A Real "Reality Show"

By Keith Thompson

If you’re a school board member, you know what it’s like to be recognized when you are out in public. It usually happens when you are waiting in a line, say at the post office, the bank, the dentist’s office, or standing on the sidelines of your kid’s soccer match.

My least favorite place to hear that inevitable question, “Hey, aren’t you on the school board?” is the grocery store. At least, it was my least favorite until I came up with a creative response to the inevitable second question: “What’s it like to be on the school board?”

Recently, I was racing through our local mega-supermarket to pick up a few items. You know the store, the one where the few necessities you need are located in the far reaches of the outer galaxy of the store.

As I maneuvered through aisles and zigzagged around other shopping carts to scoop up a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs, I realized that 5 p.m. was definitely the wrong time to be in a hurry. The parking lot was congested and the cash register lines were overflowing into the food aisles like your worst traffic jam nightmare. I made a quick decision to get in the 20 items or fewer self-checkout lines, which wound around into the frozen food aisle.

Standing near the frozen pizzas, I noticed two things. The first thing was how many people apparently were math illiterate. With groceries erupting over the sides of the carts, how could these people not know the difference between 20 and 200 items? Perhaps public schools were to blame. The other thing I noticed was a woman staring at me rather oddly, which sometimes happens. This woman looked as if she had been sucking on a pickle way too long and her squinting glare was making me nervous.

Finally, after I had moved one place in line, the staring woman said to me in a sandpaper voice, “I’ve seen you somewhere.”

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