Connections Abound (Even in Trader Joe’s!)


I remember the first time I ever stepped inside a Trader Joe’s. I was with some friends in Milwaukee, and they stopped to pick up a few food staples. 

Right away, I knew this store was different. Almost every item had the Trader Joe’s label, and the Hawaiian-shirt-clad staff genuinely seemed eager to check our groceries and place them efficiently into brown paper bags.

While we were in the store, Gloria Estefan’s “1, 2, 3” started playing loudly through the speakers, adding energy to the room. My friend then leaned over and said, “What if everyone in this store – every single person right now – just started dancing to this?” Then he demonstrated a dorky dance move, shifting to the beat. It was silly, and I laughed hard.

For the rest of our time in the store, I enjoyed imagining this ridiculous scenario. People came into the store that day thinking they would simply push a cart and check items off of a grocery list, but little did they know. . . this very day they would become co-stars in Trader Joe’s: The Musical!

It was enjoyable to imagine.

Back then, Trader Joe’s was a complete novelty to me. Now it is my most frequent grocery destination. I love it, and I would be so sad if we ever moved to a town that doesn’t have one.

I hadn’t thought of this memory in for a long time, but it popped in my head a few days ago while I was in the Ann Arbor store. That’s because a number of fun connections emerged while I was the one simply pushing a cart and checking items off a grocery list.

When I got to the produce section, a toddler sat in the front of his own cart and boldly introduced himself to me. “HIIIIIII!” he exclaimed with joyful abandon. I said the same to him and waved with a smile. 

Lest I think I was completely special, however, this toddler continued to exclaim, “HIIIIIII!”to every single person he encountered. Every single one. I think it annoyed his Mom a little bit, and if I was much closer to him in proximity, I would probably feel that way too. But instead, I got to keep smiling, because no matter what aisle I was in, I heard this kid greeting everyone. His voice faded with distance, but I could still hear it – a continuous, little kid refrain.

Not much later, I heard another continuous refrain. Brice, one of the staff members, was asking every single customer who came through his checkout lane, “So what was the most exciting thing that happened in your day?” The question was intentionally the same each time, but I bet he heard lots of different kinds of stories.

And then, as if the universe already knew I was recalling that memory from Milwaukee, I stood in Brice’s lane myself, probably three people away from hearing the question directed at me. And I kid you not, the man directly in front of me who was waiting there too, started dancing. He started bouncing back and forth dorkily (maybe mindlessly but definitely to the beat of the music) and it was wonderful. 

We human beings are connected, and these connections can literally find us anywhere in large and small ways. Even in a neighborhood grocery store. 

So we might as well seek them out and join the dorky dance.

Renee Roederer

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