As the 15 year old Byerly’s employee was loading the case of bottled water into the car, I looked at Harry and said “Did you buy these?” I was especially surprised given that five minutes before, we were discussing the potential green advantages of cremation. As usual, I had driven away from Byerly’s completely forgetting I was supposed to pick up our groceries from the drive through. Harry had the two bin numbers in his lap but claimed he was observing my rule that he can’t criticize me because my car does it for me with its many beeps in “eyesight.” As we were returning to Byerly’s, we passed a fountain at The Cremation Society that Harry found aestheically displeasing. I asked him “Does that mean you won’t be cremated?” We paused in thought. We shared that we wouldn’t mind being cremated as long as we didn’t know it. It seems more ecologically sound. And now he’s buying plastic bottles when we have perfectly good water from our faucets?
Moreover, why didn’t I know he bought these bottles? Well, we have a ritual which has been developed over 32 years that when we grocery shop together with one cart, we rarely plan, make lists, or go down the aisles together. I don’t recommend it, but this has worked out nicely for us. Sometimes there are surprises.
Harry, always reluctant to hurt anyone’s feelings (like the young lad’s) said “no” to the bottled water from bin 119 and we realized we were missing bin 199. As we scratched off items that we did have, we realized that our bin of ice cream novelties, meats, and fishes (fresh tuna and salmon) had been given to someone else and – in exchange, we got a case of water.
The managers at Byerly’s represent the finest in Minnesota Nice, and told us that if we wanted to let them know what we were missing, they would shop for us and replace our items as well as give us a gift card.
As we were waiting for our personal shopper to complete the task, I listed all the remarkable aspects of this event. Listing out the remarkable in what to others might be mundane is a favorite habit of mine.
What was remarkable about this event.
- In the store, somebody else took my cart by accident instead of me taking someone else’s as usual. I told the older man when he sheepishly returned my cart that such mysterious moments are what makes shopping experiences so interesting! Plus, he really admired our grocery choices. So we provided him with inspiration.
- We noticed that we hadn’t picked up our groceries within 5 minutes of leaving the premises instead of when we arrived home.
- We were aware that we didn’t get all our groceries, and that they were loading bottled water into our car – lots of it.
- We found the receipt
- We had fun checking off from the receipt what we had from the first bin and what was in the missing Bin 199.
- We didn’t care.
- We had a lot of time on our shopping day.
- We felt special.
- We got a gift card that we can actually use.
- Everyone wins. We get a gift certificate. Bin 119 gets our protein and a lot of great ice cream novelties. Byerly’s gets good PR, and I finally get inspiration for a blog.
“But how does this tie into the fine nonfiction book about Russia, Jewish Luck?” you might ask. I remember the moment of the grand disillusionment for Vera when the minuscule remnants left from the indoctrinated Communist dream were completely obliterated. I did not name the store at that time, and now it’s time for the big reveal. This occurred in 1989 at the St. Louis Park Byerly’s. Below I quote myself.
“In the middle of the largest and most fashionable supermarket of the Upper Midwest,Vera bitterly realized the deprivation of the Soviet people. I assured her that this was not a typical grocery but a high-end food emporium. Under the huge chandeliers in the carpeted aisles, Vera cried as she surveyed the many brands of every food imaginable. Fresh fruit and vegetables of every kind. Prices were not so high. I explained that these same fruits were available in the winter as well, though prices were a bit higher. Strawberries in the winter! Unthinkable! The displays were beautiful. There were no lines. She understood at that moment what she had always suspected, that she lived in an underdeveloped country in terms of the manufacture and distribution of basic consumer items.” (p. 186)
That visit was followed by a tour of Target (also a Minneapolis-based business) which brought more tears and chest beating.
Minnesota is a good place to live thanks to Byerly’s (now Lunds & Byerly’s) and Target. But the best place to live is a place of finding humor and humanity in the present moment and letting the adventures of daily life unfold.
*I just called Byerly’s and found out the Bin 119 customer did call, but was told to keep the food because it was all perishable. I wonder if the customer was upset about the water.
**Harry wants more credit for this blog, so here it is although I wrote every word.