Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Grocery Store Feet

Why am I so excited about going to the grocery store? Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with a trip to the supermarket. Even today, I look forward to perusing the aisles of my local market, sometimes leaving with nothing but the feel of nostalgic satisfaction. As a kid, coming in from the squelching heat into the icy cold grocery store, past the whir of the sliding door was always a welcome sensory tickle. Even the smells of the grocery store were unmistakable, that slight vegetable/bread scent mixed with the unmistakable odor of mustiness.
There are but a few places in life require me to be thoughtfully dressed before I make a trip to them: The movies and the grocery store. They are both mini-events that require me to both look and feel my best before I can thoroughly enjoy the experience. Not to put a point on it, but I go to the Gay Publix. Yes...unofficially sanctioned grocery store crowned and sashed by the image-conscious in Orlando, Florida. Shopping here is not for the weak. It is smaller, a little more boutique than most and a little more hustle and bustle... a little more hustler anyway. If ever there were a time to get dressed up to buy your pork, this would be the occasion. You just have to be good at hiding your Hot Pockets and cookie dough ice cream under your lean turkey and fresh veggies.
One of my very first jobs was at an IGA store (a midwest brand of "common people" grocery stores) as a bagger/stock person, I lacked the killer instinct needed to be a cashier. It was a small store with only about 8 aisles but it was the most zen-like work that I have ever had the pleasure of doing. I was in charge of the baking goods aisle which included all kinds of boxy, easily stackable items including the jello and pudding boxes which would fall at the whisper of a gnats fart, but you got good at stacking them and after a while wouldn't even care if they fell; it was just nice to zone out in front of the rainbow of flavors, making sure the customers had a nicely organized aisle to shop in. Part of the joy of having your own aisle was the fact that you were the master of knowing anything pertaining to it. By wondering the aisles, I increased my knowledge of many different types of products such as spices like Cumin (for a high schooler...instant comedy) and other worldly items such as feminine products, like douche!
Your entire existence at the grocery store was punctuated by the frequent call on the intercom to
bag a person's groceries. This was for some as humiliating as performing a mime routine at a NASCAR event. For me, it was a chance to see just how much I could fit into a bag without making it too bulky or weighty. Of course in 1990, there was only the paper option so it helped when trying to fill a bag. It was a great lesson in problem solving and the visual arts, like Soduko with an expiration date.
One thing that I have grown to hate over the past few years when visiting the grocery store is the inevitable run-in with the unorganized, out-moded and unprepared. For all of today's advances, there is some unimaginable percentage of the population that still feels the need to write a check to pay for their groceries. Maybe it's their bank's fault for not trying hard enough to persuade them to go plastic, maybe it's because they also still get their mail via the Pony Express, I don't know. What I do know is that it is a percentage large enough to ensure that I am stuck behind one of them at the check out. Also equally annoying is the shopper so organized that it takes 5 minutes to get all of the coupons placed on top of the proper item on the conveyor belt, another 5 minutes just to scan them all in and yet an extra 5 minutes to place all of the unused coupons back in the organizer/checkbook which just happens to take place,
you guessed it, 5 minutes after the cashier has totaled the sale and processed the transaction. Look, I understand how hard it is to be so efficient and carry your entire life in a bag slung over your shoulder but the sensitive nature of today's stranger/stranger relationship dictates that I not make a move toward the little debit/credit machine, even though my items are being scanned and are piling up at the end of the counter, until said other stranger has finally put her life back together and vacated the space. I almost wish I smelled of potted meat or looked like Carrot Top to help move the process along.
Grocery stores today have gained a lot of convenience but they have also lost a lot of the charm of the old. Gone are the neat displays of moon shaped toilet deodorizers with their colorful cellophane wrappers laid out in a spiral pattern in the middle of the aisle. I remember sticking my head inside the ice cream display case to inhale the frosty air deep into my lungs. There was just something so wholesome and delicious smelling about the ice cream case back then. This of course was a stand-alone case with a sliding door over it. Nowadays, you try the same thing and you get nothing but an icy gust and the rancid smell of leftover Marie Callender's shrimp scampi that spilled a month ago. I have a special connection with the frozen foods section of the grocery store. When I was about 5 years old, curiosity got the best of me while playing with the doors of the frozen juice case. I noticed the snowy white frost that had formed over the metal edge of the shelf ahead of me at eye level. Giving no thought about it and willing to eat anything that was associated with the nifty canisters of frozen liquid, I carefully probed the frosty shelf with my tongue. I had to be assisted off of the shelf with the help of the assistant manager, my mom and someone who was nearby mopping the floor. All I remember was chewing on a wet rag and seeing a pink fleshy blob covered in blood still attached to the shelf behind the door as it fogged over. I feel sorry for the person who had to scrape that off later, probably the same guy who was mopping the floor.


Jer said...

People who still write checks baffle me for several reasons, including the fact that they rarely have the foresight to start filling out the check while the clerk is ringing up their groceries. Instead, they wait until it's all scanned and they're told their total, then there's a slight jolt of surprise before they start digging through their purse for the checkbook, as if they thought that maybe it would all be free this time around.

Gashapon said...

What a great post! Sploosh - I too love the grocery store. I love how they offer you free samples at the deli counter, and I'm always a sucker for the impulse buy stand at the checkout. A sewing kit in a plastic egg? How did I ever survive without one of those!

crit said...

only you could make a post about the grocery store interesting, betamike.

coffeygirlb said...

Thats great. any mention of the G-town MCallisters (marvins)is great. It's gone down hill quite a bit. I was just there this weekend and damn, it's just stinky. Cumin, I have honestly never thought about it that way but will forever now!