my line to crowd up. Most people in the city made frequent shopping trips, and bought what they could carry. It was part of the reason we were the third busiest Trader Joe’s in the country.

A professor looking type in horn rimmed glasses, a corduroy blazer, plaid pants, with a monogrammed briefcase (Seriously? Could he be any more stereotypical?) bent at his waist to peer over at the cart and raise his eyebrows at the man in front of him. 

"Oh, wait. Is this express?” The black man squinted at the sign hanging high above the registers. “Dang! I'm sorry, I should've seen that sign." 

I maintained a quick ringing pace. "Don't worry, it's not a big deal,” I said. “It's not even a very big sign."

The professor sighed and rocked forward and backward on his tasseled leather loafers, looking from me to the man, checking his watch, rolling his eyes, and turning to absently thumb the candy bars on the shelf next to him. 

Just then, Jo, on Reg 4 next to me, turned away an old lady wearing a provincial headscarf, who had approached him with a big cart piled high with groceries. She was member of a pack of elderly Russian women. We called the mean ones “Troll Ladies.” They each had some sort of detail to distinguish them: a big hairy mole, blue frosted eye shadow, or a purple velour jogging suit encrusted with rhinestones. 

I’d dealt with this particular Troll Lady at Demo before. She wanted me to open a package of Italian Chicken Sausage so I could cook her a “special sample.” We were serving lentil soup. 

“Sample. Sample. You do for me, I buy.”

The Troll Lady was committed to her protest. “No! I pay here! I pay now!”

Jo, albeit with much attitude, reluctantly obliged and rang a one bell for another register to open up. The line began to stretch down the frozen aisle, as neither of us were making very swift progress. 

The black guy chuckled. "Man! This is a place just full of stress! It’s like we got the Twelve Item Blues, you know?”

I giggled and told him his total. 

“Aw, she knows the Twelve Item Blues.” He began tapping the counter and looking over his shoulder at Professor Dude. 

“Bum bum bum bum,

I got twenty-two items,

Bum bum bum bum, 

Only ‘sposed to have twelve.”

The Troll Lady became distracted and gave my customer the kind of disdainful look only Troll Ladies can master. 

“These people in a big rush, 

They’re gonna take it out on youuuuu (he pointed at me)

I got the… Twelve Items Bluesss,

Woooo! Got the… Twelve Item Blues,

But she’s gonna let me through! 

Cuz she got the Twelve Item Blues, too.” 

The Professor Dude hurried through Jo’s line with out any eye contact or complaint. He rushed off without his receipt and we watched him dash across Beacon Street to board the same train as the Blues Man.