Friday, March 31, 2006

Meijer and the avacado aficionado

avacados are on sale at Meijer, two for $2. I make my move.

a mid-fifties woman is occupying the "sweet-spot" (the area directly in front of the whole display) so I maneuver my cart and myself to the side of the display and reach in a bit to start searching for two beauties. almost immediately I hear a man's foreign accent ask, "how do you eat those? I try to peel and bite like fruit, no good. not fruit."

in a dramatic huff the avacado aficionado, (disguised as the mid-fifties woman) unleashes her education upon the poor foreign avacado-newbie. "technically, they are a fruit" she begins. she then delves into the intricacies of opening an avacado and removing the large seed inside. this is followed up by a detailed lesson into the health benefits of avacados when newbie questions the fat content. satisfied with that he asks "how to know which one to pick?" she quietly laughs, "that's easy, these have stickers on them telling you they are 'ripe'."

this advice surprises me a bit, because every avacado in the bin is labeled "ripe." basic statistics tells me that the odds of them all being ripe are not in aficionado's favor. besides, during this conversation I have been diligently squeezing ripe-labeled avacados that felt more like major league baseballs. "chalk one up to the Meijer marketing team," I think to myself.

newbie is heartened and manages to ask his most basic question again, "how do you eat?" this brings an excited smile to aficionado's face. "you should slice them very thin and gently lay the slices on toast. I use seven grain--no butter." my eyebrows raise, I've never heard of this recipe and it seems a little out there. I guess I would have chosen something a little more mainstream to introduce a person to avacados. foreign newbie frowns and replies, "I do not use toast." aficionado stops smiling and stammers, "well I guess you could also put them in a salad some tomatoes, onion, green pepper with a little oil and vinegar." clearly this is not her official preference. again, foreign newbie shakes his head, "I do not use lettuce." aficionado shuts down in a fluster of sputters, "well, I--uh,"

for some strange reason (maybe out of frustration for the whole conversation and the desire to hear it end quickly) I feel the need to offer a suggestion, "there's always guacamole and chips!" my "quirky/fun-loving voice" chirps out. they both turn to me, foreign newbie smiling, aficionado looking horrified and at the same moment they each respond: newbie says, "I like chips!" while aficionado declares, "that's the worst thing you could do to an avacado!"

the analytical portion of my mind wonders how guacamole could be the worst thing...except for the lettuce bit, isn't guacamole the same ingredients of the salad she just described? before I can brazenly challenge her strange comment newbie asks me for more information as aficionado shakes her head in horror.

"all you do is smash a very ripe avacado with a fork and mix in some salsa, little lemon juice and a pinch of salt. use some tortilla chips, or (as I sum up his ethnicity) pita chips, baked naan or flatbread and dip into the guacamole. it's easy!" I declare in a kindergarten-ish kind of glow. my whole explanation is laced with aficionado "tsk-ing", sighing out "nooo" along with a worrisome shake of her head. she finally interjects sternly, "avacados should not be smashed." like a naughty child pushing the buttons of an exasperated mother I turn to foreign newbie and offer, "another option is to just put everything in a blender and mix it that way." that mental scene seemed to intensify aficionado's overly delicate sensibilities.

finally finding the ripe avacados that I need for my quacamole feast, I leave the stand with aficionado whispering to newbie, "she's wrong, don't use avacados that way!"

before the comment box is filled with avacado recipes and/or little blue links to the "proper ettiquette of avacado living" allow me to be completely honest, I hate avacados. the only way I can stomach them is smashed into salsa and piled on a chip. if that makes me some sort of avacado brute, then so be it.

viva la guacamole and pass the chips!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Meijer and the five o'clock shadow

I can hardly believe it, nevertheless, it is true. what's that saying? fact is stranger than fiction? it hadn't occured to me until I was actually in the superstore that I realized the bizarre truth. I have never been in Meijer at five o'clock in the evening, and I hope I never will again.

In my area, five o'clock post meridian is the psycho traffic time and I deliberately choose to stay at home, away from anything even remotely connected to major crossroads. but, just as "mother said there would be days like this," I found myself in Meijer's parking lot relishing the front row space. I held my daughter's hand as we half-jogged across the thoroughfare when I realized there were no cars waiting for us to cross. A strange feeling swept over me and I glanced back to really examine the parking lot. It was nearly empty, well for a superstore. carts were askew between lampposts and cart corrals. empty Starbucks cups were rolling half circles back and forth, and wind-filled Meijer emblazoned grocery bags were tumbling past, seemingly whispering, "ghost town. ghost town."

did you like that bit? I like to call that i-mag-er-ry.

my brain was doing high-fives that all indications pointed to an empty store. I indulged in all the possibilities as I walked through the automatic doors; no deli lines, no crazies, no electric scooters, and maybe, just maybe, no check-out lines! giddiness bubbled up from my toes like a new freshly opened bottle of 7-up. (tickles my nose, tee-hee!)

thus far my Meijer morning, mid-morning, and afternoon greeters all had the same script. forced smile, brief eye contact, appropriate greeting, then extend arm to offer the week's sale ad. however, one look at the five o'clock greeter and all too quickly the 7-up bubbles popped leaving me with an aspartame after-taste. my brows furrowed when the greeter looked up from grooming her nails, gave me a little head nod and said, "hey."

"strange," I thought. but no bother, I've got the whole produce section to myself! my heretofore battles with fruit stand statues (people who peruse all day long in the exact spot I want to be), broccolli hoarders and grape eaters were of no concern to me today. I sidle up to the white flesh peaches (loooove 'em), excited to start pickin' through the offerings. upon closer inspection I realize there are about a dozen peaches and their flesh is more like bruised brown with a ring of fluffy mold. "pass on the peaches," I decide. I push my cart around the entire produce section and see the same scenarios in each area: apples have lost their waxy shine, the bananas' crescent slivers of sunshine look more like bunched forest fire victims, and the plump organic tomatoes on the vine have been, well...violated.

it's the same strangeness throughout the entire store. display tables usually stacked neatly with folded jersey knit shirts are now disheveled, making the shirts look like they put up a pretty good fight. scads of Meijer brand yogurt tipped higgledy-piggledy, audaciously mingling with their Yoplait french cousins--twice removed. a large package of feminine pads are chilling with Meijer brand buffalo wings and the half moon magnifying spectacles are all teetering precariously pointing up, down and sideways. kitty litter in aisle 11 has made some sort of whacked-out zen garden retreat, and a lone lobster sits in a tank littered with thick rubber-bands tapping out s.o.s. on the glass.

well, maybe not s.o.s., but do you see the pattern? like some sort of last surviving person in a body-snatcher movie I make my way to the completely empty check-out area. the male cashier was in a "wakeful sleep," eyes zoned out staring at the blank computer screen in front of him. I load the conveyer up a little loudly, hoping he'll wake up and start checking my items before I have to slap him out of his trance. He suddenly takes a deep breath and starts rubbing his face to wake himself up. "sorry," he says too loudly, "I've been here since 7:00 this morning, working a 10 hour today, I should be going home any minute now." his hands work their way across his jaw line, "hey, I've got a five o'clock shadow!" he cries out "and it's just after five o'clock!" he finds this waaay too funny, but I smile and nod.

as I leave I watch the new shift come out, relieving the bleary-eyed 10 hour shifters. I notice tables are tidied, fruit boxes replaced and greeters loading up on ads. in effect, the whole superstore is getting a much needed shave.