Wednesday, May 09, 2007

This Is Not The Grocery Shopping I Grew Up With

My first memories of grocery shopping with my mom involve hopping in the car and driving over to the Grand Union supermarket, located in the Goodwives Shopping Center of Darien, Connecticut.

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.
  • Wine.
  • Frozen diet entrees. On sale.
And you know. I understand their looks of pity. They cannot see the subtle distinction between the "work from home" look and "will work for food" look. They cannot tell that I would buy food for someone other than me and my cats if I weren't so likely to set it on fire while preparing it. They cannot guess that not only do I have friends outside of internet chat rooms(!), I actually have a boyfriend! Who has, like, a job! And even all his teeth!

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.

ANYWAY.

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.

22 comments:

  1. The last line at the end, priceless!

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  2. Maybe you could get some special Food Shopping Heels, that you'd wear each and every time you go food shopping. At Ralphs, or anywhere else.

    FWIW, when I lived in FL, all the old ladies would get dressed up to go food shopping. It made me sad for them. Now that I think about it, all the old people in Queens, NY got dressed up too...

    Don't you hope you DON'T come to be somebody who dresses up? To me, it symbolizes not having anywhere "real" to go that deserves dressing up for, thus food shopping becomes An Exciting Outing, Worthy of Dressing Up For. Be PROUD to buy cat food in sweats and ponytail I say.

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  3. I've been at a place in my life where going food shopping was the major event of the week. And, I still went in the stained sweats and "loose" ponytail. Usually wearing several extremely mismatched colors.

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  4. funny, i know exactly which grocery store you're talking about. i used to frequent it... uh... frequently... around 6pm on weeknights... and even then, it was an adventure.

    now, because of dietary issues, i find myself at whole foods a lot and THAT place drives me fucking insane. the shoppers there are far more rude than the ones at the ghetto ralphs. go figure.

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  5. I know exactly what you're talking about. I'm always looking very single when I grocery shop, and normally check out with a 2 liter of Dt Cola, a bunch of frozen dinners, and something for the cats. Yes, I live alone too. There's one girl at my local grocery who appears to want to be my friend... she always tries to start up a conversation. Except, she always starts it with "wow, you look really tired". Great... thanks for pointing out that I look bad at the grocery store.

    Can I just say that some guy tried to pick me up at Big Lots once? When I was looking like... well... a bum. I guess he figured I'd be a cheap date.

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  6. Um, You've just written the only thing that's ever made me want to live in California.

    Also, on the average attire of the single gal at the grocery store. If you were closer I'd give you a high five on the "are the stains on this shirt too visible?" and "whimsical ponytail"..
    and I DON'T work at home.

    Thanks for the laugh, as always.

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  7. Oh hilarious. I have had the same line situation happen to me too many times. I have often stood in the wrong line and end up waiting far too long.

    You should buy your pet food at Petco or one of those places, because everyone in there is a crazy pet loving single person and if you have crap all over your clothes, they will think it is from playing with your pets.

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  8. I hate that "next in line" mad-dash crap. In some stores, the checker actually comes and GETS the REAL NEXT person in line and I am so shocked I can barely talk.

    My 17 year-old daughter and I love to play "what story do your groceries tell?"-especially fun in the express lane. And lest ye think it's a game played to rip on our fellow shoppers, we started it based on the weird combinations that WE put on the conveyor belt. As in "WTF? We have the weirdest stuff! Why do we have the weirdest stuff? Why do we have shaving gel, radishes, two donuts, and NOTHING ELSE? What kind of pyscho freaks are we?"

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  9. So what do people think of girls in their sweats and randomly pulled back half-bun/half-ponytail who buy dog food, dog treats, wine and frozen dinners?

    Does the dog instead of cat make any difference? Maybe next time I'll throw some heels on with my sweats, just to see what people's reactions are...

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  10. Ahh, I see that Ralph's is owned by our friends at the Kroger Co. They recently bought out a local chain here in Oregon called Fred Meyer. Let's just say that some Fred's are a bigger adventure than others since the buyout. At all hours.

    Of course, I can't say that I haven't had my own fair share of foodstained, messy hair, ratty flip flop dashes to the local Safeway either (sister store of Von's). And the other patrons are in various stages of, shall we say, interestingness!

    I wish I could afford home delivery!

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  11. "boob-stained shirt" sounds like your boob leaked and cracked me up. sorry, but it totally had me howling at my desk and then i got to the last line and roared. now everyone knows i'm slackin right now. thanks!

    next time i go shopping i am totally getting into an old bridesmaid dress, complete with the shoes dyed to match. i'm going to do my hair and makeup. then buy stuff a girl always needs: bagels, toothpaste, tampons, grapes, bacon and 1/2 & 1/2. can't wait to see the looks i get! hehe

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  12. One time I had to get some...supplies of the sexual nature...and I was all dressed up to go to a BDSM party, so I stopped into Walgreens to pick up condoms, large condoms, extra-large condoms, lube, enemas, three cans of shaving cream, two packs of razors, and a half-gallon of cheap vodka. Not all of the items were for me, but in my skin tight vinyl dress, fake eyelashes, and maribou coat, the middle-aged woman checker gal was beet-red and giggling, and the guy behind me tried to pick me up in the parking lot.

    That was the best shopping trip ever!

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  13. Oh gawd, I just laughed out loud at work, for apparently no reason. ::sigh::

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  14. LMAO! The fun of "ghetto" supermarkets. I would love to see a man buying breakfast in heels. I honestly think it would make my day. The best I'm going to get here is a lady in slippers and rollers (seriously).

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  15. I used to live around the corner from that Ralph's until I gave in and moved to the east bay, and I have to say, I don't think the time of day matters... there will always be interesting characters in there and really, your grocery list is nothing compared to some of the things I saw people buying there! It is definitely the most interesting grocery store.

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  16. Laurallee, I am a kindred spirit. May I read your blog?

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  17. I've found myself judging in line before, and then I stopped at the store and bought a box of dove bars and some elmer's glue for a craft project. I kind of wished I had gone to a store with self check-out.

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  18. "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."

    Except NOW - - the gender is different . . . :-)

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  19. Haha - picking up where I left off..."Um, Catherine's gonna be a little late...."
    -Healy

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  20. The last line? FANTASTICAL! I heart you.

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  21. First of all, that last night made me spit sandwich on my keyboard. Thanks!

    I used to live across the street from an Albertsons. So I would go to the gym before work and hurriedly go to Albertsons at 6am to do my regular grocery shopping. It was great! No lines, shelves freshly stocked... But the highlight was when there was one person standing in front of me at the register. The item he was buying? A forty of Mickeys. I love Oakland.

    - el snarkster

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