Christmas shopping at the dollar store in Morro Bay

December 19, 2022

Dell Franklin

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


I was on my usual shopping stops on a normal weekday morning and, flustered from the increased holiday season traffic and several long lines at the French Bakery and Rite Aid, I headed into the Dollar Store for a supply of sundries that were running low. I took no notice of the checkout area, so in a hurry was I to get through this place and then Spencer’s Market for groceries.

I filled a small basket with toothpaste, razor blades, Ibuprofen, batteries, paper plates, dish soap, trash bags, aluminum foil, steel wool pads and sponges. Hurrying past dawdling folks with carts, I arrived at the checkout counter only to find a long line snaking clear around the other checkout counter and past an aisle.

There were at least 10 people in line and I was last. Most of them were women, and a few stood behind carts stacked with purchases. Some of the women were around my age (70s) and didn’t seem in the slightest upset with the line, possibly because, like me, they were retired and had nothing better to do.

Still, I was instantly aggravated and began looking around for some employee to open another checkout counter. Up front, the lone checker, a harried, always pleasant woman around 50, was going as fast as humanly possible, swiping one item across the beeper after another while a middle-aged lady customer bagged toys, greeting cards, wrapping paper, candy, various junk food, holiday decorations, wine glasses and goblets the poor checker had to stop and wrap in tissue paper, and all kinds of other items.

Finally, a young guy came out of a door that read “EMPLOYEES ONLY” and gestured for some of us in line to come to his counter. Several ladies went there, and, since I was last in line, I had to figure out which checkout line would be the speediest as two more women with carts arrived behind me.

I stayed in the line I was in and realized immediately I had made a big mistake, because two young Latino ladies were at the front with a cart out of which they extracted one item after another, as if their cart was a limitless cornucopia of Dollar Store merchandise. The poor checker had to swipe one greeting card after another, one toy after another, at least fifteen shiny gift bags after another. Every time I thought the cart was empty, the two happy smiling festive ladies extracted more items while the line beside me moved quickly, though one of the older women was now having a tough time using her credit card as the patient male employee tried to help her.

My line remained unmoved. A couple directly before me were unusually jovial, the man wearing a ball cap and ponytail and a Howdy Doody grin while his lady continually grabbed and kissed him, and he kissed her back, and they parted and giggled and hugged, oblivious to their surroundings, so enamored were they with each other, even at the estimated age of perhaps 50—like grown up flower children from the 60s.

Meanwhile, the two Latino women continued to extract toys, candy, whatever from their limitless cart, and the other line I should have taken was now long because of new cart-toting customers.

“Christmas is Christmas,” a lady in front of the cuddling couple told them. “There’s nice stuff here for loved ones of all ages,” she explained chirpily. The side of her mouth seemed seized from perhaps a stroke or birth deficiency.

“Right on,” said the ponytail.

“It’s the feeling of Christmas,” added the ex-flower child, a woman with a glorious smile and laugh lines in her face. “Not how expensive gifts are. It’s about the beauty of giving, and the love.”

“Right on,” said ponytail, and they hugged and nuzzled again and the lady smiled while I waited for the two Latino women to run out of items. They finally did, but the checker was still swiping away and finally announced the total—well over $100—and one of the Latino ladies used her credit card. They pushed out a cart heaped to the top with several stuffed bags.

My aversion to Christmas increased as I realized the line I had failed to take had all new customers, which meant I would have been out by now. The poor checker was going faster than ever as new lines grew behind me. The couple before me had gum, crackers, cheese-filled crackers, several cupcakes, sunglasses, chips, aspirin, bottled water, batteries, a soft drink and Cheetos.

The lady before them had about $50 worth of items and was joyous at her purchases and suffused with the Christmas spirit of giving, and had actually broached a sweet relationship with the amorous couple who were so oblivious in their blissful love they failed to notice me eye-balling them in sheer wonder.

They finally arrived with their goodies at the counter as the bedraggled checker swiped out their items and took one of ponytail’s credit cards and packed their goodies. They thanked her effusively and skipped out merrily, holding hands. The checker greeted me without looking up as she swiped my items through. I paid with ca redit card and bagged my purchases and held the entry door to the store open for a woman leaving with a cart as a very, very elderly masked couple, stooped and on canes, entered, thanking me as they headed for a cart.

Outside, to my left, the deeply and hopelessly in love couple were handing out cupcakes and crackers to a couple frowsy homeless men and joining them in their holiday spirit feast.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Grinch from Cayucos.