The Helpful store. The grocery where it is just not allowed that you push your own cart to your car, and unload your groceries yourself, it’s simply not done. I have tried and tried and yet to have accomplished even getting a single can good to the car without a kind smile, a forced conversation, and ultimately relinquishing control of both my groceries and my free will.
The Helpful store, one simply can not decline the eager beaver carry out kids or worse yet the retirees that make me think absolutely no one has enough in their 401 k’s to safely retire. I cringe when the grey hairs approach and start touching my sacks. I want to take them home, hear their story and make them a sandwich.
The best bakery, Pete’s Coffee, good deli, the tub of gari pickled ginger I love to eat right out of the frig, and real butcher counter are all in the helpful store. I try to avoid going, but sooner or later the cupboard is bare, and I simply must make the journey. My mantra the entire 5 minute drive is, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this. I will award myself a treat, thinking of a fresh strawberry cream sponge cake for good girls who don’t lose their minds or patience to kind intentioned, helpful strangers, bless their hearts….
Bless her heart, Thats an all-encompassing fuck off phrase I have learned since moving here to Texas over a decade ago. One can do a world of maligning talk, gossip to ones hearts content as long as at the end of the conversation you utter the simple phrase, “Bless their heart.”
“That girls shoes make her look like a cheap Saturday Night hooker walking home alone on a Sunday morning without any cash in her pocket….bless her heart”.
The helpful store and I just don’t jive most days. Don’t ask me how my day is going if I have any weekend plans, or even if I like the product you are currently scanning. Isn’t that totally obvious? If I didn’t eat leeks why the fuck would I be buying them?
I like to shop alone. There is no going in the center aisles of the store, no boxed crap, no sugar is the first ingredient on the cereal box purchases for me. Kashi or nothing, steel-cut oats or leave me the hell alone. Don’t even try to tempt me with your cooked in the aisle sampled goods.
Are you kidding? Have you any idea how dirty a grocery store is and you are cooking here and now you want me to eat it? Have you even washed your hands? It’s free? Nothing is free, ever. everything has a price, sooner or later the bill has to be paid. I believe this price tag comes complete with a dash to the restroom where there will be absolutely no toilet paper to be found…Thanks, but.. No Thanks. Force a smile so they will feel ok about themselves, their job security, and promote self-esteem.
Its international food day at the helpful grocery store. Costumed food samplers are strewn throughout, skillets are sizzling, plates of food products are shoved at me with a smile, would you like to try some wild salmon and risotto? Fresh baguette and organic creamery butter? Star fruit-its delicious!
Two women are dressed in what can only be described as Statue of Liberty Attire. I know she is patina copper but these chicas are in white togas, silver crowns, sandals and the ultimate tacky accessory, an arm bracelet around each upper arm that cuts off circulation and makes even the thinnest arm at least ten pounds puffier. Pita bread samples are their trade, complete with some sort of spread. Ah, yes, not cheese, but instead a cheese food product, lovely. I avoid eye contact, I stand at the deli counter waiting my turn, no numbers here, just aggressive ala assertive eye contact with new awaitees as in,
“Yes I see you, do you see me? I was here first and don’t even think about taking cuts.” All this through the veneer of a polite teeth gleaming smile. Our baskets jostle for positions, both hands on the handle, biceps taut…don’t even think about it.
Of course I get the new gal, woman really. I have four items to request, a simple order, two meats two cheeses, but alas, all items to require opening a new at least 20 pound side of cow or fresh wheel of cheese, but I am patient, the bakery is within eye shot, I see the cream sponges, and hum my mantra, wear my pasted over smile.
“How would you like that sliced?”
“thin but not shaved,….. please”
“Hows this?” she holds up the slice placed upon the white paper sheet for me to see.
“Thats great,… thank you.”
I know whats coming next, I close my eyes, hoping she wont go there…but alas, I know she will.
“Do you want a sample?” she holds it out to me, I gulp.
“No..No thank you..”
“Its real good, come on,… you know you want to…”
This is the moment I earn my sponge, I want to unleash a fire or oral sand storm ala The Mummy. I want to say, bitch just keep slicing the cheese, you have no idea what I want…I want to jump over the deli counter and body slam her into the deep sinks. It does in retrospect seem a little harsh, bless my heart.
Instead, I take the sample, eat it and wonder why I am such a good girl on the outside and yet such a total bitch on the inside. I think life would be a whole lot easier of my insides and outsides simply coordinated, bless my heart.
The final push comes after the butcher counter, fruit & veggies, and the ultimate half time show of the grocery trip, a visit to the mecca of wine departments where I usually spend quality time looking up and down the aisles at the vino labels, creative and like a typical consumer they do sway me, wine labels are to me what the cereal boxes were as a kid, I simply love to read them.
Refreshed and ready to leave I approach the checkout with caution. Paper or plastic used to make me sweat, which do I chose, the fate of the planet and oceans lay in my single consumer guilt driven answer to the question. Ha! No longer a soul torturing event at the check-out I have brought my own sacks.
Just breathe, breathe, it will be over soon, don’t fight it, just relax and let go…
At first all is well, I begin to think conversation will not be initiated, I relax and then… then it begins…
” Is this a…what is this?”
“It’s a turnip…” As in she just fell off the turnip truck.
Ok chill she just needs it identified…..
“I’ve never had any of those before..what do you do with it? … do you cook them or what?”
parts of me wanted to answer, to help, part of me didn’t, what do I look like a walking food channel?
What a surprise. I have a tell, its my left eye brow, it raises and has a mind of its own. I simply can not control it.
The turnip is placed onto the scale, my outside aligned with my inside I remain silent, she looks up to see the raised brow.
She slows for a moment then scans the rest of the items without comment. Good. Glad we are on the same page.
The teenager sacking is mercifully quiet as I finish and pay, don the dark glasses and start to push the cart,
” Oh I ‘ve got this,” I stammer.
” Where are you parked?” her reply.
She doesn’t let go of the cart. Shit.
Doomed, I walk on, she follows and we are half way to the car before she says,
“So have any weekend plans?”