Scary shopper, super creep: Shopping while female in Detroit

Supermarket ShopperLet me start by saying I love Detroit’s new Meijer.

It has a friendly staff, well-stocked shelves, good prices, and a location that’s very convenient for me. I try to shop there whenever I can, usually on the weekends.

A few days ago, I decided to swing by after work. That’s when I learned the weeknight shopping experience is different from that on a Sunday afternoon.

“Excuse me,” I said to the 50-something man blocking my way to the fresh herbs. Immediately, I realized something was off with him. His eyes were sort of unfocused and glazed. He had jittery hands and a pot belly. He was dressed in dusty looking jeans, a dusty looking button down shirt, a dusty sport coat, and a stingy brimmed dusty fedora. He stepped out of the way, muttering about how the store confused him.

“I know,” I replied as I headed to a display of cilantro, mint, and parsley. “It’s not laid out like other Meijer stores. Still, it’s good to have one here in the city.”

“Right,” he replied, walking in the same direction as I was. It sounded like his speech was a bit slurred, but I was paying more attention to the display of Italian parsley than his voice. “Sometimes you just don’t feel like driving out into the suburbs.”

I nodded, scanning the shelves for baby peppers as he continued his train of thought.

“You know,” he said, “your license may not be right, you get a bunch of tickets, you get profiled, you constantly get pulled over….”

I stopped short. Did he really just say that?

“Besides,” I shrugged, “gas is almost $4 a gallon, so….”

His puzzled look told me we clearly had different frustrations behind the wheel.

I let the thought hang in the air, telling him to have a nice evening as I walked towards a cooler full of mushrooms. Quickly. As I reached for a pack of baby bellas, a scratchy voice rang a little too close in my left ear.

“Where do you work?” he asked, startling me. Pretending to check out some organic broccoli florets, I positioned my cart in between us.

“In Birmingham,” I replied, pulling my purse closer to my body.

“Yes, but where?” he persisted.

“In Birmingham,” I said again, firmer, thinking I’d made it clear I was not going into detail. He then asked if my company was hiring. I told him no but I’d heard about a place on the east side looking for hi-lo drivers. He wrinkled his nose.

“Oh I did that years ago,” he said, then asked me to guess his age. I declined and once again excused myself, heading to a display of potatoes and onions.

“So,” the voice kind of slurred in a slight whisper, this time a bit too close in my right ear as I put a bag of spuds in my basket. “Are you married?”

I jumped and let out a slight squeal. This guy was right up on me. Again.

“No, but I am seeing someone.” And it technically was true. I was seeing all sorts of someones walking all around us in the produce section. I was also seeing red over this guy’s creepy behavior. I clutched my purse a little tighter and pushed my cart between us.

“Oh,” he said, looking down, and then scanning the aisles as though he were looking for someone. He blurted out he was looking for his neighbor and her daughter. He’d brought them to the store, and didn’t want to leave without them, he said.

“I see,” I said. “Then I should let you get on your way.”  I turned and busied myself with choosing a bunch of baby spinach.

“So, uhh, do you have a cell phone?” he asked as he pulled a flip phone out of his pocket. “I could call you sometime.”

I said I did, but it wasn’t working, hoping my phone didn’t ring at that moment.  He then insisted on giving me his number before he finally wandered off and began following a single woman browsing near the deli counter. I quickly finished my shopping, looking over my shoulder the entire time.

When I got home, I posted about the experience on Facebook. One of my friends sarcastically replied, “Don’t you just love our new Meijers?”

“I still love the Meijer,” I replied. “It’s the people who frequent it that I’m still on the fence about.”

Tracey Morris

Tracey Morris is the author of, “You Said You Wanted to See Me Naked: An Autobiographical Poem Cycle.” Her work has recently been published by Rust Belt Chic Press, and she was a finalist in the 2013 Springfed Arts Writing Contest.