Saturday, June 21, 2003

I am not the man you're looking for

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I do not work, nor have I ever worked, at a supermarket.

Let me explain. There are some people out there who are utterly convinced that I work at various supermarkets in metro Fall River, and nothing I say can change their minds. You know who you are. Please understand that, in fact, I work only at this newspaper. I am in the grocery industry in no way, shape, or form.

At a Stop & Shop somewhere in this city (I won’t mention which one to protect its identity), a woman who works at the deli counter continues to believe that I work there, and that for some reason I haven’t shown up in several weeks. She has been under this impression for a year or so. It is very vexing.

Every time I see her, she asks, “How come you haven’t been working lately?”

“Pardon me?” I say. She usually catches me off-guard while I’m daydreaming about expensive Italian salted meat products.

“You haven’t been in to work in a while,” she says.

“I haven’t?” I say.

Then after some more circular conversation, it comes out that I allegedly work at Stop & Shop. So I break the news to her: I have never been employed by the Stop & Shop corporation in any capacity.

“Are you sure?” she asks. “You must look just like a guy who works here.”

Every time we finish this little dance—and it’s happened more than a dozen times—I feel vaguely ashamed, like it’s my fault for not working at Stop & Shop. It’s not that I don’t want to work there. I’m sure it’s a fine work environment. If I were a Stop & Shop employee, I’d like to think I could be happy involved in frozen foods, let’s say, or maybe dairy. But I have a job already, which, as it happens, does not involve groceries. I’m willing to take a lie detector test to prove this.

I’ve tried wearing large hats that obscure my face. They don’t work. Also, in recent months I’ve had a beard. The deli counter lady still thought I was the other guy. Maybe my double has a beard, too. It has been cold lately.

For obvious reasons, I’ve started going to Shaw’s. Except that may be over, too. The other day, while I was inspecting their broccoli, an elderly lady asked me if I was in charge of produce. This was in spite of the carriage I was leaning on and the shopping list in my hand. I said sorry, no, realizing that I was wearing a shirt roughly the same shade of green as the uniforms of people who really are in charge of Shaw’s produce.

“You’re not?” she said, skeptical. She left to find someone else—but she followed me for a few minutes, I guess making sure I wasn’t trying to get out of helping her.

I’m not above helping short or infirm people reach the items on the upper shelves. I do that all the time. But because I work at a newspaper, I am not authorized to slice ham or tell you how fresh the peppers are. I’m sorry. It’s just not within my power.

This pattern has plagued me my entire life. It’s not just about working in a grocery store. I look more or less like at least 60 percent of Fall Riverites, being short, stocky, and Portuguese. You will note, by the way, that no one has ever mistaken me for a firefighter or a UPS driver.

Never mind the name. There are many pages of Medeiroses in the phone book. When I was at Durfee High School, my homeroom was almost entirely Medeiroses, and I was one of at least three Dan Medeiroses in the school. More than once I was called to the office to answer for stuff the other Dans did.

But I’m often mistaken for non-Portuguese people, too. My wife and I were in New York recently, at a restaurant in lower Manhattan. At the next table was an old couple. They were half-deaf, so they had to shout at each other to make private conversation. The wife leaned in toward her husband and subtly pointed at me.

He looks like Josh!” she yelled.

My wife found it funny, and started calling me Josh. Very amusing. She doesn’t know the consequences of being mistaken for other people. It’s not all fun and groceries.

One day, when I was a first-grader, I was standing in the recess yard of Small School, minding my own business. I felt a hand grab my shoulder from behind and spin me around—and the next thing I knew some fifth-grader was belting me in the eye.

“Oh man!” he said, his hands at his mouth. “Sorry! I thought you were somebody else.”

I rubbed my face, feeling my cheek swell and bruise. “That’s OK,” I said.

Here’s some helpful information for readers:

My name is Dan. I work at the newspaper. I often buy produce, but I don’t sell it. And if you’re looking for somebody to punch in the face, I’m not him.

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