Someone told me recently that the grocery store is a great place to meet girls. Whole Foods and Trader Joes, to be sure.
“Organic,” he said. “That’s where it’s at.”
Later that night I reflected on his comment, which led me to thinking about a few organic people who have occupied spaces in my life here and there.
Organic #1: My Buddy’s Ex
She had armpit hair. Long, untamed, slimy dark pits. She yelled at me once for using paper plates, making claims that had words like China and poverty and child labor packed into them like full metal jackets, hippy bullets coming fast and erratic. I think I threw my paper plate away without recycling it, put on my Polo shirt and turned up the Laker game just to make her leave the room. Paper plates are one thing I will not forsake in my efforts to go green. That and senseless interruptions to my Laker game.
Organic #2: Felipe the Avocado Slanger
The dude always came over barefoot. A modern-day roamer tanned purple from walking shirtless in the sun for most of his waking hours. If you put a tweed hat on him and some overalls he is the perfect scarecrow. Every day was no different and I always wondered how he managed to get into our apartment, equipped with his bag of avocados like Johnny Appleseed’s Mexican brother. He took beers and left avocados in their place. I approved the green swap.
Organic #3: Clipboard Grassrooters
Clipboard grassrooters are usually in their twenties. They wait at the exit of grocery stores with pamphlets on why the world has gone wrong. And you want to help. And you want to listen. But they want your address and telephone number and credit card information to process the payment that will help someone in some country you have never heard of, and that freaks you out in a scamish kinda of way so you leave, the experience of it lingering, and the next time you see them waiting at the exit you grab your cell phone and act like you are in conversation or use the back door few people know about, a shameful act leaving you guilt-ridden until one of them spots you and calls you out for being unsympathetic to the needs of the world and you feel vindicated for shining them on and now that your cover is blown you think the hell with it and yell a few choice words back at them and get in your car feeling you have won and lost at the same time.
So going into all of this I am a little apprehensive. Not about meeting women. That is not the main concern. It’s tackling ORGANIC that worries me.
My first impression of Whole Foods is bad. The parking lot is small, typical Los Angeles style. A guy in a Ferrari cuts me off to snag that prime front row parking like the price tag of his car gives him the privilege. His futile hair blows in the smog he thinks is wind. His Rogain must have finally taken hold because he looks like he has woken up after years of baldness to find that awful tuft of hair on his head. Like his birthday wish finally came true the way he is trying to flaunt his newly forged follicles, throwing what little hair he has in a sweeping motion of the head similar to what girls do to keep their hair out of their eyes. Except this guy has more of a Homer Simpson thing going and I can’t help but laugh and think go ahead, take my parking spot toddler-hair.
There are homeless people waiting near the entrance of the store in a hierarchy: old ones who have been broke the longest are in front, claiming their territory and pissing on it with sleeping bags, trash piles, and the general whiff of decade-old body odor. The younger ones are in the back and look less homeless than the others. But signs of their progressive decay show in the premature grey tint to their hair and the growing vacancy in their eyes.
And while they suffer in their stale complacency the world walks around them, buying organic foods at sometimes double the price of non-organic without thinking to toss the bums a dime or at least a lemon peel. I do not blame people for ignoring them. I do it all the time. But sometimes, say 1/100, I genuinely feel bad for them. My sympathy usually costs me a few bucks. I wonder how bums feel when I give them a dollar or two. Do they think Fuck this guy for giving them so little or are they sincerely happy to have earned some money for holding an “old war vet in need of food” sign or a “try and hit me with a quarter!” sign?
So my first step into Whole Foods is heavy. A lot of people look at me. They can smell my non-organic scent. I know it. I think something grand is going to happen, an epiphany or something radical, but the shopping experience is wholly unremarkable. All the produce looks the same. They have a frozen section. They have annoying customers. Same as everywhere else. I do notice that meats are more expensive and a guy who works there tells me about how the cows were given daily rub downs and were fed something this, and fed something that. I think yeah, treated like royalty until they go to the slaughterhouse where they become a crate of meat slabs meant for organic people who claim they are organic just because they can buy something at the store with a green sticker on it, cherishing it like a one month reward token given at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
My shopping concludes in a check out stand where I have to show my ID for the alcohol I purchased. The girl asks me if I have my own Whole Food bag for the groceries and I say no. Suddenly I have become the homeless man, the way she is looking at me in disgust and the hesitance at which she puts my groceries in a brown bag.
Like she is giving me an extra dollar or two after her own 1/100 chance of feeling sympathetic.
All in all I leave feeling slightly confused, like a wedgie has been pulled over my head. I had expected something more, maybe fireworks or Mexican Appleseed or a few naked people running around. But it was a grocery store like all the rest. Just more expensive and painted green.