Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Down with A&P? Yeah- they know me!

So, the big news coming out of my town this week is the impending closing of our local grocery store.  To be honest-- no one is really surprised.  Ever since a thunderstorm blew off a large chunk of the wall a few weeks ago, we had to face the truth that the store needed some serious work.  But still, this comes as a real upset to some of us loyal buy-local-ers.  And by "buy local" I only mean that we prefer to drive across the street to the grocery store instead of traveling a minimum of three major miles to a different store. 
Sure-- we're definitely sad about those in our community who will be losing their jobs, but it's more than that.  Because our local Superfresh (A&P owned-- yes, I know I had to stretch to use that title for this post), is one of the few places- perhaps the only store-  where I can ignore my children.  I am that woman who goes to the store sometimes simply to have a break from my children.  And no, Superfresh doesn't provide supervised daycare-- but close to it.

You see, I've been eschewing cheaper prices and greater variety at other stores simply for the convenience of being able to allow my children to run free in Superfresh.  And if you are reading this thinking "what type of mother are you?"-- I'll explain.  If you're reading this thinking "oh-- those are YOUR kids..."-- well, I'm sorry.  I hope my explanation suffices.

I have lived in Elkridge for six years now and have been going to Superfresh on an average of twice a week for these last six years.  If you do the math, you'll see that that's roughly 600 times over the last six years.  And in those last six years, the employees as Superfresh have remained relatively stable.  I know exactly who is going to be working the register and which manager will be on duty regardless of what time I decide to show up.  And they all know me.  Most of those employees charted my progress through my last two pregnancies, placing bets on when I would not be in the store due to a newborn, and offering me a plethora of baby names each time I attempted to speedily go through checkout.   There's nothing like listening to every baby name a person has every considered or heard to hit a slow-checkout record, I guarantee you.  To be honest, I could have foregone my ob/gyn visits by the time I was 9 months pregnant with Micha n lieu of grocery shopping.  My belly was touched, my weight monitored, my ankles eyed up for swelling on a regular basis. I would not have been surprised if at some point one of the cashiers had asked me to drop my pants so they could check my cervix.  (On another note, there may have been a time when a male employee hinted at that, but I don't think it was pregnancy related, despite what I chose to tell my husband.)

 I know the family situations, financial situations, and future big dreams of most of those cashiers and stockers.  When I lost my baby two years ago, one of the employees wrapped her arms around me in the canned food aisle and cried with me as I had to tell her about that loss in response to her chipper "how's the baby?!"  In return, I cried with her as she told me of her child that died in infancy- a pain I can never even pretend to understand.  These people are my twice a week family-- and I can guarantee that before you decided to leave your child with a babysitter you didn't meet them 600 times and cry in their arms.  

Which brings me to my major point about losing this store.  This is a store that I am extremely comfortable losing my kids in.  It's small enough that if I scream "KAYTON-- WHERE ARE YOU???" loudly enough, I will hear her reply on the other side of the store.  I can send my kids off with a grocery list and instructions to meet me by the dog food when their mini-carts are full, and I know they will be there.  When Kolbie slips my grip and takes off "I want to help you shop too, Mommy!", I know she'll be okay... and while I walk quite a bit slower than her, I'm always passing one of the store managers, stockers, butchers, or cashiers who will smile and point and say "she went that way."  Heck-- half the time I don't even have to tow Micah around since the moment I walk into the store someone swoops down on me with "THE BABY'S HERE!"  and the baby is gone until I discover her waiting patiently in someone's arms by aisle 4 when I'm ready to check out.  Again-- did you interview your baby 600 times before you left your child alone with her?  

And if you're going to bring up the issue of security-- no one's leaving that store with my kids as long as that one particular cashier manager is standing in her usual place by the self-service checkout, right next to the exit door.  I've never seen her smile, and she has a tendency to ignore my self-depreciating comments regarding my parenting-- but I know she won't let those kids out that door without me.  The only time she ever spoke to me was to say "I saw a man in here with HER (pointing at Kolbie) the other day.  Was that your husband?"  to which I replied, I surely hope so.  I got the feeling that after I left she pulled out her notebook filled with photos of customers and statistics such as "4 kids, uses her club card, has a tendency to talk to the register and beg it to stay below a certain figure.  Also may have attempted to bribe a cashier into a discount once" and add "has a husband who may appear with a child occasionally.  See attachment" before rearranging the photos so that JMahl's picture is now next to mine and those of the children.  

So, yeah, I feel safe in that store.  And relaxed.  And I'm going to miss it.  But that being said, I do have a suggestion for that space, should anyone reading this be looking for a business opportunity.

Half grocery store; half wine bar-- and still with the same kid friendly employees.  I shop, take a break from shopping to have a few drinks-- and you watch my kids for me the whole time.  And since I only live a quarter mile away, maybe it would be convenient to add a taxi service, complete with baby seats, so that after I have my fill of  wine tasting you can drive us all home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Train, train, go away...

No, this is not a dog post-- although Dugan could use some additional training.  And it's not a kid post or a working out post either-- although if you know me, you know that those areas could also use some assistance.  This is a relevant-to-my-community post.  Because, well, I care about my community.  And it's the long sought after solution to the most eminent problem facing my community today.  The TRAIN.  

We have a train track (and accompanying trains, of course) that cuts right through the neighborhood.  I must be honest, when we bought this house I had no idea we had this train.  From our back deck all I could see were trees and bushes and a somewhat dirty pond-- but it was picturesque and serene and a little bit of "country" in the midst of suburbia.  I loved it.  It wasn't until that first night in our new home, as JMahl and I lay in our bed (actually, our bed hadn't arrived yet, so we were lying on a mattress on the floor), holding in each other sweetly and dreaming aloud of the life we'd live in this house, that that dream world fell apart.  We experienced our first earthquake. The house inspector was a fraud and our newly mortgaged home was collapsing at our feet.  Or maybe the sky really was falling, Chicken Little.  Regardless, save the kids and get out of here!  Unfortunately, it was our first night and we hadn't yet planned a fire escape route, so we chose to cower instead amid the clamouring and banging and high pitched squealing and shaking until minutes that felt like hours later, the noise and shaking subsided and we discovered our house was still standing.  
It was then that we realized we had a train in our backyard.  

Fast forward six years and, to be honest, we don't hear the train anymore.  It's become just background noise unless we have guests over-- guests who attempt to not pee their pants as the train barrels through; guests who squeal "What IS THAT?" while JMahl and I continue to nonchalantly eat our meal and look questioning at them.  "What's what?  Oh... that.  That's the train.  You won't notice it by the end of dinner."  And they don't.  
And I have developed a love-hate relationship with Tropicana.  I feel compelled to buy it since I watch it being transported through my backyard many times a week, but at the same time I sometimes feel as though if I didn't buy it, maybe it would find a different route to travel, since it always comes right about the time I receive an important, sound-sensitive phone call.  
I have also picked up some very interesting new words and phrases from the graffiti on the train cars... but those should not and won't be shared here.  Needless to say, if you ever hear one of my children utter a curse word, don't blame me-- blame Tropicana.  

So, we've come to live with our train, and it hasn't been so bad at all.  But then, recently, we were advised that CSX intended to buy up some property on our train track and build an intermodal facility-- ie, a place to load and unload cargo.  According to rumors, this facility would operate 24/ 7, would have 100 foot high cranes and light towers, and would just be an all around nuisance to the neighborhood and to any hope I may have of selling this house one day.  And I, along with my neighbors, got really up in arms about it.  

And then, I discovered the solution.  The solution to this train problem, this facility noise and light issue:  HUSBAND AND CHILDREN.

You see, as I lay in bed one night thinking about how annoying this Intermodal facility is going to be, my husband began to snore.  And when he snores, he snores.  So I elbowed him.  And he rolled over and continued to snore.  And so I pinched his nose shut, and he began to snore even louder through his mouth.  Just as I raised the pillow to smother him, the hall lights flashed on, footsteps banged across my hall, the toilet seat crashed down, and water began to run.  Thirty seconds later, more water running, another crash that I couldn't label, more feet running, door banging.  
Husband still snoring.  
Baby screamed.  
Child's bedroom light flashed on; yelling: "Mommy, Micah's awake"
Dugan barked.  
Kolbie yelled.
A bang as someone or something hit the wall. 
Light flashed off and back on.
Train went by.
Husband snored louder, but now combined grunts with his snores.
Toilet flushed.
Door banged.
Lights off.
From Kayton:  Don't turn the lights off, Mason!  I want the lights on!
Lights on.
Bedroom light flashed on: MoMMY!
Baby yelled.
Dog barked.
Husband snored.  

See? With all this going on, I won't even notice the intermodal facility.  In fact, I may just take a tent and a sleeping bag out there and call it a vacation.