Friday, August 9, 2013

A Swede in America

Zoe and I had arrived at our home for the next two weeks: a house where we are renting a bedroom that includes unlimited kitchen and living room privileges. But it did not include food and we calmly ventured into town with her borrowed stroller, not because she can't walk well by now, but because I really worried she would have one of those "I'm too tired to do anything but lie here on the street"-fits that occasionally comes with jet lag. And it would be easier to carry the groceries. After a spot of lunch (dinner?) I found a posh organic market that would normally be for specialty foods or for splashing out, pretending to be rich and wanting to display one's concern for the environment, but this time, it was simply the closest grocery store that had all the basic things we needed. Zoe found a shopping cart in her size and we managed to buy 79$ worth of salad stuff, bread, cheese and a box of extra cheesy cheddar bunny rabbit crackers. As I went to pay, Zoe lay down on the couch (yes, this posh organic supermarket/cafe had a couch next to the tables in the veggie area) and I started chatting a bit to the cashier. I really enjoy the ability to just chit chat with shop people, something I cannot do back in Sweden for two reasons: My miserable and question mark inducing Swedish and the general Scandinavian attitude that any excess words exchanged means you are weird. Why would anyone have any interest in you as a customer? Or if I say anything to you other than the final amount, you will think I'm coming on to you.

"So where are you two visiting from", the cashier asked. "We live in Stockholm", I happily replied, "we are here for a couple of weeks". "Arh, I thought I detected a slight accent", he continued and I instantly got annoyed. He thought I was Swedish. "I didn't say I was Swedish", I cheekily replied and he said something about me then at least picking up the accent already. Meaning the Swedish accent. I wanted to scream that a Swedish accent was probably the least of any accents in this world that I possess but at this point he had finished tallying up the groceries and asked if I wanted a bag. Still wanting to seem cool and super environmental, I said that half could probably fit under the stroller so if he just gave me a small bag I would be fine. He switched the big paper bag with handles out with a smaller paper bag, but I was so confused about him trying to bag them for me that I didn't noticed that the new bag didn't have handles. I had completely forgotten the tradition of cashiers bagging your groceries here, both because I want to forget all the annoyance I always had with them putting one thing in each bag and heavy stuff on top of the eggs, and because I ended up going through the self-checkout 90% of the time back in California, *just* so I could bag them myself. So in my attempt to stay cool and "American", I just popped the heavy stuff in the bottom of the stroller and put the small handle-less bag in the seat. Fetching Zoe from the couch I hoped to get out of there in a rush, but when Zoe saw the bag she let out an elaborate scream "where am I gonna sit?" I rushed her out the door, not wanting to embarrass myself anymore and juggled even more with the groceries outside. Finally, after dropping tomatoes and pepper on the ground, I managed to wedge the bag between my own bag and the back of the stroller so Zoe could sit in it. I walked away with my head held high, but knowing very well that I'm not American because 1) I have a weird Scottish/British/American/Louise accent and 2) I do not instantly expect cashiers to bag my groceries. But I so much want to be part of their small talk tradition and chat to people I interact with. I want people to smile at me when I pass them in the street and I want them to come help me in an instant when I can't open the door while pushing the stroller. That's one of the best things I love about the US and well, many other places apart from Scandinavia. So perhaps that's one of the reasons I take such offense of being presumed Swedish.

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