kid being told secretI must have a face that says “Tell me your problems.”  (I definitely have a face that says “I love brownies…and ice cream…and pie…”).

I say this because wherever I go, in the strangest of situations, I always seem to be confronted by a stranger who feels compelled to tell me his or hers life’s woes.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it.  I’m flattered people think I appear normal enough to tell about their problems.

Either that, or maybe I look just as crazy as they do and they feel like they’ve found a friend.

The disheveled hair and lack of bra probably greatly lend credence to this argument.  It’s compounded by the fact that I am always covered in dog hair and faintly smell like dog pee.

The stories I hear are always good for a chuckle or two, once I get in my car, out of earshot, and out of gun firing range.  I also like hearing strangers’ problems because it makes me realize mine aren’t so bad.

Although I wish they’d bring back My So Called Life, that problem isn’t nearly as bad as the guy who was accosted in his truck by a flying turkey.  (This is really a story someone told me.  No joke).

woman in skirt at grocery storeWhatever the reason, I embrace strangers randomly telling me things.  I listen and provide suggestions if appropriate, or nod in agreement if the person looks like they might cut me up and feed me to their cat.

Tonight I stopped by the grocery store to get a few things for dinner.  (And by a “few things” I mean a cart full of food). And yes, I realize several of my stories involve trips to the grocery store.

News flash: this girl likes to eat, which necessitates multiple trips to the store.   Try to keep up.  And don’t judge.

I grabbed my items quickly. I was hungry and that pasta wasn’t going to make itself.  I immediately skipped the self checkout, as I’m still not allowed back in that area after my last encounter.  This left me with no choice but to proceed to a regular lane where the line was long.

pushing shopping cartAs I waited for the line to dwindle, I found myself rocking out to the Muzak.

Steve Winwood really knows how to get my juices flowing, and although the sight of Boy George makes me nauseous, he sings some catchy tunes.

When I approached the checker, humming Rick Astley and stifling a fist pump, I looked up to see who would be checking out my groceries (and who would be judging me for the large amount of Hostess products in my cart).

It was a young guy who was anywhere from age 19-25.  I’m not good with guessing people’s ages, but that’s my best estimate.

He could have been in the 9th grade for all I know, but I’m pretty sure he at least had a learner’s permit and drove himself to the job.

He was tall and on the heavy side (which made me happy, as I figured he wouldn’t judge me for the amount of trans fats in my cart).

He wasn’t particularly attractive, although the Shop N Save polo he was wearing was less than flattering on everyone.

juke boxHe commented that he was sick of listening to the songs over the speakers.  Immediately, I realized this kid was a moron, as he didn’t notice the pure joy that came over my face when Barry Manilow’s voice filled the store.

I tried to hide my excitement at the new song and told him the music probably appealed to several different groups of people.

He then advised me that he particularly didn’t like when they played Taylor Swift, as that reminded him of his ex-girlfriend.  What?!  Taylor Swift?  The long haired blonde girl who clearly hasn’t met a Chi iron?

The singer that looks like an alien?  Her music brings back memories of your ex-girlfriend?  I had to know more.

I asked him how long they had been broken up, and he said it had been “a while.”  I had no idea what that meant but didn’t want to waste my time with this guy discussing time frames.  I wanted to get to the juicy stuff and ask why they broke up, but Chubs McGee was ahead of me.

sad guyHe blurted out that they broke up because she cheated on him, but he still wanted her back.  Seriously?!

How could a chubby guy who likes Taylor Swift have a girlfriend who cheated on him?  He was clearly a romantic, and that hoe bag of a girlfriend was too blind to see it.

He said he wanted her back and that he missed her.  I immediately asked myself WWOD (What Would Oprah Do?).

I knew she would yell advice at him and then give him a new car. I couldn’t give him new wheels,(unless he wanted the old minivan I drove in high school, which probably wouldn’t make him a chick magnet).

However, I could give him some dating tips.  I told him he shouldn’t waste his time with someone who doesn’t appreciate his value, and that he’s better than that.

I also told him if he went back to her I would “cut him” which may have been taking it to far, but I got lost in the moment.

He said he understood, but a part of him was so caught up in Taylor Swift’s third grade lyrics, that I swear I saw a tear roll down his face.

holding hand3I promptly paid for my groceries, told him to stay strong, and headed to the bagging station where I proceeded to bag my own groceries.

Don’t judge.  I’m not made of money, so I shop at Shop N Save where I bag my own groceries to save some cash and time to reflect on my glory days of working at Hy-Vee as a star checker.

As I threw several bags of frozen broccoli into a bag with eggs and toothpaste, I wondered why I seem to always be the person that random strangers talk to about their problems.  Is it because I always have an idiot grin on my face?

Or maybe it’s because I smell like a dog shelter most of the time, which leads people to believe I’m a hoarder?  Do I look like someone who is actively participating in psychiatric treatment?

Whatever the reason, I realized that it’s just the cross I have to bear and I am burdened with this gift.  That, and the ability to guess the price of nearly anything within 10%.

Maybe I should quit my job and become a therapist who regularly appears as a contestant on The Price is Right.

Even then, I’m pretty sure Drew Carey would stop his hosting gig to tell me about the wart he can’t seem to remove from his left toe.

Although these confessions from strangers are odd and frequently uncomfortable, it always makes for interesting stories, which I pass on to you…all three of you who read this blog.  You’re welcome.