Out and about yesterday: One plan foiled by the owners of Mysteryscape! having changed Saturdays, so I couldn’t dialogue with the one who wasn’t there. But I bought a couple of books and headed south. At Revival, I found an antique folding table perfect for my upcoming women’s gathering, to augment the little nooks for sitting throughout my house. Then I headed south, intending to go to Michael’s to get the supplies for the frame project party favors, when I realized that my blood sugar level had begun to plummet.
I cut across Metcalf and turned into the parking lot for Whole Foods, intending to bag two birds with one sweep. I’d get some food at their deli counter, then buy a few veggies to cook for dinner.
The clerks at “Prepared Foods” seemed to be having difficulty deciding who would do which chores. Two women in aprons ignored me and took someone from the line behind me. A young mother who awaited the completion of her dish smiled and said, Do you want me to tell her that you were first? I shook my head. Five minutes’ wait would not kill me.
A half hour later, a fourth clerk scraped my burned food from the bottom of the one operational pan and handed the bowl to me. I told myself that I liked the carmelized bits, that they added flavor. ( I learned the word “carmelized” from watching too much Food Network.) I asked the clerk where I could find a fork and he gestured vaguely saying, Take a left right after you pay. I followed the line of his arm and asked another clerk, who stood behind a long counter, Do I pay you? But she said that I had to go to a check-out line. I balanced my food in my cart and looked towards the cashiers across the front of the store. I found it hard to believe that I would have to leave the “Prepared Food” area and pay at the grocery check-out, then come back to the far side of the store to eat. I looked back at the clerk, sure I had misunderstood, but, no. We don’t take money here, she said.
In line behind a couple of families stocking up for nuclear war, I watched the steam rise from within my bowl of food, which apparently not been completely closed. When I finally got to the point of paying, I asked the lady if the store had interest in customer comments. She said, Of course, in a tired voice. I mentioned, in deliberate and carefully crafted nonviolent communication, that I found it cumbersome to wait for my food and then come across the store to pay. I suggested that the process made it less likely that I’d go back and shop after eating. She shrugged and replied, Well, that’s just the way the store is set up. I asked her name. Kira, she told me.
Kira. A Russian girl’s name meaning Light. I went beyond the cashier, turned left, and walked fifty yards or so to the area where tired shoppers with hungry children and groceries turning luke-warm in laden carts sat eating their own over-cooked food. I got myself a cup of cold water and found a fork. As I ate, I thought about Kira’s attitude. She clearly had no concern over inconvenience caused me. But perhaps her lack of interest came from her own feelings of helplessness. Perhaps she’d told the manager a dozen times that people complained about the logistics of the store’s layout. Perhaps she had her own troubles, that had nothing to do with my $7 bowl of Prepared Food.
I finished my Veggan Stir-Fry bowl, with its burnt rice and rubbery tofu, and headed out the door. Notwithstanding my decision to let Kira and Whole Foods alone, to let her shrug fall away into time without official mention and to endure the inconvenience of the store’s layout, I still could not bring myself to find another cart and trudge back into the main shopping area.
A girl can only take so much, especially if she can’t complain.