Saturday, April 01, 2006

Non-adventures in supermarketing

I enjoy food shopping. It's a luxury of people without children. I'm good at it, because I can be adaptable. I don't need to plan ahead. Even as a child I liked it. I think my mom liked shopping, too. She went to the Acme every Friday right after supper. I usually went along. She got me back in time for Rin Tin Tin, which was incentive for me to let her do the job. I wasn't a grabby child. I knew the futility of putting a box of Frosted Flakes in the shopping cart. Sometimes I got a little toy in a plastic egg from the machine by the door. I was more the kind of kid who made people nervous by staring at them. Mom might meet some other mom in one of the aisles, light up a Raleigh & chat for a few minutes while I stared at the strange lady. Or I'd wander away & stare at other people. Parents didn't worry back then about children being abducted in an Acme. For me, it was quality time with mom. I'd ask her pointless questions & she'd do her best to answer. What's the difference between Nestle's Quik & Ovaltine? How come you sniff & squeeze melons & not celery? Can I sleep in my underwear?She'd pick out a roast & the butcher would trim it right there on his counter, whacking at it. She always knew the butcher's name. I'd stare at him. I'd stare at the deli person slicing the cold cuts. I'd stare at the cashier. Strange little boy you got there, Maizie (yup, mom's name).

Today's trip to the supermarket looked to be pleasant & uneventful. Lovely spring evening. I walked the long way, nice old suburban streets, budding trees, weather front coming through & the skies changing along the way. Over to Elmora Ave. & past the Jewish Center as Sabbath ended with the sunset.

What's this? Tree Ripe orange juice on sale, but look what they did: slimmed the container, called it a "New Easy Pour" size, 59 ounces instead of 64. Hah. Like when a pound of coffee stopped being a pound. There was a mass checkout by nearly every customer in the store. I realized it was an "end of the line" situation. Which means that if you get on the end of the line, stand in it for 15 minutes, by the time you reach the cashier you'll still be at the end of the line. So spend a few minutes exploring the store & come back. Cheap DVDs, "Scooby Doo On zombie Island." Examine some unfamiliar items in frozen foods. When I got back to the checkout the lines were shorter & I picked one behind a couple who were going to spend Saturday & Sunday eating cheese doodles, cookies, & ice cream washed down with several gallons of fruit punch. He was large, disheveled, in a need of a shave. The Saturday look. She was somewhat smaller. They had a lot of other stuff, including real food. Over $100 worth. All into plastic bags & into their cart. The guy swiped his credit card. The machine rejected it. "I just used this card over there to make sure it worked," he exclaimed, waving at one of the self serve checkouts & holding up a plastic bag with stuff in it. He swiped again. Rejected again. He was embarrassed. I felt for him. But there was only one other person in the line behind me, a man with three bottles of Coke. The head cashier came over. She told the cashier to do this & that. Somehow they figured out the credit card was worth $50 of food. The supervisor came over. The man began pulling items out of the bags & the cashier scanned them one by one, deducting from the bill. Cheese doodles, ice cream, punch, cookies, bread (whole wheat & white). Bottled water. Checkout in reverse. Rice-a-Roni. Filling up another cart to be returned to shelves. A can of crackers - you get that for the can. I briefly had a girlfriend who was hypotized by packaging; me then: Alicia, it's only ordinary cooked corn in a fancy jar with a rustic label. Her later: Oh, he's cute in those baggy WFMU tee shirts but you'll soon find out how fucked up he really is. I watched the screen as the total went down, red item by red item. It passed $90. $80, $70, $60. At last, $50. Stop! $48.79. The register whirred, out popped a new receipt. He signs it. The couple quickly exit with, as best I could tell, food that might actually be good for them. Away go the head cashier & supervisor. How long all this took I do not know. A long time. I was rung up in 2 minutes, debit, including ten bucks cashback. I took my plastic bags over by the front window & repacked everything into my knapsack. It all fit, with loaf of Italian bread sticking out the top. A young woman ran her cart over my foot. It didn't hurt, but it sounded like it did. "Oh, I'm very very sorry." OK. As I left the store, one of the cashiers was leafing through a magazine, waiting for a customer. I stared at her.

Comments:
That was a GREAT post. Of course, I'm staring at you.
 
Bob, Saturday at the supermarket is amateur hour. Sunday morning is where it's at because, armed with that days' paper's army of coupons, you'd be at the supermarket taking advantage of the sales, which start that day. True saavy shoppers know that the stores run out of on-sale items by Tuesday.
 
The Rix Mix does not believe a supermarket is a proper destination on a Sunday morning, except through unavoidable necessity.
 
I sure could have used you and your staring skills the night the grocery store stockers tossed a box of cans off the top shelf and missed my head by a couple of inches!! Great post - brought back fun memories of shopping with my Mom!!
 
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