And if for any reason you'd be interested in knowing what that shopping center looked like, with its shoe store and hardware store and pet store and luxury sedans circa the mid-70s, go watch the original Stepford Wives movie. That's the very same shopping center.
Women wore pearls, is what I'm saying. They did their hair and make-up and put the kids in their matching outfits and shopped in their lipstick and heels or tennis whites and were, if sometimes coolly, polite to one another.
Here in San Francisco in 2007, my neighborhood grocery store has neither the term "good" nor the term "wives" associated with it in any way. In fact, it is one of the "Ralph's" stores.
Say "Goodwives" aloud. See how it sounds all snooty and British and fancy? Like So-and-So The Third is going to appear with an ascot and an underbite and tell you a story about someone named Muffy?
Now say "Ralph's." See how it sounds like you're maybe hocking up a hairball? RALPH'S.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I want to live among the uniformly well groomed with people unknowingly named after vaginas. It's just...comparatively speaking, the bar here at RALPH'S is a little low. So low I'm afraid I'm gonna stub my toe on it.
* * *
My neighborhood RALPH'S is located between my apartment and Ish's apartment, so I'm getting to know it pretty well. And ghetto as it is, I've still found that it's best to do my Cliche Shopping at non-peak hours.
Huh? you ask. What's "Cliche Shopping"? you ask.
Well, I will tell you.
It is when I, as a single woman, have to go to the store for some basics and am not wearing nice clothes or makeup and my hair is in a "loose" ponytail by which I mean piled into some hairband and jutting out into many directions because, I justify, such a look is fun and "whimsical."
Yet however fabulous I know I am, I simply do not believe that the rest of the world is seeing me and my overweight self in sweats with "whimsical" hair and a boob-stained shirt and hot-pink rubber clogs and wedding-ring-less finger and thinking, "Wow. I envy her self-esteem."
No. No, they are not.
They are thinking "Oh, that poor, unloved girl."
And then they see what I'm actually buying at the store, and I'm pretty sure that's when I go from being "poor" in their minds to being a cliche of tragic proportions.
Because right. I'm buying:
- Cat treats, in two flavors.
- Cat food.
- Frozen diet entrees. On sale.
They do not know these things. Just as they they do not know that I also have a BLOG and if they are MEAN TO ME I will tell the whole Internet on them. (See below.)
* * *
Every night, Ish and I alternate sleeping locales so that every other morning I find myself walking home. Past RALPH'S.
And this morning it dawned on me. "Hey!" said my brain, "I'll bet 7:30 a.m. on a Wednesday isn't a peak hour! I'll bet no one will notice the cat food this early!" So I stopped in.
True to form, I was not looking, shall we say, hot. Not only was I my typical messy self, but given that I'd been awake for all of 20 minutes and hadn't felt the need to do things like, oh, I dunno, shower, I was looking extra special.
But! As I wandered from the cat food aisle to the checkout, I discovered just who's patronizing RALPH'S at 7:30 in the morning. And you know what? I'll see your Pitiful Cliche alright. I'll see it, and raise you Old Asian Ladies With Nine Hundred Cans To Recycle, Greasy Men In Suits (????), and Tranny Hookers Just Off A Long Night.
Take that, judgmental "business casual" shoppers!
This morning there was only one register open. I figured this was okay, since there were only two people in line ahead of me, and they appeared to be together.
There were several items on the conveyor belt, and also several items in a grocery cart in front of the belt. However, both people were standing at the end of the belt, working very hard at trying to work the "slide card here" machine. This did not make a lot of sense to me.
One of the people punching buttons on the machine was a tall and lanky man, wearing brown clothes and baseball cap and had a very bushy mustache. The kind of mustache that makes you think of the Village People. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.
Accompanying him was another very tall, very husky and broad-shouldered man with long, scraggly gray hair in a ponytail. He was wearing a navy blue t-shirt, a black mini-skirt, pantyhose, and large black pumps that had seen better days.
From the un-make-up-ed, haggard look of the man, I'd say he'd seen better days, too.
I finally realized that the two of them were buying breakfast for several people, all of whom required separate transactions and/or receipts. Even though, from the looks of it, everyone wanted the same thing: frozen french toast, maple syrup, and gallons of Mountain Dew.
Now, I cannot be sure that this couple was um, in any way associated with the other tranny hookers who are known to populate the neighborhood closest to this RALPH'S. On the other hand, it was kind of amusing to envision the happiest little whorehouse in SF -- a motley group of transgendered folks, merrily singing and eating french toast as they bask in the gloriousness of a new, sun-soaked day in the city of light and acceptance.
Because that is, I'm sure, what the tranny hooker business is all about. Sunshine and french toast and singing. Shush.
So as I'm waiting there for someone to fix the problem and get on with the checking-out process, some other guy comes up and gets in line behind me.
And he? He is a man of BUSINESS. I know this because he was wearing a suit. And also, he had Things To Do. And I know that because he kept looking at his watch and sighing loudly and shifting his weight. There, in his cheap suit and creepy looking face and greased back white hair.
I'm sure that you and your ORANGE JUICE and CHEESE have a very important deadline, Sir. You're just going to have to find some way to COPE.
So he leans into me (!!!) all of a sudden and says, "Is that with them?"
"Excuse me?" I asked, having no idea what he was talking about.
"Is that their--" and he nodded to the two people, "--uh, cart?"
HOW THE HELL SHOULD I KNOW? I thought. But I guess the man realized I'd been standing there for fucking ever (note: this a key point in this meandering story, pay attention) and so maybe I would know.
"I think so," I said.
But then the man looked downright outraged, as though this had impacted his personal time-space continuum. How can someone be PAYING and also STILL HAVE ITEMS TO PAY FOR, he seemed to wonder.
"I think they're ringing up separate transactions," I offered. Since I'd also wondered this -- without the outrage -- and also manged to figured it out without even having to ask.
And then he said something that I did not expect.
"It can't be easy shopping in those shoes."
He was referring to the size 15 heels on the man in front of us.
And for a moment, I thought I'd misjudged Mr. Creepy. Perhaps, I thought, the 7:30 a.m. RALPH'S crowd is indeed a kinder, gentler, more accepting crowd of shoppers after all. Perhaps in their non-hot-ness, they are more the kind of folks I moved to this city to be around.
But then, things started to turn ugly.
Mr. Heels and Pal were taking an entire lifetime to get through their multiple transactions, and a line was forming behind me. They knew that they were taking a looooooong time, too, and just kept eyeing the line behind them as if to say, "You got a problem with something?"
And just as a grocery clerk came out to open a new register to save me -- he had looked right at me and said those six glorious words: I can take the next customer -- Mr. Creepy Orange Juice and Cheese Man practically SPRINTED over to him.
He KNEW I'd been in line forever, and yet still felt it was his RIGHT to sprint over to the new register.
And then three OTHER people from WAY behind me got in line behind HIM.
And I, who had been there FAR LONGER than ANY OF THEM (which they all totally knew), was left standing behind the French Toast Squad, fuming.
I eventually stormed over to the OTHER line, paid, and left. And I was not feeling chipper or happy about my off-peak RALPH'S experience at all.
Especially when I realized that I've come all this way, all these years, into a whole new life...
...and people are STILL wearing fucking heels to the grocery store.