I forgot the rosemary yesterday when we walked over to the grocery store and picked up a leg of lamb. My bad. So I drove over early to pick some up. Also my bad.
How could I forget that my grocer stocks their produce aisles from 8:00 to 9:30?
The place looked like it might the day before a blizzard. Ravaged. Marked by emptiness.
There was no rosemary. Not a single stinking sprig. No lemons. No green beans.
Who thinks that’s a good business model? (And who am I to expect their business model to conform to my need?)
I next headed down Route 9 to another grocery store to fill the gaps in my list, which you need to understand is decidedly not my style. In fact, it is so not my style that when I listen to a friend, probably “a shopper” but not necessarily, describe going to multiple shops to get what they were looking for, it’s as if I’m listening to someone from another planet. I’d rather wear something that doesn’t fit. Or go without.
See: my five-year-old bathing suit.
I am already annoyed, but it just so happens I’m wearing socks like slide. You know the ones — every twenty or thirty steps or so you need to reach down and tug them up or you’ll soon find a naked heel meeting the inside of your shoe.
The question could be: why do some socks do this? But heading down the long dairy aisle for vanilla ice cream and bending to tug, I realized the question could just as easily be: why don’t ALL socks do this?
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles rosemary grows in freaking HEDGES. I can’t help but look back and find a couple of pics.
Happy Easter to anyone who celebrates! I’m off to marinate my lamb in rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme, lemon, olive oil, and tons of garlic.
This week I obsessed about how none of the bundled-up Ukrainians seem to wear gloves. I scanned scene after scene to confirm. How can that be, I wondered.
And I thought about the things they carried. What was in those backpacks, those little, utilitarian sacks meant to hold lunches and shoes while commuting?
A passport. An extra pair of pajamas and underwear, maybe, but not spare pants or sweaters because they’re too bulky. Perhaps a toothbrush. Definitely a charging cord.
Not: photo albums, collections of ironware pitchers or Christmas cacti, not books or quilts or heirloom dishes. Not even room enough for a week’s worth of diapers.
And then, dinner done, TV off, we went shopping. It was almost desperate, this need to get out of the house and we had the excuse of five March birthdays.
What do I even get sons in their 20’s?
We went to the new Marshalls, which was moved across the street to make way for yet more development. I hadn’t been in it yet and more to the point, I’ve scarcely shopped at all since March two years ago.
While parking, we speculated that we’d be the only mask-wearers in the joint but were wrong. Every single shopper and every single worker wore a mask.
I had cashmere scarves in mind, forgetting that that’s not how you shop at Marshall’s.
I didn’t have time to dwell in disappointment (socks again, really?) because over near the men’s hoodies, a young adult had parked himself and issued moan after moan after moan. A keening sound, full-throated and loud, really loud. It was the sound you’d make finding your cat dead on the side of the road or after learning your mother had lost her battle with cancer.
He repeated his moans, like a foghorn. A small woman I took to be his mother stood nearby slapping hangers from left to right, impervious.
My mind went two ways.
The first was to regret going out. Good god! What made me think I’d enjoy going where there would be people, stale air, and crap merchandise? And, did I mention — people? I wasn’t sure I could take it.
You could hear him all the way over in housewares. You could hear him near shoes and underwear. You could not escape his lament.
The second way my mind went was to hear his moans as the mournful cries of the world. Perhaps, I thought, he moans for all of us. Perhaps he serves as a beacon of sorrow, speaking what we all feel and cannot express.
They were talking about him as we checked out. He must be having a bad day.
I’m bad about putting goods back where they belong when shopping. If I’ve got regular carrots in my cart, for instance, and then find some tri-coloreds across the way, I have no problem leaving my first selection where they don’t belong and continuing on my merry way.
I’ve been known to stuff a loaf of bread in with the canned goods or to leave chips in with the baking supplies. On occasion, impatience dictates that I abandon the venture altogether. That might mean dumping four or five items in the clementine display before walking out of the building.
I know — I’m bad! I’m not so terrible that if a garment slides off its hangar I’ll leave it on the floor, but close. I certainly have no compunction about stowing a medium in with the larges and judging by the near-random sorting of sizes in places like Marshall’s, clearly I’m not the only one.
(Just so you know — I’m an excellent tipper).
My most recent delinquency occurred on Friday in Walgreen’s and had everything to do with my anxious dog. He was waiting in the car while I was waiting (and waiting) for a flu shot.
Even though it’s mid-January, I decided to get this done. There was a line at the pharmacy and only one cashier open. When finally my turn, there were the usual delays inputting insurance info. And then there were two people ahead of me waiting for shots.
None of that got to me. But when I noticed that the shot-giver disappeared for inexplicably long periods after administering each vaccine, I decided to hold it against her.
The woman immediately ahead of me had lots of questions, tugging her germ mask down to ask. She needed instruction on how to expose her shoulder.
“Wait,” said the pharmacy worker. “Have you already gotten a flu shot?” Well, yes she had. It was supposed that a second shot couldn’t hurt but it couldn’t be stated with any certainty that it’d afford additional protection, either. Ms. Two Shots was making me wait? I knew Finn was on high-alert out in the parking lot, probably drooling all over the back seat. I paced a polite distance away, occasionally wandering down the head of an aisle — never far enough away to lose my place in line. I selected a pill box (having determined that my improvised chocolate box insert was problematic) and a sporty new headband (god forbid I should spring for a haircut).
The folding screen was wrapped around the two of them but it didn’t stop me from hearing everything. It also didn’t stop a clueless shopper from peeking around one panel to ask where the hair dryers were. She was probably four foot ten (giving her the dubious distinction of being definitely shorter than I) and Russian.
“Look with the hair products,” said the shot-giver. That wasn’t enough. Where were the hair products? “I’m with someone right now,” the white-coated woman sniped. I didn’t blame her, what with pains in the asses on both sides of the screen and a third woman pacing in circles nearby.
I directed the woman to the proper aisle. “There they are,” I said pointing to the bottom shelf. She still didn’t see them. Was it a vision or a language problem? She certainly was close enough to the ground for a good vantage of the lower shelves (hey — I’m allowed!). Since I’ve been blind even when being helped, I added, “Bottom shelf. Pink and blue boxes.” Yes, okay, now she saw.
The folding screen was flapped open, the shot-giver disappeared again and the woman with the mask trundled off. I sat down and pulled my sweater down over one shoulder. No instruction needed for this shot-getter!
Two middle school girls wandered around in a state of bored contempt. It was an odd throwback. I mean, when I was in eighth grade, everybody did this sort of thing: riding your bike to Friendly’s and hanging out; haunting the Goodwill on North Street; looking at cosmetics at England Brothers with no intention of buying any. But here, in 2018? They were so very retro by not being at gymnastics, or studying for their Bat Mitzvahs, or getting better at trig with a tutor. Their gaze made me uncomfortable, as I’m sure it was meant to. I felt both middle-aged and very relieved (not for the first time) at not having daughters.
Finally, Ms. Pony Tail in the white coat re-emerged after presumably doing nothing that could possibly have taken up that much time. For some reason, she flapped the privacy screen more open instead of closed. The middle school girls looked again. I wanted privacy, but wanted to get out of there quickly even more.
I mentioned the waiting dog. She earned points for having two herself, one of them a puppy and also anxious. We bonded over this, as dog-people will, until she went all vegan on me. I had just laughed about puppy training, asserting I’d never adopt a puppy again. “There’s so many good middle-aged ones out there,” I added. Was this also a signal to the snide attitude coming at me from two eighth grade girls? No, I’m not that clever.
The shot was given and the pharmacy worker said, “Well, ours were rescues.” First of all: totally non-responsive. Did she think mine wasn’t? Why? And why would she assume I didn’t also want privacy? Second of all, there was that tone — you know the one — the superior sounding one employed by some to let you know that they don’t touch meat, cheese or processed foods.
She disappeared into the back again, toting her big red plastic needle disposal bin. With the hope that it would inconvenience her just a little, I laid my pill box and sporty headband on the table and walked out.
The cars beetle together on tarmac
lozenges of tail lights,
rattle of wire carts
always one with the bum wheel.
December this year lacks cold.
No flakes or puffs of breath
to remind us of season.
I walk back to the car with
my shopping cart loaded
with plastic frames from China
and chocolate and wonder not
‘what would Jesus think’
‘what would Buddha do’ but
‘how would Mary Oliver
see it all?’
The corrugated grey cloud
cover reminding me
Parking lot radiating heat on a blastingly hot tax-free Sunday in August could make a person cranky. I am bracing myself. As we head towards the Sears entrance I say twice, “I am going to be patient.”
My husband scoffs.
“What?” I say. “You’re rigid. I’m impatient.”
It is a story we have played out in many variations for almost 27 years. It’s not a revelation so much as a minor act of atonement. Moments ago at the Dedham Street light, we were talking about how our younger son tends to get stuck in negative thinking. I asserted, “He gets his rigidity from you, you know.”
(Oh dear. Sometimes I AM my mother).
The list of back-to-school and life-with-dog purchases is long. Considerations of BTUs and counter space, closet space, floor attachments, and dirt retrieval systems. I can hardly focus on details like these at the best of times, never mind as it’s becoming clear that there’s no one available to help us. Thank Goodness Mr. Rigid is also Mr. Detail! Choices are made.
When it comes time to pay NO ONE is at the register. It had been staffed, but no more. I park myself there anyway and send K off to look for a toaster, noting that it might take a half an hour before help arrives. This is called ‘managing expectations.’
“Look upstairs in housewares,” I suggest. But he can’t shake the idea that little appliances ought to be next to big appliances and stays on Floor One.
Finally, a clerk arrives, but with a customer in tow. I’ve now stood there waiting (patiently?) for what feels like a long time. I’m glad they’ve arrived, not because it appears that I’ll be waited on any time soon, but because I had been considering taking $200 out of my wallet and waving it overhead while jumping and hooting, “Anyone take my money? Anyone?!!”
Because that’s how I think about moments like these.
K returns empty-handed. “It looks like we’re supposed to go ‘out there’ and FIND a clerk,” I say. What else can it be?!! The customer finishing up confirms. She is grey-haired and TALL, standing at LEAST five foot eleven. “There’s a woman with a clipboard out there who’s taking names so people can be served in order.” She adds, “To prevent hostility.”
Hostility is miles away, but patience? I’m still trying, though, and joke that at five feet, I can’t really SEE ‘out there’ (and in fact, I can’t… the rack with the vacuum attachments blocks my sight lines). It is both a nod to her tremendous height and a covert way of saying, “What good is a woman with a clipboard if you don’t know she exists?!!”
Fortunately, the clerk understands that the system might be backfiring at this very moment. “I’ll take you next,” she says.
Those four words rehabilitate me. Better yet, she tells K that toasters are “upstairs in housewares.” He gets a look. She sees the look. K says to her, “That’s funny, because I’m NEVER wrong!”
The clerk, who has by now completely won my heart, quips, “THAT is a brave man!”
A toaster-errand up on Two and an Ocean Job Lot run later, and I am hosing off two bricks in the front yard. Inside, I wrap them in foil. How nice that I made basil/garlic butter last week — it means I’m gonna serve my guys killer paninis.