Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I'm all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer
A guaranteed personality

The Clash, "Lost in the Supermarket"

The grocery store is one of the eviller places on earth. I don't care which grocery store. Safeway, Tops, Stop & Shop, Genuardi's, Acme (pronounced "Ack-uh-me," of course), Fred Meyer, Piggly Wiggly, Kroger, Albertsons, the Berkeley Bowl... they're all the same. Too many choices, too many fluorescent lights, and too many people, and not enough room for all of it. I get overwhelmed.

But we gotta eat.

Every so often my bargain-hunting genes get the better of me, and I decide to go the Berkeley Grocery Outlet. Their motto is "Bargains Only!" which actually means "You are guaranteed not to find at least one staple on your list!" Sometimes they have yogurt, cream cheese, and canisters of parmesan; other times (like today) they have none of these items. This is highly annoying. But the plus side is that all these overstocks are dirt cheap. For example, today I bought $46 worth of groceries for $21. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The clientele of the Grocery Outlet is, well, fairly bizarre on average. I include myself in this statement, but there are many different types of bizarreness, and I would like to think that mine is a benign sort of bizarreness. Various of today's customers were carrying on cell phone conversations about things which just should not be discussed within earshot of strangers, such as finally getting one's children back from protective custody.

And then there was this woman.

This middle-aged woman was standing in the middle of the aisle, with her cart blocking half the width of the aisle and her body blocking an additional fourth. She was staring rather blankly at the shelves. As I too had a cart, my passage was blocked. So I said, quite politely, "Excuse me." The woman glared at me and spat, "I'm just standing here, about to pass out, and you have a cart too? [mutter mutter mutter mutter]" She moved her cart and let me pass, all the while muttering about who-knows-what.

At the end of the aisle was another cart, this one parallel to the shelves. I wasn't sure whether I could maneuver my cart past it, so I eased my cart up alongside it. I don't like moving other people's carts. Well, I will move a cart if its owner isn't right there. But if its owner is standing there, I will politely say "Excuse me," as above, and I expect the owner to say "Oh, I'm sorry," just as I do when it's my cart in the way. I wasn't sure whether the person near this particular cart was its owner, so I thought I'd try some expert cart maneuvering first.

So there I was, trying to slip my cart past this cart whose owner may or may not have been standing a few feet away, and along came this muttering woman again! She had abandoned whatever she'd been staring at, as well as her own cart, in order to move this other cart out of my way and spit, "Why don't you just move this stupid cart then?"

I smiled sweetly and replied, "I was about to do just that. But thanks for doing it for me! I appreciate the help."

And off she went back toward her own cart, mutter mutter mutter muttering all the way.

We passed each other a few more times before I left the store with my 54% savings. Each time she glared at me, then heaved a disgusted sigh.

I hope she found what she was looking for.

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