There I was, scrutinizing the cereal, trying to figure out which of the boxes of Cheerios was the best price/ounce, when a short, older man in a baseball cap tapped me on the shoulder.

“I know this might seem odd, but could you answer a question,” he said, his left hand gesturing toward the shelves of oatmeal across the aisle.  I replied with something to the extent of a hesitant “sure,” not afraid of interacting with this stranger, but more because I was not feeling confident in my oatmeal knowledge.

“I just can’t figure out if this is the same thing,” he said, pointing to one kind, “as this,” indicating another.  So we both looked, searching for the differences.  One was flavored, one was not.  One was in packets, one was “loose leaf” (loose oat?).  One was organic, one was generic.  So, I told him, “It doesn’t look like these are the same at all,” and pointed out the differences.  He nodded, somewhat sadly, and continued to stare at the boxes.  “Can I help you with anything else?” I asked.  “No, but thank you.”

So I turned back to the Cheerios, selected a box, and continued with my shopping.  I had almost forgotten about the situation when I passed the aisle again on my way to the checkout – the man was still standing in front of the oatmeal, emptyhanded.


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