Friday, May 11, 2007

Scenes from a suburban supermart

I ran low on stuff. This meant a trip to the SnS (sorry Ricki) for needfuls.

Good start - I got decent parking. It's not usually a concern but my knee is a little painful right now. As a result, it was harder to elude the man who drove all the way here from Texas in a Canyonero.

Inside safely, and stumping up and down the aisles with my cart. It's nice in here, even if the produce is a little sketchy. This will also sound petty, but I like the dried apple rings if I can get them, and they never seem to have them here. Dried apples keep longer than the fresh apples and I can nosh during the workday without worrying about cores, or where to put a half-eaten apple where it won't get on my work, or roll onto the floor.

On the plus side, the sales are usually very good. So far, most of what I was looking for is discounted in some fashion. Found single-serving juices on one of those deals and stocked up; it's usually cheaper to buy a half-gallon but I never finish them before they go infectious.

First impressions in the coffee and tea aisle...

Happy - I love the smell of the fresh beans in their dispensers. Sad - it reminds me how much of the stuff I've been drinking lately. It's a little Simpsons-esque:

"I gave up coffee for Lent."
That's good.
"Five weeks later, I'm back up to three cups a day."
That's bad.
"But I only had one today!"
That's good.
"...but I also had two cans of Coke."
. . .
"That's bad."
Can I go home now?

So - on to the tea. Hey, sale on green tea. Let me pull over so as not to block the tea section and stand off to one side and look. And now, let me look for five minutes at the back of the grouchy lady who cut right in front, spent teabag in hand, trying to match it with a new supply. Possible responses:

a) "Nice sale, isn't it? Do you see anything you like?"
b) Nothing. Just narrow-focus disapproval, a hot pinpoint between the shoulder blades, like burning leaves with a magnifying glass.
c) "Gee, it's lucky I stopped here for no damned reason - if I was shopping for tea I couldn't see a thing."

I chose d) wait for eye contact and smile politely. I would have loved a reply in kind - I would even have settled for b) - but I got e) blank, indifferent stare. She made me feel inconsiderate for waiting for her. It was if I were actually a cardboard cutout in the middle of the aisle: why is that there? I could get cardboard lint on my sweater as I brush past it!

Life's short. Moving on.

Cereals are NOT on sale. They make it quite clear that the half-buck rollbacks are permanent, everyday prices. The companies do this every couple of years, as I recall, perhaps drawing inspiration from Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments, busting into the granaries to feed the starving Hebrews. Henceforth, heavily-sweetened grain products shall be made affordable to the masses, and not just to moneyed special-interests. Lay down your McMuffins and donuts and eat healthily, orphan and Warbucks alike!

I didn't actually talk that way out loud at Stop n' Shop. For one thing, there was a guy there, thoroughly describing the selections over the phone - I didn't want to look weird. One suspects that the overseer was the actual shopper, and the guy with the phone was his instrument, his projection into the actual shopping world while he lived the higher life of the mind elsewhere. Even at affordable prices, Warbucks doesn't have to do the actual legwork for his breakfast.

Down the seasonal aisle - because "Nifty Yet Slightly Cheap Crap You Don't Need, but it Seemed Like a Good Deal at the Time" doesn't fit well on a placard. I didn't buy a sun hat, or a soft-sided mini-lunch cooler with knock-off thermos, or Blondie's "Parallel Lines" on CD, or the sixth Harry Potter book in paperback, or a beach chair, or patriotic paper cups and plates, or "snak-n-go snacks" too cheap to afford either correct spelling or a spot alongside respectable brands in the actual snack aisle.

Frozen entrees - check. New toothbrush - check. Sport drink for next game - check. (Pain-free knee? Hope so by then.) Shampoo, conditioner - check. All on sale, actually. Cereal was not among my purchases, since it's about all I actually have plenty of in the house. That poor guy may still be there, reading nutritional data for all I know.

The self-chekcout may be an excuse for stores not to hire as much help, but I really like them. You avoid the whole "38 items in the express lane" people, pack your stuff so watermelons are underneath eggs and potato chips, stuff like that. The Acme folks have it down to a science: they give you the scanner, and next to it, where the normal conveyor would be, there's a three-bag-wide stuffing station. The SnS, however, has roughtly the same setup as a standard checkout, with the long automatic belt hustling your purchases to a small staging area - only it's longer. As a result, you send your groceries down ten feet of wasted space for them to stack up so quickly that the scanner scolds you: "Please bag some of your items before scanning the next purchase."

The next person in line huffed off - I'm the 38 items guy now, I suppose. But there are three other self-checkouts open, and an actual express lane. Oh, and for the record - whose dumbass idea was this layout? The self-checkout seems to strongly imply solo shopping, as in "nobody at the other end of the conveyor to bag for me." Why make me chug back and forth like I'm rallying on the baseline with Pete Sampras?

So, off I go, stumping down to bag... only to hear the scanner complain in the distance: "If you are finished, please select your method of payment, or hit 'Cancel.'" This device sounds the way tea lady looks.

And in the end, I got 34 of the 38 items at discount, and saved thirty-two bucks, and can now brush my teeth and go to bed.

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