Friday, July 14, 2017

The Case of the Missing Milk Jug

The grocery cart was bursting with bags of food. I followed my teenage son as he pushed the cart out the automatic doors and into the bright sunshine of a July afternoon.

Past dozens of cars we trekked, until we came to the place at the back of the lot, where the kid had carefully parked our minivan about an hour earlier.

I opened the back hatch.

The kid leaned over and reached for the milk jugs at the bottom of the cart.

"What the...? Where the fudge is the other gallon of milk?" he exclaimed.

I looked. There on the bottom of the cart lay a milk jug that had clearly tipped over on the trip across the parking lot. But the other jug had vanished!

"It must have fallen off," I told the kid. "Go see if it's on the ground somewhere."

I loaded the groceries into the back of the van, looking up every few seconds to check on the kid's progress. He walked with purpose, glancing between vehicles, until he reached the front of the store.

He went inside.

He came back out.

He raised his arms in a clear "WTH?" motion.

It was obvious to me that someone had discovered our carelessly abandoned jug of milk and either made off with it or returned it to the store. So I joined my son and we ventured inside to inquire of the employees.

First, I checked with our cashier on the chance that we had simply left the jug of milk behind. But no. So we made our way to customer service to inquire further.

"Can I help you with something?" said a voice from behind me.

I turned to the short, smiling clerk and asked, "Did someone bring in a gallon of milk that they found in the parking lot?"

She looked at me with a curious expression that I interpreted to mean: "I have no idea what the heck you are talking about." So I explained in detail.

"Oh," she said apologetically, "I just got here. Let me check with someone else." I waited patiently as she flagged down a tall, older man in a bright yellow vest. "Did you find a gallon of milk outside?"

"Yeah," he said matter-of-factly. "It was still cold, so I put it back."

The clerk smiled and told me to go ahead and grab a new milk. I was slightly stunned that a grocery store employee would discover a gallon of milk on the ground only to nonchalantly return it to the cooler at the back of the store. But, happy that the mystery was solved, the kid and I made our way to the dairy department, where we were reunited with our lost jug of milk.

When we arrived home and all the groceries were put away, and after I relayed this story to daughter no. 1, I realized that this is one of countless ordinary little stories that make up the chapter book of life. And they're worth telling, even if those who hear them may not hold them long in their memory.