I've expended a lot of calories over the years by ranting about my Safeway. It was a nexus of incompetence, wilted vegetables, long lines and short fuses. Now, it is freshly made-over. It's spit-shined, glamorous, and full of cheese bars and nut bars and shiny floors. They even sell wine. And the produce no longer looks like it was grown in a freeway underpass and watered with moonshine.
But let's get back to those nut bars. They're not just a kind of food, they're a way of life at my Safeway.
See, in all the reconfiguring, nobody really came up with a way to make over the customers.
Sunday, I was swanning about my fancy Safeway, skipping my way down the aisles and shopping for fancy cheese. By the time I got to the register, I had a heavy basket and somewhat diminished patience.
Line selection at an urban grocer is a do-or-die proposition. If you choose poorly, you'll lose hours of time. You'll get the folks who want to haggle over prices, or, one better, the people who don't realize that money is exchanged for goods or services. So they stand there, numbly, not sure when or how they should pay. (Hint: Now. With money. Your magic beans are no good here.)
I stood behind a woman who seemed relatively organized. Her cart was neatly lined up. She had her wallet in her hand. I was reassured. That is, until I saw what she was doing. Mayonaisse. On the conveyor. $2.99. Nod approvingly. Bread. $1.79. Total $4.78. Nod approvingly. The cookies can go on the conveyor, too.
I know that game. The customer slowly, gradually, infuriatingly puts one item on the belt, checks the total, and stops when they hit the amount of cash they are carrying. Then the player will scatter any leftovers around the register area, creating an obstacle course for the patrons and a cleanup job for the staff.
As a Nats fan and divorcee, I know when I've been defeated. So I moved to the next register over. There was one woman ahead of me. Yogurt. $.79. Lunchmeat. $3.50. Total $4.29.
Spectacularly, impossibly, I had stumbled into the Urban Grocery Olympics. The I Have Exactly $30 on Me for Groceries Event. And the women in both lines were going for the gold.
On a more comforting level, it's nice to know that gentrification hasn't changed the basic character of my neighborhood.
In the comments, tell me about your favorite event in the Urban Grocery Olympics.
The usual caveat: Lots of you know where I live. That doesn't mean you should mention it in the comments (lots of creepazoids out there.)