On Friday I made the mistake of going to Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s—the quality and variety of food, the prices and specialty items, the friendly service. But every time I go there I want to shoot myself in the face.
Let me explain. I go with the expectation that I will be shopping, i.e. looking for items that I need, placing them in a cart or basket, and paying for them. But inevitably I end up ricocheting through the aisles desperately trying to get out of the way. I don’t know what it is about this store, but there is literally not one square foot where you can stand to read your shopping list, catch your breath, or think about your next move. Everywhere you stand, you are in someone’s way. And every item you want is blocked by someone else. It’s all I can do to mumble “Pardon me…sorry…” as I zigzag through the crowds trying to buy a can of organic lentil soup or a chocolate bar. On this recent trip I made three return visits to the soup section only to be thwarted each time by a Red Rover unbreakable line in front of the shelves. The problems in our local store are magnified by the throngs of restocking elves who are pushing twelve cases of wine on a dolly, carrying cartons of eggs, or otherwise doing things that would be best left when there weren’t four thousand people in the store. Of course, it’s necessary since the shelves are small and the items keep flying off them. When I leave Trader Joe’s my forehead is soaked, my heart rate is through the roof, and I feel as if I just ran through twelve lanes of rush hour traffic. Is this what shopping is supposed to be?
Here’s a picture of the soup aisle at Trader Joe’s:
Saturday was a different kind of shopping. We went to the mall so I could look at roughly eight hundred types of black shoes that I didn’t like. Turns out I got the best service from a place that sold shoes I couldn’t afford. In the Steve Madden store, the dance music was so loud it stunned the salespeople into some kind of trance where they were unable to help customers. Luckily Toddler Harbat entertained everyone by doing the twist to the music and high-kicking around the store. Again…this is shopping?
Saturday night I finally found an inexpensive and cool pair of shoes online. I was sitting on the couch in front of a roaring fire with a glass of port on the table. Ahh, I get it now. This is shopping.
Friday and Saturday it rained, and if you find yourself in Southern California during a rainstorm, check out the locals. You’ll know them because they’ll be wearing cotton sweatshirts and shorts, squinting against the gale and trudging down the sidewalk in flip flops. It doesn’t matter how much advance warning we get. It doesn’t matter that it rains every year. San Diegans live in a state of denial that sometimes water will fall from the sky. As a result, a good two-thirds of the population doesn’t own, or has never heard of an umbrella, and will slouch through a days-long deluge like a wet cat. I find life here exciting but baffling.
I did some first-class parenting this weekend, starting with a rain expedition with Toddler Harbat. I waited until the storm was at maximum downpour, then we got on our raincoats and wellies and headed out into the backyard. She loved it, stomping through puddles and rivers, sticking her boot into a waterfall coming out of a gutter, and wading through the lake in our side yard. I had forgotten how much fun it is to be out the in middle of weather. Sometimes you really have to get your clothes wet. That night we rode the escalators at the mall. Up and down, back around. They had glass sides so you could see out to the crowds below. Toddler Harbat pulled my hand and said, “Come on Babbo! We’re ridin’ da eck-salater right now!” I love that little munchkin.