Crossing the Aisle

“It feels like March,” was how the cashier at the grocery store started our conversation. He was a young guy, high-school age if I had to guess. “It doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.” I’d heard him give the same greeting to the woman in front of me, but then zoned back into whatever I’d been reading on my phone and didn’t hear the rest.

I responded something along the lines of yeah, it’s a weird holiday season for sure. “I hope next Christmas season is back to normal,” he said,” but I’m not getting my hopes up.” I pointed out that a vaccine should be approved soon—hopefully next Christmas feels like normal.

“But we can’t even say ‘Christmas’ anymore,” he said. That took a turn I wasn’t expecting!

He slowly scanned the next few items before continuing. “I feel bad for the next generation after me.” I smiled and nodded. He remained undeterred. “My generation is too soft. We’re ruining things for them. Cancel culture is ruining everything. My generation is too sensitive.”

“Sensitive isn’t always bad,” I said, wondering why I was engaging. “And I think every generation thinks their generation is the worst.” He didn’t so much continue the conversation as he continued talking at me.

“Guys can’t have any fun anymore because of cancel culture. Everyone is too sensitive. You can’t even make jokes without all of Twitter attacking you.”

“Maybe,” I said, beginning to channel my father, “you just spend less time on Twitter then.”

He didn’t answer, rather asked me what a bag of vegetables contained. I told him two bunches of kale. He said he didn’t understand why people buy kale. Then, he said what I think we both knew he was building towards.

“I’m just sick and tired of all of us being policed with what we can do or say. I’d like to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ Liberals are ruining our country.”

“Well,” I said, “You’re talking to one of those liberals.” He made a small show of being embarrassed.

He apologized, told me I seemed nice, but pointed out he should’ve known I was essentially a communist.

I asked how.

“The kale and veggie burgers.” Now, this might’ve been a good time to teach this young man a lesson about how not everything has to be political, namely attempting a healthy diet, but there were more dire things to discuss.

“Wait, those are veggie burgers?” What I’d wanted to grab were feta spinach chicken burgers. I know, still a soft, effeminate option, but meat nonetheless. He unbagged the burgers and showed me. I explained my mistake. He was thrilled to run to the back and replace that travesty with some dead birds.

“I think,” he said, after I’d paid and was waiting for him to print my receipt, “that it’s just Gen-Z and Gen YX that are too left.” Editor’s note: Google has confirmed my suspicion that there is no “Gen YX.” “Millennials seem to think for themselves more. No mob mentality. No cancel culture.” I was back to smiling and nodding. “And you’re a millennial, I bet. Are you like 26?”

And just like that, a patriot and a liberal put aside their differences to agree on something monumental: I could pass for 26.

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