Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Meijer and the foreign crazies

already the title to this entry doesn't seem "cricket" to me. I'm sure someone out there is screaming, "ugly american!" but really, I'm not. I've studied three languages in high school and college, I lived in Taiwan for a summer, I can say good day, good evening, hello, thank you, please, how much, need doctor and count to ten in about six maybe seven languages. no tooting my own horn here, just establishing that I vehemently shun ugly american-ness.

in fact, if anything, I am more apt to humor the foreign Meijer crazy than I am the native Meijer crazy. for example, if a native Meijer crazy came up to me with two different brands of enemas asking which one "is best to buy?" I would probably point to the pharmacist and his Meijer customer waiting line (seven customers deep) then promptly move on with my shopping. but with the foreign Meijer crazy, I furrow my brow, check the ingredients, do a cost value analysis, then nod my head and point at the winning product, all the while ignoring personal questions like, "you use this? this help you make bowel move?" when German-on-business-guy stunned me and the slack-jaw cashier with $423 worth of Pace picante salsa, Bayer aspirin, meatloaf, chili and taco seasoning packets, cream cheese frosting, various cake mixes and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (cases upon cases of each), I helped him sort out the grapefruit sized wad of cash/euros when newbie cashier went into glazed over mode.

now, I'm not fooling myself into an altruistic dreamworld. I know that grocery shopping doesn't always bring out the good samaritan in me. when I've been in a hurry to flee the superstore and a foreign Meijer crazy crossed my path, I'll admit I have been a homely american but never the ugly one. so, a few weeks ago, my heretofore "pretty american" ambassadorship with the foreign Meijer crazies reached an end when the unknown-to-me-language speaking sisters pulled in front of me at the check-out lane.

true to my policy I didn't detail the items they were taking out of their overflowing cart. I just generally knew that I was screwed and would be waiting in line for a good long while. the sisters were busily organizing the items on the conveyer belt making a few piles along the belt. they were chatting non-stop to each other, pointing at items, rearranging piles. it was obvious to me that not only did they nearly buy out the store, but they were now trying to figure out who was going to pay for what. after about my third sigh and second in-my-head debate over buying the hershey bar calling my name (I had a hunger headache), I felt some nudging at my right elbow and then was brusquely pushed out of the way by crazy sisters' seventy-something, under 4 feet tall mom. astonishingly, she came bearing more gifts in the form of about 20 pounds of red meat under one arm and a boxed hibachi under the other.

now, I don't know if this has happened at your store, but at Meijer, the bag-boy has been replaced by a turntable of plastic bags that the cashier fills, and Meijer customer then puts in their own cart. why the union allowed that I will never know, the now defunct "bag-boys" end up hanging around the union shift boss generally making his/her life miserable with "what do I do now?" inquiries. anyway, crazy foreign sisters are so wrapped up in their discussion of divvying up the loot and who is going to pay for what that cashier has had to fill their cart and still has plastic bags piled up on the turntable. the cashier hands them their receipt, gesturing hopefully with her eyes for them to carry their bags away. no luck. sisters grab the receipt, walk away nearly tearing the receipt from each other's hands; they aren't discussing who is going to pay for what, now they are shouting!

did I mention they walked away without their at-capacity cart and without the mounds of plastic bags still on the turntable? now understand, timid-cashier can't start my groceries until the turntable is cleared, and if the fratricide occuring in a foreign tongue five paces away from us is any indication, that isn't going to happen anytime soon. I watch as receipt is passed from sister to sister, money is ripped from one hand only to be jerked back by another. cashier is gurgling, "uh. um. you need to--" only to be drowned out by what my foreign language experience has taught me to be highly inflammatory and/or negative comments.

after about three full minutes (don't laugh! three minutes of screaming and finger wagging is a lot to endure!) of being pretty american, my patience ran out and suddenly reared it's ugly american head. it occurred to me that in some cultures fighting fire with fire is the only way to be heard.

"hey!" I loudly call out over the screaching, "get your groceries!" both crazies briefly cease their insane behavior and like bratty, insolent teenagers they each pick through the grocery bags piled on the turntable, grabbing what appeared to be the two lightest bags, turn and walk away resuming the very loud yet incomprehensive argument. timid cashier now finds her claws and calls the women back, "you left these bags and your cart!" she shouts. this throws foreign-born Paris & Nicky Hilton into a hissy fit, causing them to stomp their feet and shout at their hobbit-esque elderly mother.

with mouth hanging open in disbelief, I watch mom-of-foreign-crazies slide four bags of groceries on one arm, two on the other arm with hibachi tucked under the lighter loaded arm. she then stiff-arms the cart, bent over at the waist, like one of the seven dwarves pushing a heavy laden load of rubies out of the mine.

it's safe to say my kids had no idea why mom started a passionate discussion about respecting your elders at dinner that night.

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