Thursday, March 31, 2005
gray skies, closed eyes, and sleepless wanderings
Wednesday was a strange day. Maybe it was the partly-cloudy / sunny weather, or maybe it was the incessantly strange sleeping patterns... but I often get the feeling of being asleep while I'm awake and being awake while I sleep.
And I'm still compelled to write the boring details of it all in this blog.
So before my Mom left for work yesterday, we had an odd conversation about the local Safeway. Apparently, they've finally finished all the expensive remodeling of the store and they were gonna have a "grand re-opening" between 8am to 8pm to celebrate the fact that people can now buy their groceries off fancier looking shelves. My conversation with my mother went something like this:
MOM: You know, the Safeway is having a grand re-opening today.
MOM: You should go there.
MOM: Because they're giving away free stuff!!!
me: What kind of free stuff?
MOM: I don't know, but it's free!
My mother then went on to explain at length that she was going to have dinner with her friends after work and wasn't going to be able to make it home in time to stop by the store. She then reiterated her request that I go to the store before leaving for work.
It wasn't until after a nap on the couch that I wandered out to the Safeway to check it out. I guess the Chinese-American cultural mandate to be thrifty couldn't resist the lure of freebies. Bah.
chapter 1: party at safeway
As soon I parked my car in the parking lot, I had the inkling that it was a mistake to come. The parking lot was jammed with cars, and as soon as I stepped into the store, I noticed the crowds of people and the long lines at the check-out. You'd think over a year of life in Japan and I'd be desensitized to crowds, but I still disliked it. There were balloons and decorations everywhere, but the Safeway didn't look that much nicer than I remembered it, except the produce aisles were better laid out and the wine section was bigger.
The whole place had a carnival atmosphere to it, and not just because of the decorations. Employees were handing out free food and drink samples (like Costco), and every few minutes, they'd announce over the intercom that a lucky shopper had won something at the checkout stand like a DVD player or a gift card. Yipee.
The prices were good, though... I did my best to resist all the "buy one, get one free" deals, but I ended up purchasing some essential items like OJ, microwave popcorn, and some Mother's cookies (the frosted animal cookies, of course).
chapter 2: pink orca lady
As I headed to the register, I decided to wait at the ironically-named "express check-out" line, which turned out to be a ridiculous 15+ minute ordeal. On the entertaining side, I happened to have chatty line mates - the woman directly in front of me was a short blonde woman with tattoos in her mid-30s and behind me was an elderly couple. The woman's cart had a big box of diapers, baby food, a bag of dog food, and some assorted fruits / vegetables. The elderly couple had some snacks and a magazine.
Funny how you can tell a lot about people by the groceries they buy.
Blonde Tattooed Mom was the first one to speak, making comments about how much she hates waiting in lines and how she spends her commute everyday to Tacoma sitting in traffic. I silently nodded and as I glanced absentmindedly over a TIME magazine issue about Jesus, I spotted the woman in front of Blonde Tattooed Mom - a large, pale, morbidly obese orca-esque lady wearing a bright pink t-shirt... along with a mini-purse backpack that only seemed to make her look more massive. As she stood in line, she seemed to sway back and forth, like the Titanic lurching in the cold Atlantic. I don't know how I missed seeing her before.
Nevertheless, the real odd thing about Pink Orca Lady was her shopping cart - it was filled with a mass of 4 or 5 plastic sacks of already bagged groceries. I must have been staring at it all with an odd expression on my face, because Blond Tattooed Mom leaned over to me and whispered behind a covered hand, "I think she (Pink Orca Lady) is trying to win some free stuff... she's already bought groceries several times and she keeps waiting in line. How annoying."
I smiled and I heard the elderly couple behind me chuckle... they must have heard Blond Tattooed Mom too.
As Pink Orca Lady approached the checkstand again, the four of us waited with baited breath to see if she would win... but nothing happened. Over the announcements, another shopper had won a free DVD player, but it wasn't our checkstand. Being next, Blond Tattooed Mom had already quickly moved her groceries from the cart to checkstand conveyor. The clerk scanned the groceries and as Blond Tattooed Mom finished paying with her credit card, a series of beeps went off at the register computer.
"You've won a $20 shopping gift card!" the clerk announced to a surprised Blond Tattooed Mom.
"Really?!" exclaimed Blond Tattooed Mom.
Pink Orca Lady spun around with a disgusted look on her face and grumbled something under her breath before lumbering off. The four of us laughed aloud. The husband from the elderly couple leaned over to me with a smile and said, "Dude, she (Blonde Tattooed Mom) just ruined your chances of getting some free stuff!"
"Oh well." I said as I shrugged my shoulders. Blond Tattooed Mom has got a baby and dog. I've got... well, what I have, it's going to take a helluva lot more than a $20 gift card to help with.
chapter 3: no really, i eat here a lot
The whole waiting in line at Safeway had made me hungry, so I stopped by my favorite Mom & Pop Korean teriyaki joint for some takeout. When I got there, I was surprised to see a new Korean girl working there instead of the usual Korean girl who takes my orders.
Normally, that's not a problem, but being a regular has benefits like people always knowing your order (as fellow writer James noted about his local Starbucks). I couldn't just casually stroll in and say in a oh-so-cool way, "The usual." Nope, I had to say my whole order... "One chicken teriyaki / chicken katsu combo to go, no drink."
"Ummm... uhhh" I could see her eyes darting around the menu on the sidewall. I pointed to the picture, bottom row, third from the left. I tried hard to smile and not look as grouchy as I usually do after I've just subjected to crowds of people.
"Thanks!" she nervously muttered as she scribbled down my order and rung it up on the register, before turning around and yelling something to the kitchen in Korean.
"First day on the job?" I asked.
"Yeah..." she replied with a serious expression on her face. She looked like only a kid in high school. Gotta love the all encompassing immigrant Asian work ethic... start 'em young.
epilogue: dinner and tv
With groceries and take-out in hand, I returned home to eat, drink, and enjoy the final episodes of the Sci-Fi network series Battlestar Galactica that I had BitTorrent'd. Entertaining stuff.
A future where human civilization has been destroyed by the rebellion of the same sentient bio-mechanical machines that they had created as slave labor? It seems more and more plausible these days.
At least to me.
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