Even though we’re on the “do not call list,” occasionally a telemarketer will get through, and they usually call when we’re eating supper.

This time when the phone rings my mouth is half full of squash. I swallow, and just as I’m starting to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” the caller interrupts.

“I’m not selling anything,” a female voice responds. “I just want to know what grocery store you like best and why.”

She may have scratched my name off her list had she known she was in for an earful. “Businesses are competing for customers nowadays,” I reply. “It doesn’t matter where you shop; grocery store managers expect customers to unload their own groceries onto a conveyer belt at the check-out counter and sometimes even bag them.”

“That’s true,” the lady replies.

“In the good old days, grocery carts unhinged in the front and cashiers emptied carts for customers. Do you remember that?”

“Actually, no.”

Suddenly I realize this gal is probably Mindy’s age, in her 20s, and never knew customer service when it was “customer oriented.”

“I remember when sackers stood at every checkout lane, ready to pack groceries quickly and methodically into bags. They could toss items from one hand to the other without even looking,” I continue.

“Is that so?”

“Indeed. And ‘may I help you out to your car?’ was never asked. Carrying groceries to the customers’ vehicle was a given.”

“For real?”

I’m thinking this caller probably thinks I’m from the Twilight Zone, but I hope she’s taking notes and will pass them along. I figure if horn-rimmed glasses can make a comeback, maybe customer service in grocery stores can too.

“So you’re saying you’re dissatisfied with your shopping experience at every store?” the caller asks.

“No. It’s just a change. I’ll admit when the first unload-and-bag-it-yourself stores popped up, I didn’t think they would last. But now some stores are even doing away with cashiers and putting in automated cashiers, and that I don’t like.

Customers have been forced to adjust. Now I shop from light to heavy — leaving meats and frozen items for last. Then I unload from heavy to light, making sure to lift with my legs and bend at the knees.”

“That’s good,” the caller replies.

“I wonder why customer service has gone away with the ozone?”

“Probably to lower overhead,” she responds.

“Certainly. Now it’s one dude per 20 aisles, making finding someone to help about as rare as a two-minute steak.”

“I’m making note of that,” she replies. I can hear scribbling of her pen.

“Wait! There’s more.” I stop her from prematurely hanging up. “The other day, I went to the store and couldn’t reach the air-conditioner filters on the top shelf, so I asked a tall employee if he would retrieve one for me. He was visibly perturbed because I asked, so I tried to ease his pain by saying ‘It must be nice to be so tall.’”

“No, not really,’ the young man replied, ‘because I always get asked to reach things for short people like you.’”

“You’re joking!” the caller replies horrified.

“Nope. True story. And another time a grocery employee ran up to me, dragging a mop. ‘Are you dribbling, ma’am?’ he asked.

‘“I beg your pardon,’ I gasped. Then the mop-wielding man began sifting through my cart.”

“What was he looking for?” the caller asks.

“I didn’t know. Then the man pointed to the floor and there was a trail of pink liquid. ‘Where’s your chicken?’ the man demanded.

“I tell you; I felt like a criminal, like I was about to be thrown against the Pop Tarts and handcuffed.”

“Oh, my!”

“I was getting angry when the family ahead moved their cart, and there on the floor was a large puddle of chicken blood-juice.” And then as quickly as the Mop Man came, he departed, his rubbery sneakers squeaking against the linoleum.”

“Thank goodness it wasn’t your chicken that committed the vile dribble crime,” the caller comments with a chuckle.

“Yes. Every now and then a grocery store helper will be up front to unload carts. This happened to me a few days ago, and I thought I would be pleased, but I wasn’t.”

“You weren’t?”

“Nope. The guy started unloading my cart with bread first, followed by a 30-pound bag of kitty litter. I grabbed the bread before it got smashed and told him to get lost. Everyone knows that squishy items like bread and tomatoes go on the conveyor belt last!”

“Of course they do,” she replies. “So you’re saying you would NOT go back to the old way?”

“I guess maybe not. It’s kind of like when a person has been driving for a long time — once you’re comfortable in the driver’s seat, it doesn’t feel right to scoot over and let someone else take the wheel.”

I can hear the sound of paper shredding as the call disconnects.