You know, I can’t really tell this story without somehow demeaning it, but I have to tell it anyway. Weird things happen to me in the grocery store. I mean, I go there once a day, either to the Vons on Sunset or the one on Alvarado so I guess the odds sort of lean towards that. Sometimes it's my only social activity of the day.
The Vons on Alvarado we call Prison Vons because it has a 10-foot high chain fence around it. Usually there is a group of gutter punks out in front. They don’t shower but they have i-phones and Doc Martins. Without making eye contact, they ask me if I can spare some change. No I can’t spare some change, you’re 27, get a FUCKING JOB, I say, in my head, tourette’s style. I wonder if I said these things out loud if I would come across as insane and troubled or wise and righteous. Yeah, don’t tell me, I know.
Once I get inside I’m heading towards the produce aisle. Every minute or so, there is a loud clap of thunder and then a spray mist over the fruits and veg to make them look fresh and tasty. I have never heard this particular sound effect in any other grocery store and always look around to make eye contact with someone when it happens. You know, “Hey, how about that? Isn’t that fun? Thunder. Inside? Followed by a tropical rain mist?” No one else shares my enthusiasm. I know it’s dorky but seriously, who gets used to a thunderstorm inside the grocery store?
It seems like every time I go to Vons I am either completely deflated at the end of the day, or revved up in a furious rush to get in and out of the goddam place as fast as I can. Who am I kidding; this has nothing to do with Von’s, it’s the way I am 24/7. Sometimes I feel as though I’m doing fifty things but never really doing one. My engine goes between 90mph and stall.
I get my items and head to the line. Of course there is a back up. I take a step to the side and crane my neck to see the hold up, ready to let loose some more tourette’s in my head. Just as I do, another line opens up and there is a stampede to get to it. Once the dust settles, I can see the reason for the hold up. It’s a guy in a wheel chair, he’s fully paralyzed from the neck down and the clerk had to come around and unload his basket for him. He turns around and smiles like he’s king of the castle.
Sorry for the hold up, he says.
No one says anything, which is my usual prompt to speak. It’s ok, I can check up on the world news, I say holding up a People mag.
Oh yeah? What’s happening?
Kate and Wills are heading to Santa Barbara. I hold it open and step forward to show him.
I like her.
Here’s Gwyneth in a bikini.
With Steven Spielberg, look at that.
We flip through the pages until the clerk says 101.37.
Oh, hold on, he says. I want to give you my savers card. He struggles with the fanny pack that’s strapped to his chair. There were 600 zippers on that thing.
You can just punch in your number, I told him.
Well I can’t really use my fingers, he laughs and then sighs.
He uses the heel of his hand to search for his card.
Just tell her your number, I say, she’ll punch it in. That’s what I always do. My card is probably stuck in the back seat of my car with some gum and an old poptart.
He laughs and then sighs again, tells the clerk his number, and says, I love coming here. I get to be around nice people.
No one's ever said that at Prison Vons!
They're nice because you're nice, I say.
He laughs and then sighs again, That's how it works, isn't it.