Strangers on a Train, or Rather, in the Condiment Aisle


I was recently standing in the salsa and condiment aisle at the grocery, innocently scanning the shelves for the perfect organic mustard. A woman stepped right beside me, quietly scanning the shelf as well. After a few moments, she turned and spoke to me.

“Do you suffer from intestinal distress?”

My first thought was that was the oddest pickup line I’d ever heard. I obviously didn’t suffer from intestinal distress if I was perusing the mustards and condiments. And we weren’t standing in the over-the-counter stomach medications aisle.

I’ve always had an aura or something about me that pulls complete strangers to me to bare their innermost secrets. I’m usually a good listener, but how does someone see that by only looking at me. I don’t know what the signal is, but it has happened over and over all my life.

She continued to talk, telling me that her teenage son suffered intestinal distress, to the point of being embarrassed even going to school, for he had daily episodes of toilet emergencies. She explained how bad she felt for him and asked me, a stranger in the grocery store, for my advice on helping him.

“Does he also suffer regularly from migraines.”

“Yes, almost every day.”

I could actually help her. I knew someone who had Celiac disease, who had suffered with those exact same symptoms until they had cleaned all gluten from their diet. I explained that situation to her.

She said her family doctor had offered to test her son for gluten intolerance and she had questioned whether it was worth the expense.

“Is your son’s health and well-being and his self-respect at school worth the expense?”

“Yes, it is.”

“So there’s your answer.”

She seemed relieved after our conversation, thanking me and moving on to her actual shopping. I hope she followed through, had the test done and resolved her son’s health problems. It still amazes me to think how our paths had crossed in the condiment aisle and she had stopped and asked me the very question, strange as it was, that I could help her with.

Strangers on a Train, or Rather, in the Condiment Aisle
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