The shopper’s carnival

A surprisingly large contingent of the denizens of Almost decided to pass the endless mindless heedless boredom of a Sunday afternoon by walking in zombie-like stupor behind grocery carts at the local super-pharma-market. It's a ritual we pass about this same time every week, although the composition of the crowd seems to depend somewhat on which sporting event is currently being broadcast.

I think grocery shopping as we do it now replaces the traditional market day with a pale surrogate of sanitary plastic -wrapped food parcels and market-wise consumerism. These food units are almost divorced from cooking and eating, although they can eventually be coaxed into culinary excellence by the application of butter, mayonnaise, or other seasoned salted or blackened artifice, but the human interaction of the noisy goat-and-poultry filled market day is seemingly gone forever. 

While I would be really helpless at the prospect of ending the life of some poor creature in order to disembowel, quarter, and flay it, I still think we've lost a connection to our victuals.

The market now is so clean, so organized, so full of stuff, that you can't simply go there and "pick up a few things." Now, faced with a obscene number of choices in every conceivable food category, it's more like an expedition across the Alps, complete with elephants. I'm drowning in convenience. Meanwhile my shopping experience is rendered complete by a herd of other bored shoppers wandering the aisles with glazed expressions, attached via wireless communicator to some other bored person providing guidance and moral support.

I can identify all the players by now, although I can't name them. The inexperienced newlyweds are amazed by the stock, but rarely depart from a select few comfort foods. The bored husbands read magazines while their hapless wives toil at the gathering, concentrating on it so hard because for them it is an article of faith.  The well-studied shoppers, nattily dressed in church-going togs, complete their tour with grim efficiency. The family that stays together clogs the aisles with their offspring, creating mass confusion and dismay with their antics. The precision shopper quotes his specifications to the deli staff while his prim trophy wife agonizes over the proper bread for croutons.

It's not that I'm ungrateful. I'm well aware of the good fortune required to provide this level of boredom to people. But I think we had more fun in the smelly days of yore, when you had to keep an eye on Hakim the butcher and visit ten shops to supply a repast for the next Holy day. On foot. Without decision or choice. When you could send the servants out to do it.

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4 Responses to The shopper’s carnival

  1. jaklumen says:

    Ethnic grocery stores. Multicultural markets. The "farmer's market". There are small vestiges outside the "Megalo Mart" box stores.But I know what you mean. Unfortunately, it's not just a convenience for the middle classes– it's sometimes a necessity for the poor. Since farmer's markets here do not take EBT cards, nor cards of any kind (only cash, but cash burns a hole in my pocket badly), I'm not there very often. So then it's the ethnic supermarket, the Big Box Mart, and the warehouse grocery store with the concrete floor.

  2. Lauri says:

    Wow."Drowning in convenience."I do believe that is true!I am lucky, in that I can do my shopping on weekdays, since I work weekends. It's a bit less crowded, a bit less life sucking, but….I still have about a quarter of my life sucked out at each excursion. Luckily, I revive some of it with healthy eating and drinking. :)I am leaving on a trip to India with my cousin in a few days. I have no idea if I am ready for what I will find there. But, I am sure "drowning in convenience" will accompany me. Thank you, this was very well written.

  3. Doug says:

    Leaving for India? You must be going crazy thinking about your trip! I'd have packed and re-packed several times by now. Best of luck.

  4. Doug says:

    We actually have a very fine farmer's market, just a ten minute walk from the house. Summertime only, though. They are usually growing the same vegetables I have planted, so I don't buy much. Fun to "talk shop" with them, though, especially the wine guy!

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