Here's the dilemma: I'm attracted to a woman who works at a Safeway in Vancouver, BC, but I have no idea how to make my feelings known. This is my neighborhood Safeway, and I'm in there at least twice a week. The first time I went in, I was standing in the express checkout when I noticed the cashier. I was immediately struck by her laid-back, self-assured attitude. There were about eight people ahead of me. She said nothing as she rang in their items. I approached and she spoke: "Hi, how are you?" I felt honored: out of all the people in line she actually spoke to me! I told her I was fine, paid for my things, and left. At the time I felt euphoric. Now I'm confused.
I always feel like I'm getting "signals" from her. When I'm in her aisle I can see a small smile on her face when she notices me in line. I play it cool by not deliberately looking her way, but by taking "sideways" glances. When our eyes do meet, we quickly avert our gazes. The conversation remains in the "Hi, how are you? How's it goin'?" vein. I don't always go through her checkout aisle--I don't want to look like I'm after her. Silly, isn't it?
Do Safeway women get asked out all the time? How do I ask her out for coffee while avoiding major trauma? Any advice? Lay it on me. --Grocery Store Blues
On your behalf, I called the Safeway nearest your return address, which I'm assuming is the Safeway nearest your home, and shared your letter with the manager, Mark. Do Safeway checkers get asked out all the time? "Well, it happens," said Mark, "but we discourage it." Why? "For obvious reasons--stalking and all of that stuff." Does Mark, a 17-year Safeway veteran, know checkers who've been stalked? "I've been at stores where it happened, where a guy was harassing one of the cashiers. It was awful." So, if you promise not to stalk--if she says no, you'll be polite and go away--would it be all right for you to ask this checker out for coffee? "No, it wouldn't be all right." But what about her seeming interest in you--the smiling, the eye contact? "He needs to understand that she's just doing her job. She's trained to make eye contact and smile. Checkers are paid to do that--she's not flirting, she's working."
Are there any circumstances under which it would be appropriate for someone to ask a checker out? "Only if he met her outside of work." But wouldn't arranging to meet her outside of work require finding out where she goes after work, and then arranging to be there--which sounds a lot like stalking? "Yes, that's why I think it's best that he do nothing." Does he know of a checker who successfully dated a customer? "No, never."
Hm. Pretty grim--a little too grim, methought. So, I walked over to a grocery store near my office and asked a checker--the lovely and talented Steph--if she knew of any fellow checkers who'd successfully dated customers. "It happens, God knows," said Steph. "But most of the people who find love in the grocery business usually find it with other folks in the grocery business." Perhaps you should fill out an application--you could be her bag boy and sack your way into her heart. If you don't have the time to pick up a few shifts at your local Safeway, Steph felt you could go ahead and ask her out. "Ask her to coffee. If she says no, she says no. Don't send a note or flowers--that's too creepy, and it would embarrass her in front of the other checkers."
Why are you so mean to the people who write in to you? Every week I read your column and literally want to throw up! You think you know every goddamned thing, but you don't. Why don't you be courteous to the people who write you, and then maybe, just maybe, the world will except [sic] our kind.
People who send me letters have read my column, so they're aware of the risks--they know I'm mean. And, hey, we might have better luck getting what we want from the world if we ask for it properly. "Except" us? I may be mean, but I would rather be mean than stupid.
A few weeks ago, I came across Savage Love. It was hard for me to believe this type of material is offered to the general public or that a person could read this stuff in good conscience. I know the lifestyle you choose is just that, a choice. God gives us this choice. I have chosen to place my trust in Christ. I am a 22-year-old student, studying to be a preacher at a Baptist Bible college. I base my beliefs on the Bible, and the Bible tells me to love everyone. That is why I am writing you. Not to condemn you and your lifestyle, but because I'm concerned about you.
The Bible is not about rules. It is about Jesus' death on the cross for our sins. We have all sinned, according to Rom. 13:10, and because of our sin we must pay a penalty, and that is eternal separation from God. All you need to do to obtain the privilege of eternity in heaven with God is accept him into your heart right now as your personal Lord and Savior. Renounce your lifestyle and the things that you do to fill the VOID in your heart. Accept Christ into your heart. Pray and ask him (1) to forgive you of your sin; (2) to let you become part of God's family; (3) tell Jesus you trust him and give yourself to him as you best know how.
--Your friend, PS
On Thanksgiving Day I came in to the office to pick up my wallet, which I'd accidentally left on my desk. By some miracle, it hadn't been stolen--it was right where I left it. But there are no accidents, and I know now that miracles do happen, for on my desk right next to my wallet was your letter, Phil. I don't usually read my mail on holidays, but something made me open your letter. A higher power?
Tears streamed down my face as I read. I fell to my knees and, on the most meaningful Thanksgiving Day of my adult life, I gave thanks from a place deep within my soul. Thanks that, as I am an adult now, I no longer have to listen to idiots like you; thanks that I live in a secular society, where I am free to accept or reject the Xtian bible and its goofy strictures; and finally, thanks that not all Xtians regard my lifestyle as an abomination, but instead turn their attentions to the things that X himself regarded as abominations--poverty, hunger, homelessness, hatred. Then I went home and shared your letter with my boyfriend. We laughed, and then retired to our bedroom, where I gave myself to him as best I know how--we made glorious, life-affirming, VOID-filling homo love. And when we were done, I picked up your letter and wiped my dick with it. Happy holidays.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.