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Down the Road

The supermarket
By Milt Gross
Jan 26, 2014 - 12:33:31 AM

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My first real memory of the supermarket was as the place of my first job, when I was a high-school student. I do remember shopping in that same supermarket after those days, but what I remember is wondering how those employees could stand working in that same store their entire lives -- some being well paid, of course.

The one exciting day there at the Acme Market in Paoli, PA was the three-foot deep snowfall, the like of which I've never seen since moving to Maine awhile ago. Customers came to the store driving horses and sleighs, which was acceptable among the well-off suburbanites who had gentleman farms on the outskirts of town. But I wondered and still do where those who came by dogsled found that means of transporting groceries home to the ranch. This was not the Yukon; it was suburban Philadelphia, where most went to work by train and drove to the station in their station wagons.

Most days at my first job were just boring but also frightening. I was the cashier at the express aisle, where the suburbanites lined up patiently, waiting for me to do my job. In those days, the job actually included counting change which my father had taught me -- none of my teachers thought of such a class. But counting change slowed things down a bit.

My dreams at night were of me, standing by the cash register in my pajamas and seeing the hundreds of shoppers awaiting their turn at my register.

Nowadays we have different experiences at our supermarket, which isn't all that super in terms of service or size when you compare our Maine ones with those in other parts of the U.S. But lacking in the "super" department doesn't eliminate the frustrations.

To be honest, Dolores does meet interesting people there and engages in short conversations with them. The only person I know there is a neighbor, who lives up the road from us. When I see him while I'm driving the bus, he asks if he can ride the bus with me to get away. I always say, "yes," then close the door and drive away, leaving him standing in the parking lot with his string of supermarket carts.

I do remember meeting a man while waiting to be checked out -- a common occurrence, since there are never enough open lanes for the number of shoppers -- and his telling me he had just moved to Maine and wanted to make it his home.

"How many moose stories do you have?" I asked.

He replied that he had never seen a moose. I explained that his not actually having met Bullwinkle wasn't a big problem. I suggested he make up several believable moose tales, if he wanted to be accepted socially in our Pine Tree State part of the globe.

He thanked me, but I haven't seen him since. I hope he didn't become discouraged, thinking one always has to tell true stories, and left the state.

A couple I've known for years was waiting to be checked out at another supermarket, I believe in the Hampden area. Suddenly the store lost its power, and the woman at the cash register began to change her operation so she could check folks out manually, with no electricity. She looked around for something, then asked, "Is there a crank around?

The wife of the couple I know responded, pointing to her husband, "Yes, right here."

But Dolores' (and my) usual memories of shopping for groceries are about such problems as clerks unloading big, fully loaded, hand trucks in front of the item she's trying to reach, women sized extra large gathered in an aisle having a gab fest and completely blocking the aisle, a mother screaming at her little darling that he or she should stop screaming, somewhat older kids racing up and down the aisles, and......

.....being out of whatever it is Dolores came into the store to buy.

The parking lot is also fun. That's where people must have taken an oath to never look before they back up. That's also where people park so close to you, you can't open your door. When I drive my bus through the parking lot, a car or usually SUV is parked where I'm supposed to stop to let people get on the bus.

How true the following is I'm not certain, but I heard of a woman who approached a store manager and told him she couldn't remember where she'd parked so had no idea where to look for her blue Chevy SUV. With only that for a clue, the manager walked around the parking lot with the woman.

"There it is," she finally shouted.

And there it was, the blue Chevy SUV with a green canoe strapped on top.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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