My first stop in the supermarket is produce – veggies, etc. They put that department near the front in *every* supermarket. Why is that? Huh. Anyway, as I’m picking out a few choice artichokes, I notice that I’m in some woman’s way. I smile and stand aside to allow her to diddle her corn cobs.
10 minutes later, I pass her in Dairy. Then again, we run into each other in Ethnic Foods. Then again by Paper Products. So now I’m freaking out. What do I do? Say "hi"? Nod? Smile? Have we created some sort of supermarket friendship that needs nurturing? Am I rude to ignore her? We have a history now; a past.
You know that awkward moment where you’re walking toward another person. You see them coming pretty far off and you have to decide: am I going to smile and greet this person? Or just ignore them as if they weren’t there? You have to make a call. So do they. It's paper-rock-scissors time. And don’t you hate it when you decide to smile and then realize that THEY had decided to ignore YOU. So there you are, grinning like an idiot. You should have ignored.
Me? I always choose “rock” and I always choose “ignore”. So I ignore Miss Corn Cobs.
Peripherally, I see that she chose “smile”.
I feel like an ass.
The Ralph’s in Beverly Hills is a Swiss Army Knife of stores. It’s got everything in there: Deli, Fish, Bank, Post Office, and a Pharmacy. But when the architects laid out the store, they didn’t think it through properly. The pharmacy is jammed in the back corner where the “Health and Beauty”, “Hair Care” and “Incontinence” aisles meet to form some sort of awkward hygiene nexus.
It’s already stressful being back there, but now I’ve got to navigate my way through a crowd of people waiting for their prescriptions to be filled. And we all do the same thing at the pharmacy. We size everybody up. Wondering what affliction they have. Is it visible? Is it CONTAGIOUS? Oh, God. I immediately start scanning people: is anyone itching anything? Coughing? Picking a scab? I mentally mark a few folk as possible lepers.
Drawing a bit of attention to myself, I contort my body unnaturally and sneak between a Mexican man wearing LONG SLEEVES (a warning sign) and an old woman with a finger in her ear (UGH). I extend my hand basket straight out from my body to make myself as thin as possible and suddenly I’m playing human Operation. *I* am the tweezers trying to squeak sideways through this biomass without touching anyone.
People are offended.
Sorry, folks. I’m just passing through on the way to get some eggs.
The final trial of my supermarket ordeal occurs at check-out. I have an OCD about the way I lay out my packages on the conveyor belt.
They have to be arranged according to a complex algorithm:
By temperature – Frozen food first, then refrigerated food, then room-temperature food, then heated food (rotisserie chicken, etc).
By shape – Round packages toward the front, square packages toward the rear.
By weight – Heavier packages first, lighter ones last.
A few other rules:
No item touches another -- That’s right. No object is stacked or piled on another. Ever.
Neatness counts -- Items with square corners should be at proper angles to each other and the general direction of the conveyor belt. The distance between items remains uniform.
The plastic divider thing – Should be considered to be another item and as such can not touch any other item; nor should it be placed at an improper angle. The divider in FRONT of my packages is yours so place it however you wish. The divider behind me is MINE and will conform to the correct package placing protocols. Don’t REACH for the divider, sir. I will place it when it’s time. If you DO place it, I will re-place it. Properly.
As you can imagine, it’s not easy to calculate all the variables involved. Sometimes you have round frozen items (ice cream) and square room-temperature items (cereal, Splenda). Heavy cold items (OJ, milk) and light, light, hot items (Lo Mein from the steam table).
To arrange all of these objects properly takes a little extra time. If you’re behind me on line, you’ve got to bear with me.
Today, the customer behind me was not bearing with me. He had an armful of wine bottles and a 12-pack of Bud Light dangling precariously from his fingers. He desperately wanted to put his booze on the belt.
No can do, muchacho. You’re going to have to cowboy up and wait for ample conveyor room. Don’t blame me for making you wait. Blame the Tofurky-eating hippy in front of me who has to pay for his fifteen dollars worth of non-meats with a personal check while making the poor grocery-bagger-dude RE-BAG his stuff into paper because paper is recyclable and he wasn’t paying attention when the little guy asked “paper or plastic” and this way he could “save a tree”.
How about this, Bud Light man: Rather than hate *me*, why don’t you and I hate this Soy-onnaise eater *together*. Then we can follow him down to the parking garage, force-freed him some Gluten, beat him to death with his Mini Cooper, have a Bud Light and call it a day? What say you?
Yeah, I chose “plastic”.