In high school and early college, I worked for a local grocery store. The store was conveniently located next to the cheapest housing in town, along with halfway houses for those just out of jail or overcoming addictions.
We had some fun customers, doncha know.
For all the customers who came in completely incoherent, with urine-soaked money, there were those who were actually interesting, too. We the checkers would converse with these regulars, and they made us wonder about them.
One of those I remember most clearly was an elderly gentleman. I say gentleman because he was always dressed nicely, with a vest and slacks, and his hair slicked to one side - very 1920.
I still maintain you can tell a lot about a person by what they purchase, wherever they go. This seemed especially true at the grocery store. This dapper gentleman would come in once every week or so and buy largely the same items: grapefruit, Listerine, and a big bottle of J. Bavet brandy. Sure, he bought other items too, but those were the recurring ones that stood out in my mind.
One week at the checkout, he unloaded the basket with the Listerine in one hand, the brandy in the other, and turned to me. "Now here's a question," he said jovially. "Which one do you drink?"
He wasn't the only one to come in for big bottles of alcohol. The college-age kids did, of course, but my favorites were the little old ladies. They were all about 4'10", with short, permed hair covered by a plastic rain hat. One in particular could hardly lift her enormous bottle of Fleischmann's from the cart to the counter, but she made me think of a tiny, tiny dog with a bone three times her size, wagging her tail in excitement.
This comparison carries over to the bookstore where I now work. Our clearance section is always full of cheesy romances, as I've mentioned before: books whose covers just make you cringe at their ridiculous stylings and the lack of suitable clothing in these alternate universes.
Last week, a woman of about 60, husband at her side, bought about eight of these books, each one featuring a rippling, muscular hunk of flesh on the cover with smoldering eyes (which say he has no personality at all). Again, here was a little lady with a head full of grey curls who couldn't wait to drag her wonderful find back home. Again, I saw a little terrier with an enormous bone.
If I was the husband, I'm sure I'd be a tad bit jealous.