As I bend down to search for red-tag clearance Angus beef, the guy behind the meat counter asks, "Can I help you?"
"Nah, I'm just looking," I reply dismissively. This normally causes store people to stop talking to you and walk away. Not this time.
Instead, the meat guy laughs. "Yeah, I know you - you're always looking!"
I stare at him. Is he hitting on me or something? But he quickly elaborates: "I see you wandering around here all the time."
Yikes! I've been identified!
It's true - I spend a lot of time in the meat department: digging through the whole chickens to find one for under $3.50, then $3.40, then $3.20; comparing the price per ounce of chuck roast vs. round roast; taking four packages of imitation crab meat, then returning three; staring at the buy-one-get-two-free smoked sausages, trying to decide if I'd ever actually eat them. Meat is expensive, and there's a lot of variation in price out there, even within a single store. I'm looking for the best deal I can possibly get.
What I'm not looking for is anyone to notice my mad rambles through the supermarket.
I laugh nervously and explain to the meat guy that I'm just looking for deals. "You know, grab the sale stuff, pop it into the freezer before it expires," I explain.
"Oh, well, you know this is the Angus beef section," he replies. "All the stuff in black trays is Angus. The USDA Choice beef over there is gonna be cheaper."
And at this, I feel a mix of irritation and - I think - shame. I shouldn't really blame Meat Guy; I know he was just trying to help. But I feel like I have effectively led him to dismiss me from the Angus section. I feel like if I want to browse there for 40-percent-off top sirloin again, I have to go late at night, when the employees are gone from the service counters.
Later on, I will think: If store employees I've never spoken to before are pointing me toward the cheap cuts of meat, am I taking this budget thing too far? Perhaps I've passed frugality and am heading toward tightwaddery.
But I don't say any of this to Meat Guy, of course. Instead, I smile, say, "Thanks, I've already looked there," and walk away.