Keep Your Phlegm to Yourself


“Tissues huh?” asked the grocery store cashier. “Allergies?”

“I think so,” I responded begrudgingly, annoyed at this blatant invasion of my privacy.

“I get so congested this time of year, and then I start coughing up phlegm. It’s usually clear but sometimes greenish,” she continued. “Would you like a bag for your salad and snot rags?”

Okay, this situation has become untenable. At what point in our society did it become acceptable for grocery store cashiers to pry into the business of its consumers, along with our purchasing habits? I can only imagine the interrogation if I’d happened to put medicated hemorrhoidal wipes or Vaseline on her conveyer belt of judgment. “I bet those soothing wipes ease the pain and burning of those anal volcanoes you’ve got,” she’d say. “Vaseline, huh? Oh yeah.”

“Yes,” I said. “I’d like a bag.” I’d say anything to make it stop.

Not that I had an appetite for my salad any longer. The discussion of her phlegm color was a more than suitable weight loss program, far more effective than watching your caloric intake and carb consumption. Jenny Craig has nothing on the annoying cashier in aisle 3.

Several years ago, my friend and I found ourselves at a Walmart. I needed a fun-saver camera, which was a disposable camera you used once and then discarded. They used an ancient device called film that, when developed, became photographs. This was before digital cameras were a thing. My friend needed condoms, for reasons that should seem obvious. We decided to pool our resources and combine our items into one purchase. At the last minute, he threw in a rather large pepperoni stick. He claimed he was hungry. In hindsight, I believe he did this to mess with me.

The cashier looked down at the camera, condoms, and pepperoni stick, then up at us, rolled her eyes, and said, “That’ll be $14.87.” We handed her our pooled cash.

“Have fun tonight,” she said, as she placed into a bag what she assumed were our sexual paraphernalia.

Everyone laughed at the encounter, and we went about our lives. The camera was used a week later for a beach vacation. The pepperoni stick was cut into pieces and shared over some cheap beers. Perhaps the condoms were even used, though that was none of my business.

The Walmart cashier didn’t personalize our items by espousing her sexual preferences or how she wished her parents would’ve bought her a camera so she could pursue photography. She didn’t regale us with tales of working at Bob Evans, where the pepperoni was always fresh and delicious.

We’ve lost our way, friends. We somehow got off track, thinking that everyone wants to hear each other’s opinions. We don’t. A person should be able to buy a box of Kleenex without having to learn of a stranger’s phlegm color. A person should be able to sooth his anal volcanoes without fear of learning of someone else’s anal volcanoes. Sometimes, Vaseline isn’t used for devious purposes.

We need to rediscover our own personal space, friends. Our phlegm should be ours and ours alone.

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