You should probably know that as I write this, I bear a striking resemblance to a cancer patient. (Of course, I mean this in the most politically correct sense possible; please don’t take offense at my trivial, self-deprecating, woefully truthful observations.) I have a scarf wrapped around my head, concealing all hair and both eyebrows. And by “eyebrows”, I really mean the general vicinity above the eyes where eyebrow hairs are meant to grow, as I’ve nearly picked them all out. Nervous habit… I won’t go into it, but suffice it to say that that is the reason the scarf is on in the first place. To, theoretically, prevent more eyebrow picking. Adding to my (both perceived and literal) hairlessness, I am sitting outside covered in a blanket and smoking a broken cigarette… which, to compensate, I must hold firmly between my forefinger and thumb. Like a doobie.
Am I right or am I right?!
But this is all beside the point, I just wanted to paint you a picture. Provide some context. Let you IN. And at the same time, hopefully, make you feel a little better about whatever it is you are doing at this precise moment. Because I’m sure it’s much less pathetic. Anyway, we’re moving on.
There was a lunatic at Trader Joe’s today.
Okay, maybe “lunatic” is a little alarming. He was simply… uninhibited. Jolly. Loud. Drunk? Determined. On a mission. Probably hungry. Among other things, certainly.
I first spotted (heard) this boisterous fellow just outside the sliding doors. A tall, gangly white male in his late twenties with dark circles under his eyes and a big, goofy, but oddly sinister, grin. He was singing belligerently, joking around with his friends – or so I thought. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone within a twenty-foot radius thought. It became clear, however, soon after we had each rattled and rolled our respectively red shopping carts through the doors and into the heavily air-conditioned embrace of the fresh produce… that he was alone.
Alone and invincible. I parked my cart by the bagged greens, tentatively debating between butter lettuce and baby spinach, when he swept closely by with a sudden flourish, paused to select a few choice oranges, and promptly burst into song. “Oranges! Oraaaaaaanges! Orangeeeeeees!” As he sang, his eyes darted unabashedly from curious onlooker to curious onlooker, daring each innocent shopper to speak, to laugh, to stare, or maybe he was just daring us to join in. But, seeing as how we were neither cast in Trader Joe’s: The Musical, nor had we previously volunteered to take part in an obscenely miniature flash mob, we all simply pulled out our iPhones and heeded to a sudden, collectively demanding wave of imaginary notifications.
Unfazed, he moved on to serenade the vegetables.
Grocery shopping a decidedly fruitless endeavor at this point, I hovered lamely by the lettuce with my phone out like a defensive weapon as I half-eavesdropped and half-debated posting something on Facebook. (But I decided it was too silly. So I waited a few hours, had some wine, and wrote all this instead.)
I eventually abandoned my leafy corner and shuffled over to the tomatoes. “Tomatoooooooooes!!!” But, apparently, he wasn’t quite finished. Passing close by me yet again, he caught sight of the tiny Princeton logo embroidered on the left side of my sweatshirt. (Really, it was quite a discreet logo! This isn’t feigned, forced Ivy League modesty here, honest.) So, yes, you know what happened next.
“Princetoooooooon!! The university across the POOOOOND!!” And on and on until, apparently good on produce, he disappeared behind the pita chips and sang on into the frozen foods aisle.
But you know what, now that I think about it, Trader Joe’s is really the perfect setting for a sing-a-long about grocery shopping – which is, essentially, what I witnessed today. It’s like a Disney cartoon in there. I can easily picture friendly squirrels, chipmunks, a wise owl and a deer or two all working behind the scenes at the benevolent command of a Princess Josefina to package the playfully punned food items such as “Inner Peas” or “Karat Cake.” In contrast, it’s practically impossible to imagine anyone ever singing to their purchases at cranky old Von’s… it’s not nearly colorful enough, and there’s not nearly as much love in the air. If a man were caught serenading the onions in that dark, dank, fly-riddled excuse for a supermarket, he would probably be tackled, questioned and maced. And the mace would get all over the produce.