Seaton: But For Video, Erica Thomas Edition*

The silliness of this week almost meant no new Friday Funny. From a human rights tribunal musing over whether waxing a transgender woman’s testicles was a fundament right to the Bob Muller Comedy Hour, your humble writer felt the world maxed out on pure silliness. Then Erica Thomas’s story fell into my lap, and immediately I thanked the comedy gods.

Erica Thomas** is a Georgia representative, woman of color, mother, and a shopper at Publix. Now I’m by nature suspicious of people who shop at Publix, because despite their excellent customer service and the local store being the one place in town I can get a certain kind of spaetzle my better half prefers, Publix’s prices are rather inflated. So by nature, anyone who frequents a Publix has more money than sense.

Apparently on July 19, Representative Thomas had a bad day at the local Publix. In a video posted to Facebook, Thomas claimed tearfully that she’d been in the express checkout lane with fifteen items when an “angry white man” told her she was over the ten item express checkout limit.

Now normally I’d argue in favor of the angry white guy because I’ve long held a belief breaking express checkout item limits should be a federal felony,*** but apparently Representative Thomas was nine months pregnant and accompanied by her daughter, so I would be inclined to cut her a little slack. The angry white man didn’t, according to Ms. Thomas, and called her a “lazy bitch,” and told her to “go back to where she came from.”

The video went viral, because it fit a convenient narrative:**** everything a white person says or does is racist, and if this isn’t affirmed, the white person guilty of such heinous ignorance is either racist or guilty of supporting racist institutions. Unfortunately for Ms. Thomas, the video went so viral the “angry white man” came forward to give his side of the story.

And he wasn’t white.

Eric Sparkes, a man of Cuban descent and self-avowed life-long Democrat, showed up at Publix July 20th as Thomas spoke with television reporters about her experience. He admitted to calling Representative Thomas a “selfish little bitch,” but steadfastly denied ever telling her to go back to where she came from.

Normally, I’d write this up to a stupid “he said, she said,” argument. But as every late-night TV salesman’s uttered at some point, “But wait! There’s more!”

Police actually investigated the situation and a Publix employee told Cobb County officers it was actually Representative Thomas who said “Go back to where you came from!” And repeatedly. And loudly.

No charges were filed.

Now in this situation, once caught in the lie, the average person would simply apologize, admit the wrongdoing, and move on with a mealy-mouthed excuse about how it’s “important to have a dialogue.” But as we’ve established, Representative Thomas is far from average.

No, Thomas lawyered up and doubled down, with her attorney claiming the matter needed additional investigation because the witness mentioned in the police report “didn’t hear the initial argument.” Representative Thomas took her case to the court of public opinion by calling Sparkes a “coward” and a “liar.”

Maybe that’s why Publix released the surveillance video of the encounter.

Go watch it for yourself. Granted, the linked copy has Mr. Sparkes basically narrating what happened, but if you’re concerned, go to the 1:15 mark and watch from there. Sparkes doesn’t seem to be the one angry here. And he’s not acting violent or threatening towards her in any manner as Thomas suggested in her initial Facebook video.

So what can we learn from this encounter? A few points. First, people lie. Second, the more detailed your lie, the more people will be inclined to sniff out your bullshit and call you on it.

And most importantly, if the line says “Ten items or less,” respect the sign. It’s there for a reason, no matter your health status. This is a civilized nation, and we have laws here. And those laws apply even if you’re an elected official.

*With apologies to the proprietor.
**Normally I’d rather be caught dead than linking to Wikipedia. I’m flying by the seat of my pants on this one, though.
***Other grocery store potential felonies include lingering in aisles, chatting with friends, and staring at item prices for longer than fifteen seconds. It’s a grocery store, not a goddamn social club. Make your list, get your shit, and get out.****Your requisite ear worm for the day:

39 thoughts on “Seaton: But For Video, Erica Thomas Edition*

  1. Hunting Guy

    D. Healey.

    “Nor would a wise man, seeing that he was in a hole, go to work and blindly dig it deeper.”

  2. wilbur

    I like lingering in aisles, chatting with friends, and staring at item prices for longer than fifteen seconds. That’s why I go at 7:00am.

    Jeez, neither one of these assholes is anyone I’d hope to encounter. In Publix or anywhere else.

    1. CLS

      Now see, this is acceptable because you’re likely there at store opening. Which means you’re not in the way of tired, overworked, on the clock parents who are on a fucking schedule and need to get shit done.

      My grocery store rules may be quirky, but as a compassionate person I can be flexible for those kind souls who look out for others such as yourself.

    2. BottledJuice

      What’s disturbing is the fact that there are potentially herds of grocery browsers….

        1. BottledJuice

          That line has blurred over the years as in my neck of the woods Hamburger Helper can be added to your chrome plated grocery cart three aisles past the twisted and split 2x4s.

  3. Richard Kopf


    Regarding ***, the woman with whom I live has a gripe about shopping that you might want to add to your list.

    While she is not violent by nature, Joan frequently comes home after shopping, enters the house and screams,

    “If I have to encounter one more blue hair creeping down the center of the aisle while pushing a cart so I can’t get by her to the shelves where I buy your box wine, I’m going to gut the old fool like a fish and watch her bleed out. I swear to God I won’t even summon the grocery kid with the ‘slippery when wet’ sign either.”

    Out of palpable fear,I say nothing, but quietly open the wine box and turn the plastic spigot to open.

    All the best.


    1. CLS


      I’m with Joan on this one. It’s absolutely infuriating when the blue hairs take up the entire fucking aisle moving at a snail’s pace. Even worse is when they take up the sliding doors at the front at a goddamn diagonal, blocking everyone from moving past them as they creep into the parking lot.

      I admire Joan’s zeal for a proper grocery shopping experience. Something tells me she probably takes off down the aisles like a bat out of hell, striking fear into the hearts of chit-chatters and people who think the price of Diet Coke will change if they stare at it hard enough.

      That’s a commendable attitude. You should at least thank her for her hard work and bravery the next time she brings home your box wine.

  4. Terence Roberts

    Ms. Thomas, if you are reading this (a dubious probability) please remember a cardinal rule of life:
    You cannot fix stupid.

    1. CLS

      That is a cardinal rule of life. Unfortunately, as Georgia Judge Durham Bryant Jr, once infamously noted,
      “You have a constitutional right to be a dumbass.”

      1. Jim P

        Borrowed from “Why is it acceptable for you to be an idiot, but not acceptable for me to point it out?”

        1. CLS

          Because the moment you do, you deny the person’s lived experiences and support a racist system of oppression. Didn’t you get the memo?

  5. shenebraskan

    This is the most amusing thing I have read on the internets today. Agree with all the sentiments about the irritations of grocery shopping. While I will never be a fan of The WalMart, their online shopping/free pickup is a life changer for those of us heading into “blue hair” status.

    1. Richard Kopf

      Among other things, the Walmart shopping/free pickup option allows one to avoid the Greeter. Have you noticed the Greeters have become surely while maintaining a disturbingly creepy appearance?

      All the best.


      1. shenebraskan

        Honored to have a response from you, Judge Kopf. Greatly enjoyed your post “To Everything There Is a Season.” Wonderful the regard you have for your staff.

    2. CLS

      See, I can’t get behind the whole online shopping/curbside pickup gimmick. The local place that does it requires me to be there within a certain time frame to get my order, and my schedule’s usually too hectic to wait on some millennial to roll a blue cart with my shopping list to the parking lot.

      No, far easier for me to strike fear into the cowardly, superstitious lot who block the damn doorways while they use the complimentary wipes to clean their shopping cart handles.

      I wait for no millennial, and neither will my children’s desire for fresh apples and cucumbers.

      1. shenebraskan

        I do not miss the grocery store at all. Especially The WalMart, since I (almost) never shopped there before they added free pickup. Local store is adding delivery in a couple of months. I would imagine there will be a charge for that, which may be worth every penny.

  6. ShootingHipster

    “Make your list, get your shit, and get out.”
    Buy The Food Swiftly, That’s The Goal.

    1. CLS

      And a nice encapsulation of how to not piss me off when we cross paths at the grocery store.

  7. Jake

    This is why I get my groceries delivered. Personally, I would have choice words for some self-appointed hall monitor confronting me for being a couple items over in the express aisle as well. Words that would remind him of all the beatings he got in high school.

      1. Jake

        Did somebody drop you on your head when you were a child? What part of my comment suggests that’s what I would say?

    1. zoe

      And the World was divided thusly — those who can count up to 10 items, and those who can not.

      1. Losingtrader

        Does 10 of the same item count as 1 or 10?
        I have this issue not only with groceries, but with license tags for the cloned dogs.

  8. Jelani Whitest-Hill

    Last time I checked. There are plenty of Cubans who identify themselves as white. To be Democrat means that you identify with that political party doesn’t mean that you’re not racist. It’s crazy that people in this country especially white people have divided themselves as a liberal or conservative so the fact that you identify yourself as Democrat doesn’t mean you don’t have any inclination or any likeness of a racist this is just bull crap. At the end of the day democrat or republican you still represent a wing of the same filthy bird. The man is clearly of Caucasian descent last time I checked the Spanish language which comes from Spain is European last time I checked most Europeans identified a self is white or of anglo-saxon descent

  9. JorgXMcKie

    Don’t forget those who park their (full) cart sideways in the aisle then wander away from it ‘looking’ for something. Or the person who apparently has to look carefully at *every damn can* of chicken noodle soup before putting one of them in the cart, *while* having said cart crosswise *and* blocking the aisle.
    Back in my salad days we lived near a 24-hour grocery and I just loved shopping at 2 AM. Nobody there but me, a cashier and a stock boy or two. And if I wasn’t satisfied with the produce selection, if I asked politely they’d go to the back and pull a couple of fresh cartons.

  10. Phv3773

    Someone ought to remind Mr. Sparkes that it’s not his job to police the express lane, and it’s rude to confront strangers about minor social gaffes.

    It occurs to me that an economist pushing a cart with 15 items in it might think that using an under utilized resource was the rational thing to do.

  11. Mario Machado

    As far as grocery rules go, I always ask for paper . Not so much for mother earth, but because it’s more efficient.

    I’ve gotten the stink eye from fellow shoppers, GF, even the cashier, because it takes longer.

    I’d like a ruling from Mr. Seaton regarding the matter. Thank you.

    1. CLS


      Glad you asked! These days the realms of efficiency and environmentally friendly belong to our new friend, the reusable grocery bag. Preferably yours will have a catchy slogan on it like “I’m with Stupid” or “Why Do You Hate The Earth?”

      Using such items allows you maximum efficiency and environmentally friendliness, plus grants added valuable bonuses of virtue signaling and shaming fellow grocery shoppers for not following your noble example.

  12. Black Bellamy

    I like to go to the express checkout lane and get my Travis Bickle on and audibly count my items as I place them on the belt. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen – reach down again – fifteen, sixteen. Yeah. Eye contact for everyone.

  13. Weebs

    And most importantly, if the line says “Ten items or less,” respect the sign.

    I would respect the sign if it said “Ten items or fewer.”

    Grammar matters.

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