I first met Judy about two years ago on a late-night trip to Ralph’s Supermarket. My son Jake was turning 7 years old the next day, and I had completely forgotten to buy cupcakes for his party at school. I was already in my bedtime sweatpants when I stumbled in, feeling like a very bad mom.
“Hi! I’m Judy!”
The fresh-faced 20-something greeted me at the entrance with a warm smile and somehow, I knew she understood. I wasn’t a bad mom. I was just a very very busy mom with an obvious case of early onset Alzheimer’s. Suddenly I felt much better, and I owe it all to Judy.
Judy is kind. She has a smile that lights up the world. And she’s always glad to see me.
Judy is also a life-size cardboard mannequin permanently perched at the entrance of Ralph’s Supermarket.
I know that her name is Judy because she wears a nametag that says “Judy,” and I’m sure that she’s glad to see me because she’s standing in front of a sign that says “Welcome! Glad you’re here!”
Wow! Two exclamation points! I think she’s REALLY glad to see me!
It doesn’t matter if I’m jetting into Ralph’s at 6:00 am because I didn’t realize we ran out of Uncrustables and it’s the only sandwich my daughter Mary will eat for lunch. Or if I’m racing into the store 5 minutes after Jake’s friend Gabe’s birthday party started so I can grab a $25 gift card to Gamestop and tell myself he’d rather have that than a hand picked, gift wrapped present anyway.
Judge Judy might have her strong opinions about my mothering skills (or lack thereof), but my BFF Judy doesn’t judge me.
I can proudly walk up to the checkstand with a package of Depends because I can no longer jump on Jake’s trampoline without leaking a little bit. The checker might give me a “does she or doesn’t she” look. But Judy understands.
Judy also doesn’t judge me when I’m in the about 15 items or less aisle with 16 or 17 items because the “about” clearly give you some leeway, which can be a bone of contention for some of the stick-up-their-butt cashiers who have been around since the stringent 10 items or less days.
Sometimes I even think Judy gives me a little wink – the kind a BFF might give you from across the room when you’re running in late and hope no one notices that you said you’d be there early this time, but you’re only 2 minutes late, which is actually early for you.
I love that little wink from Judy.
Or maybe the twinkle in her eye is just the flickering supermarket fluorescents.
Judy is often seen hanging with her friends Sharice and Andrew. Like Judy, they’re also 20-somethings with big smiles. I call them Judy’s BFFs, but they’re BFFs in a way that you’re friends with co-workers who you don’t really want to hang out with for longer than your lunch break while you badmouth the manager behind his back about his BO problem.
Sharice is African American with cool blonde streaks in her hair, and has a hip African American name that is pleasant but not too scary to white people who don’t think they’re bigots, but are afraid when they meet an African American with a name like Shaniqua or Tawanda.
Anthony is Hispanic (or Latino or Mexican, whatever the PC term is these days that Prius owners use instead of “beaner”), and his name is more ethnically generic than the expected José or Jesus (pronounced “Hey-soos” and not “Jee-zus” because saying “Hey Jee-zus, can you not pack the detergent on top of the kiwi fruit?” makes you feel like you’re kind of taking the Lord’s name in vain). Anthony has short hair and a mustache, but they’re both the right length so that his mustache is not so long that he looks like he’s a drug dealer, and his head hair is not so short that it looks like it’s prison issue.
Neither Judy nor her grocery store BFFs have any visible tattoos or body piercings. At least not at my neighborhood Ralph’s Supermarket. Maybe in South Central they’ve got some ink. Or some bling. Something to attract a different BFF demographic. Perhaps in the Southern states the girls wear big hair and blue eye shadow and Anthony is a Caucasian holding a rifle.
Judy, Sharice, and Anthony say goodbye to me by bellowing, “Thanks for stopping by today!” Notice the exclamation point again? They’re REALLY glad I came in to say hi… and buy my cupcakes-Uncrustables-Gamestop gift card-Depends at Ralph’s Supermarket!
So I holler “Adios!” to Anthony and “Later, Girlfriend!” to Sharice. But I like to say goodbye to Judy by pulling out my iphone and taking a selfie with her. Because even though Judy is actually two-dimensional, she feels like a real 3-dimensional BFF to me.