I recently went straight from one grocery store to another one in order to complete my shopping. This, of course, is not unusual; as many shoppers include the food “bargains” available at the “dollar” stores in order to save some money.
But in this case, it was the sight of only one item which made me complete the checking off my grocery list elsewhere.
Blackberries! (I’m glad it wasn’t “strawberries; ” but perhaps not many people remember or know about Captain Queeg of The Caine Mutiny (1954) nowadays).
The blackberries weren’t moldy or rotten. And it wasn’t because of the advisory, printed on their container: “Wash before consuming,” as some companies tend to spoil us with “steam bags” and other containers with messages to the effect: “No need to wash. We already did.”
An aside before continuing: (as a child, when consuming blackberries straight from roadside “volunteer vines,” instead of washing, some “thumping” might be needed to dislodge a chigger or two).
The reason for my alternate grocery trip was that a shopper in front of me at the first store was picking up each plastic blackberry container, opening the lid and gently “pinching” each blackberry within.
Since the container was clear plastic, there was no worry about this shopper buying the blackberries “sight unseen,” but I guess, to him, the idea of “purchased unsqueezed” was anathema.
I started to wait him out; but then the thought occurred to me that maybe he was just “finishing up,” and had possibly “tweaked” every blackberry in every container within the bin.
When I arrived at the other store, I told the cashier about how surprised I was at what I’d seen. He said on prior occasions he had witnessed some members of the public not only individually squeezing a variety of packaged, fresh berries, but picking the berries up and popping them into their mouths.
The only thing I’d done similar to that was years ago in a late summer while my late wife, Diane, and I were helping my late father-in-law, Hoyt, in his garden. In the midst of picking corn, I pulled back the shuck on one ear and took a bite. Perhaps I was temporarily overcome, as the hot summer day and smell of rows of raw, aromatic corn must have engendered a sort of “delirium” (just now, Van Gogh’s Crows over Wheatfield comes to mind).
But that was in the garden, not the “green grocer” section of a grocery store!
The cashier told me that apple cores and banana peels have been found not far from the fruit bens (but so far, no avocado skins and pits).
He also told me that occasionally, people have been known to take a chicken wing out of the “hot deli” and walk through the store, eating it “on the fly” (“on the wing” seems more appropriate here); and then, behind a roll of paper towels or a canned good, they deposit the bones (a “sort of” burial).
I then recalled a story from another store where bags of in-the-shell peanuts had been found open, minus goodly portions of their contents. The culprit had left a zig-zag trail of shells throughout the store, making it difficult for store personnel to follow (or, for that matter, Hansel and Gretel).
This caused me to remember the Joe Namath movie, C.C. Ryder and Company (1970), where Joe Namath nonchalantly pushes a grocery basket through the store, taking two slices of bread from a sliced loaf, one slice of ham from a pack of sliced ham, one slice of cheese from a pack of sliced cheese, one leaf of lettuce from a head of lettuce, and the necessary “squirts” of one “off-the-shelf” mustard bottle to assemble a ham sandwich, which he eats and then politely asks a store employee: “Excuse me. Where are the cupcakes?”
Still mulling this over, I went to my car with my container of blackberries, of which I felt and hoped had been sorted and packed by anonymous, sans fingerprint, robotic hands.
I looked up at the restaurant sign across the street, which proudly states, in “screaming” letters: “DINE-IN.” And I pondered the multiple and hypothetical meanings of words and phrases