The Marketplace

I walk into the grocery store and greet the bright yellow lighting and smell of bagged produce as an old friend. I visit the grocery store for its cool temperature and fairly open space as an elderly person does a shopping mall. I enjoy browsing and purchase a couple of items in return for the store’s public service.

The butcher has the grizzled, proud look of a man’s man like the kind you only see in movies. I feel embarrassed to ask him where the tin foil is, but he knew. His quick response and confident, dismissive tone made me feel like a boy asking his dad a silly question while the news is on. He immediately gets back to work while I say thanks, awkwardly pick up a pepperoni log thinking that he would appreciate me patronizing his department and moved on. He was not impressed by my gesture.

I cut up the empty dairy aisle, drop off my pepperoni with the yogurt while no one is looking and make my way towards the tin foil. The innovation in tin foil renders me indecisive. I narrow it down to the one that is the lowest per unit cost according to the orange highlight in the upper right hand of the price tag, the lowest total price as marked on the scuffed, white sticker with jet black ink, and the tin foil I did not know existed, pre-cut sheets. I don’t know the benefit of this product, but I enjoy the novelty and the packaging is in lower case letters with a comforting pale green shade as if assuring me of my financial choices, my ability to try new things, and how much tinfoil is needed for my frozen broccoli. I go with the comfort packaging.

I make my way to the deli to get a half pound of ham. The man behind the counter is in his 20s and calls me boss and I feel embarrassed that this makes me feel as if he likes me. But he definitely likes me. He cut .62 pounds of ham and instead of throwing some away, he lifted a couple of pieces off giving me exactly a half pound. I don’t imagine he does that for everyone. I say “thanks boss” to show my solidarity and go to pay.

Self-checkout is open, a teenager I always see working is standing at the front. I give her the nod, she looks away. Was that creepy? In Raleigh “the nod” is standard amongst strangers. Here, looking away is expected. I scan my bright red loyalty card after my products and learn that my new tin foil was on sale. I try to redeem myself to the teenager and say “pays to be loyal”. She smiles and walks away. I am humbled to be back on good terms.

Trophy and bounty secured in canvas reusable bag, I depart my old friend, back into a world of uncertainty.

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