Whenever standing in the checkout line at my local grocery store, I marvel at the “literature” rack. You know what I’m talking about. Anything from the latest in fashion to what Madonna likes to eat to three-headed goats to planting a hardscape in the desert to improving your sex life to why (and even how!) Angelina Jolie got pregnant to…. you get the idea. It really is overwhelming.

Instead of being disgusted with it (my first impulse), I occasionally take an opportunity to strike up a conversation with the person in line behind or ahead of me. The results are sometimes interesting to say the least.

I begin by saying something like “I was looking for The Complete Works of Plato. I thought I saw it here last week.” Mostly people just look at me with a wrinkled forehead and quickly gaze in another direction. If I’m feeling especially civil at that moment, then I take the hint and the discussion ends before it even begins. However, one time an elderly lady rejoined “Honey, I’ve read Plato and he did nothing for me” as she lifted off the rack what appeared to be a newspaper with a headline about Hilary Clinton’s adopted alien from Mars. I did not know what to say. My thought went immediately to something like “Honey, if you read Plato and understood any of it, then you couldn’t possibly be reading that!” Instead, my leanings toward civility took charge and I just stood there stunned.

What would you have said to her?

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