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.