Thursday, May 15, 2008

Grocery Store Tales

The local Harris Teeter is the center of my social world. Where else can you see so many interesting people in one place doing something so ordinary as shopping for food? Of course, the local HT is a bit more of social place than most HTs because of the large deli/hot bar area and adjoining Starbucks.

Grocery store shopping like any other activity requires some acquired amount of expertise. When the newest HT opened, for example, nobody was sure where to find anything. You'd read the headers at the end of the aisles and guess that was where the item you wanted might be found. The new HT also has the oddest design for the produce section, which, depending on which door you come in, you might miss entirely. Nowadays, of course, we know the store like the back of our hands and have come to resent the obligatory "did you find everything you were looking for?" I know the employees are required to ask it but, really, can't I have it encoded into my VIC card not to ask me? (Which would also be a great idea for the annoying self check-out: encode a "don't talk to me" message so the perky voice would stay silent after she asked me to scan my VIC card.) <>

Anyway, my point about all this is that I am a fairly sophisticated grocery store shopper and usually don't make the kind of mistake I made yesterday. I stopped in for a couple of things and ended up buying shallots in addition to the easy-to-scan items. I'm fairly certain that I would have been able to find the right code for shallots...eventually, but at the time I was walking by the check-out lanes, two adjacent lanes looked like they were both in the "pay and bag" stage of the transaction. I got in one lane and then decided that the next lane would be faster. Obviously forgetting the old maxim: Whichever line you pick will be the slower line.

If I had looked more carefully at the woman in the lane I eventually chose I would have known immediately that I had chosen poorly, because she was obviously a chatter/dawdler (but going back was no longer an option because some other shopper had taken advantage of my error.)

I'm not sure what happened between the woman and the checker before I got in that line but something was up. All her stuff had been checked but none of it was in a bag. I saw, with some chagrin that she was getting ready to WRITE A CHECK! God, do people still write checks in this day and age? I also caught a fragment of her conversation with the checker that involved cash back. Needless to say, the checker went through all the rigamarole they do with checks and finally put it in the register without giving her the cash back. Normally this would not have been a big problem but she appeared to have written the check for some even amount that required the checker to make change--which, now that the register was closed--he would have to figure out himself. Any critic of today's math education will tell you that a frightening number of people CAN'T MAKE CHANGE, and this befuddled checker was in that group.

I watched sadly as not one but two other customers in the lane I had abandoned checked out and were long gone before my checker (with the somewhat unhelpful help from the check-writing lady) finally figured it out. I finally got to hand him my VIC card, totally exasperated and when he asked me if I had found everything, I just said "I sure picked the wrong lane". He apologized and I wanted to tell him it wasn't all his fault that some of it was mine for picking his lane but I wasn't feeling all that generous and left him believing that I was one of those hateful customers he probably gets every day.

Next time I'll be more vigilent...I hope.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One of those days

Did you ever have one of those days where you get up, shower, dress nicely and go to work only to find you can't do one productive thing? Take today for example.

I made it to lunchtime by reading my e-mail, answering the phone, following several links on digg, watching a couple episodes of "You Suck at Photoshop" (I really do. I have it on my computer and can do, like, 3 or 4 of the nine bazillion things you could do if you knew what the hell you were doing -which I don't) and doing some extensive research on Princess Eugenie - but only because I got her confused with big sis, Princess Beatrice. Who can keep the British Royal Family straight these days? Certainly not me.

Last night went to a discussion hosted by UNCG Prof, Charlie Headington, about the book "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. It was a very Earth Fare, Whole Foods crowd. I read most of the book and all the sex scenes (of which there are painfullyly few.) After the discussion I was hungry so I went home and cooked up a couple of hot dogs.

For a few hours today I considered changing the focus of this blog to something about food but there are already many such blogs out there and most of them seem to know more about food than I do. Plus the fact that, for lunch today I had a liverwurst sandwich on some seriously stale bread from Fresh Market and a 20oz Diet Pepsi out of the vening machine. I will probably cook dinner tonight but unless I stop at HT on the way home to get something, I will be forced to come up with a entree made from a 2 pound "chub" (why do they call it that?) of ground chuck that has been thawing in the fridge for the past couple of days and should be malleable -- wait! I HAVE to go to HT on the way home because we are down to the 4 bottles of wine that I am saving for a special occasion, whatever that might be. Need to stock up on some Oak Creek or Barefoot if it is under $5. I don't know why, if there is such a wine glut out there, I can't buy decent sulfite-free wine for under a buck.

People ask me why I don't patronize (if that's the right word) North Carolina wines. If I want this state to successfully transition from a tobacco-oriented agricultural economy to viticulture I should do my part right? I will one day. The day they make NC wines more affordable than California wines. One way to make me more interested in NC wines (yes, you know what's coming) would be for them to stop using corks and use simple to use screw tops. Heck, even wine snobs I know are getting behind the screw-top movement. So, if North Carolina wineries all banded together and agreed to use only the latest, wine-saving, screw-tops I would become an advocate for NC wines. Until then...well, I might buy the stuff if it was cheaper.