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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

  1. In Praise of the Outer Aisles

    September 4, 2013 by Diane


    The large-chain grocery stores can keep their fluorescent lights and canned 80’s music and indifferent checkers, the bag boy waiting for his next coffee break. They can keep their fruit flown in from Australia pyramided under orange lights to make the oranges…oranger.

    I’ll direct my feet to the farmers’ market. I’ll breathe fresh air and mingle in my community of neighbors and listen to live music—guitar, violin, a Bluegrass singer. I’ll hand my money direct to the farmer who will hand me plump strawberries harvested that morning near the ocean, and organic grapes the size of thumbs. I’ll wander the stalls of fresh flowers and crackly baguettes and giant artichokes and seven varieties of hummus, and sweet baby corn that can be eaten raw, there in the sunlight, among friends.

    I’ll jot down the farmer’s tips…

    “Take a clove of garlic and plant it in an inch of soil on Halloween. The rain will water it, and come spring it will sprout beautiful flowers and you’ll have garlic year-round.”

    I’ll show him the leaves of my tomato plant that are turning yellow.

    “Is the fruit ripe?” he’ll ask.

    “The skins are splitting on the vine.”

    “Too much water, too fast.”

    “Some of the fruit is still green,” I’ll say.

    “Needs fertilizer. At this point, use nitrogen and magnesium.”

    Can you get that kind of service in the grocery store? “I wouldn’t know, ma’am. Our tomatoes are shipped from Mexico. We pick ‘em off the truck.”

    I’m happier in the outer aisles, breathing the morning air, the sunlight warming my skin, hearing the laughter of children, seeing the smiles of older couples, carrying a reusable cloth bag spilling over with bouquets of red and orange and yellow cosmos and thick gluten-free cinnamon rolls and homemade lavender soap and raisins so plump they squirt when you bite into them.

    The raisins at the chain-stores rattle around in their miniature boxes like old teeth.

  2. A Bed in a Box

    August 16, 2013 by Diane

    Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

    I bought a new bed.

    But first I napped my way from the “Natural Handmade-To-Order-For-An-Obscene-Price” mattress store, to the discount “It’s So Toxic We Can’t Remove The Plastic” warehouse.

    I applied my knowledge of mattress shopping to every bed that I test-napped. Lying supine, was it easy to slip my hand under my lower back? If so, the mattress was too firm. On my side, was my spine straight, or did it angle down at the hips or shoulders? If so, the mattress was too soft. Was I tired? Then forget about testing mattresses, because even plywood would feel just right.

    Then I spied a mattress in the corner of a back room of an expensive shop. It wasn’t their brand. They were selling it for another company. The salesman, lingering next to me, said, “That mattress is for people on a budget who want eco-friendly.”

    I launched myself on.

    The mattress was more comfortable than any of the other fifty-odd mattresses I had napped on, so I went to the store that manufactures it and bought a new bed.

    But not just any bed.

    This bed, made of individually-wrapped inner spring coils, foam, cotton and wool, came in a box.

    A box with wheels.

    A box that fits into the back seat of a Toyota Corolla.

    It’s a Keetsa!

    Keetsa mattresses are made with springs so sturdy they can be crushed by a 1200-pound machine, rolled up, vacuum-packed, and stored in a box. When opened, they resume their natural size and shape. (The company enthusiastically compressed a few name-brand mattresses to see if they would bounce back. They didn’t.) Immediately after making a putchase, the customer can roll their new mattress-in-a-box to their car, tuck it into the trunk, drive home, unpack it, watch the mattress expand and sleep on it that night.

    The foam is cut with cedar oil and green tea extract so there are no harmful fumes. For a couple of days the mattress smelled…foresty. The box with wheels is reusable. Handy for storing…say…blankets and pillows, or doubling as a packing container when moving.

    The Keetsa salespeople leave you alone, unless you engage them in conversation. Which I did. To great lengths. I asked every mattress question in the book: Will it dip? Will it off-gas? What if I don’t like it? What’s the warranty? How long has it been in that box? They served free green tea in the showroom. They gave me a free pillow and two free allergy covers. They slid my full-size bed-in-a-box into the backseat of my Corolla and waved goodbye. They wanted me to nap elsewhere.

    I took my new bed home. I jiggled it out of the box and unrolled it. I slit open the packaging and watched it expand.

    Then I slept on it.

    Imagine that you’re in a Zen-like restaurant that serves organic, grass-fed meat, and you order steak—medium, please—and on the plate it appears to be cooked medium, and when you test it with the fork it feels medium, but when you cut into it with a knife you hit bone.

    My new mattress was a bit…firm.

    Maybe I was acting too much like Goldilocks, wanting my mattress to be just right. Or like the Princess who complains about the pea at the bottom of the stack. All I wanted was to be Sleeping Beauty.

    So I bought a mattress topper.

    But first I tested everything from the “It’s So Toxic We’ve Encased It In Plastic” brand, to the latex model that was so dippy I had to claw my way out.

    Which brought me back to the Keetsa store, with the friendly salesmen and the free green tea and the foresty smell. I explained my problem. They had just the topper in mind. I asked, Will it dip? Will it off-gas? What if I don’t like it? What’s the warranty? How long has it been in that box? They gave me a discount. They wanted me to be happy. They wanted me to go away.

    Now my bed is cushy. My bed is comfy. If I didn’t have insomnia, my bed would be perfect. But according to good sleep hygiene, if you can’t fall asleep within twenty minutes you have to get out of that cushy comfy bed.

    I think about it.

    Sometimes I think about hanging out in the box.

  3. A Reason to Smile

    August 2, 2013 by Diane

    Medical record

    I spied Doctor Heckmann in the checkout line at Draeger’s Supermarket.

    He was the hematologist who doctored me over twenty years ago. He looks like David Letterman and sounds like Garrison Keillor minus the sense of humor. Not to say that he’s a dour fellow. He’s quiet and respectful and I remember he listened not only to my heart but to my soul, and his fingers, when he palpated my liver and spleen, were warm and gentle.

    I was sent to him because I had a high temperature and a horrible headache and the kind of fatigue that makes you feel like you’re Scrooge’s old pal Marley, the ghost in heavy chains who moaned and quivered and appeared cold and insubstantial. My medical team couldn’t determine what was wrong. My blood count was plummeting. My weight was dwindling. My eyelashes were vivid against my pale skin. I couldn’t pull myself from bed for six months. The team scratched their heads, pulled out their prescription pads and loaded me up on medications that gave me a rash and made me sick in ways that I wasn’t already sick, so they prescribed medications to counteract the effects of the other medications and by the time they sent me to Doctor Heckmann I was carrying a brown paper sack full of vials.

    He lined the vials up on his desk. He jotted some notes on his legal pad. Then he scooped the bottles back into the bag and told me he was taking me off all the medications.

    I fell in love.

    Not the romantic kind of love.

    This was the kind of love you feel when everything grey transforms into a lovely pastel robin’s egg blue again.

    He diagnosed me as having chronic fatigue syndrome. He had several patients with the same symptoms. He admitted that the medical establishment didn’t know much about the disease and there was no known cure, but something behind his words told me that even though he didn’t have Letterman’s sense of humor or Keillor’s ability to spin a good yarn, I would find a reason to smile again.

    This was the doctor I spied in the checkout line at Draeger’s Supermarket.

    He was buying a large salad, a bottle of Vodka and five limes which he laid out with the same tender fingers. He avoided my steady gaze. Perhaps he had seen me smiling at him at the drug store twenty minutes earlier. Or he had seen me the week before in Safeway, observing him from the corner of my eye at the deli. Or the month before that, doing a double-take as we crossed paths in the parking lot.

    Perhaps he thought I was stalking him.

    I wanted to thank him for being the greatest doctor on earth. I wanted to tell him that I’m still standing because of him. But something told me not to intrude. He continued to avoid my gaze as he bagged his own groceries and turned to leave.

    “Are you Doctor Heckmann?” I blurted, and he almost paused; his head moved a fraction in my direction. Then he kept going, craving his anonymity perhaps, his life as an Everyman and not a specialist in a lab coat.  Or he didn’t want to admit that he had no memory of me all.

    But I will always remember him.

    There are people like that in life, people who catch you when you’re grabbing at air, and when you’re back on your feet they disappear, their job done. If you’re lucky you’ll glimpse them years later, buying a large salad, a bottle of Vodka and five limes in the supermarket.

    And you’ll light up with gratitude.