When I Need A Pick Me Up, by my friend Ryan King

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shopping As A Competitor Sport

In my neighborhood, there's a bizarre standard in the bodegas that is driving me out of my nut. Now, I'm trying to be understanding of other people's culture, and I'm not going to walk three blocks to the supermarket when it's literally freezing outside and there's a "grocery" store right downstairs in my building. But you walk in there and you are no longer in America. No one is speaking English. And no one knows how to whisper or use their inside voices. Music with especially pronounced treble blaring timpani and salsa beats while you say "Excuse me," for the second time to the swarthy man with the red eyes leaning back against the soda case that holds the Diet 7UP bottles while he listens with one ear to the short round man repeating the same Dominican phrase over and over (or at least he is to my ears).

But when you finally have all the items you want, you take it to the counter and the starter's gun fires. Because little did you know it, you can only purchase your items if you are fast enough and loud enough. That's right, stupid me, I thought it was a matter of lining up along the deli case and waiting your turn. Not so! For while I put my items up, here comes the chick with her mewling brat plopping her Enfamil ahead of my Diet 7UP and declares, "Oom, let me get a pack of Black & Milds" to my slackjawed surprise. And while she is waited on, in walks a Sherman tank of a grandmother from the street (not even having shopped yet) hollering her language at the store clerk and asks for something that I can't even re-pronounce, let alone type.

Well, two is my limit. Before a third person appears and causes me to lose my religion, I interpose my body in such a way that no one puts anything up on the counter again unless we hit the streets like the Sharks and the Jets, and I pin the clerk with my eyes. In them he may read at his leisure, "I'M NEXT DUDE. WTF." And I purchase my items, and I book out, seriously considering the three-block walk next time.

I mean, really. Culture, smulture. I thought manners were a Universal language.

3 comments:

uptowner said...

It's not just culture, it's a way of life in New York. I have the same battle in my local bodega every single time I go in there and I live in Harlem. Everything you described and more. I usually either toss my money on the counter and hold up the item I bought as I stroll out the door or jam myself up against the counter so no one can get around me. Fortunately I don't have to go to the bodega often. SMH>>>bad enuff to tolerate the smells and grime in there. I'm always waiting for a rat to run out into one the aisles.

GrizzBabe said...

How rude!

Visiting other cities helps me to realize that Southern hospitality is a very real thing.

Kathleen said...

Wow...I don't think I'd last long in New York.