Sunday, June 28, 2009

Touché, Fairway!

In its mythical empty state
This evening I violated the covenant of sane NYC grocery shopping (i.e. never cross the threshold of a grocery store between the hours of 10:00 am Saturday and 8:00 pm Sunday) and entered Fairway at 5:00. Lately the W 74th St store has lulled me into a state of false confidence; the past few visits have been surprisingly manageable, and dare I say it, enjoyable, due to relatively empty aisles, tepid--as opposed to hostile--checkout clerks, and plenty of chopped coconut pieces. Tonight, however, Fairway pulled out all the stops and demonstrated the sheer madness for which it's both reviled and admired (admiredly reviled?).

The insanity began before I even entered the store, when I noticed that the twenty square feet directly in front of the Fairway entrance were torn up and roped off, thus resulting in a bottle-necked pedestrian jam of epic proportions. Throw in the Dumpling Truck, which was strategically parked right in front of this repellent morass, and you may wonder why I didn't hightail it back home at the corner. To that obvious yet untaken solution all I can say is that cheap organic peppers and the greatest sourdough bread this side of the Mississippi have a greater hold on me than any sense of self-preservation. I know--it's embarrassing.

Of course, in the perfect karmic twist, it was through the sourdough bread that Fairway's lunacy, and the psychosis that it lures out of my fellow shoppers, truly revealed itself tonight. After darting past the conventional produce to procure my yogurt--because Stonyfield organic yogurt would obviously be kept next to the marinades and potatoes, not upstairs with all of the other organic dairy products--I made a mad dash and a quick right into the bread aisle. Lo and behold, and readers please praise the god of your choice, there was only one person in line. Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, this NEVER happens. I wish I had photographed this Halley's comet of grocery store ephemera, because I might never see such a sight again in my lifetime; furthermore, the next thirty seconds unraveled a series of events of such mind-blowing craziness that I'm still sorting out what actually occurred. So without further ado, I present for your reading pleasure thirty seconds of Fairway mania...

I stand in line, the person in front of me quickly pays, and for a millisecond I am the only person at the bread counter. As I am uttering the words "long sourdough loaf, please", a woman walks in front of me and places five assorted bread items on the counter; another woman approaches from behind and physically moves me to look at the napoleons in the dessert case, and as I turn to her, ready to ask "Excuse me, was that necessary?" after I finish my bread request, a third woman proceeds from the other direction with the world's longest, widest stroller (there were three babies inside of it), which inevitably becomes wedged in the T-intersection of the bread aisle and deli cases.

The three of us at the counter are now shoved against it because of the stroller's girth; the woman manning the bread counter is shouting what sounds like "Christ?" from the unseen space on the floor, behind the counter, on which she's crouched rooting around for a long sourdough loaf. In my attempt to bend down and peer through the glass bread case--my addled brain has led me to believe that this will result in me understanding what she's saying (it doesn't)--I am outmaneuvered by the woman who waltzed ahead of me, who has now convinced the bread woman to stand up and get her several baby-sized slabs of ciabatta ahead of me and my apparently invisible loaf of bread. At this point the woman with the stroller decides to back down the aisle, and in the process shoves everyone who tried to form a line around her and behind the napoleon-lusting shopper back into the imported grains aisle, which subsequently causes everyone in that aisle to hit the express checkout lane like buckshot.

Miraculously, I deduce that the bread lady was asking "Sliced?" not "Christ?", largely because she must have interpreted my ignorant silence as a "yes" and is thus trying to force an unwieldy plastic bag full of sourdough slices into my hands, while also shouting something else incomprehensible and in a mildly alarming tone. I turn to beat a hasty exit, only to discover--immediately, because I can't move--that the stroller is now stuck at a diagonal angle in the bread aisle, and that the woman pushing and pulling said stroller is being gently and repeatedly tapped by the red and white cane of a very old and very alone blind woman.

Ah, Fairway, you give as good as you get. Until next time!

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