About a year ago, i became obsessed with supermarkets and grocery shopping. While actually buying things seems like a wallet emptying experience, walking through them is another thing. There is something exciting and calming whenever you see something new, something interesting and something you really love to eat.
During my weekly grocery shopping experience in New York, i changed my route from Walmart/Target/Stop and Shop to Trader's Joe/Wholefoods and Target remained. There was a change due to a change in schedule and how i found Walmart and Target aren't cheap at all compared to how they have always appeared to me.
Due to my hectic schedule, (but i really liked it). i had to shop on Mondays in the city or sometimes if i were free to go to the mall nearby on Saturday to Whole Foods to stack up all the fresh ingredients for probably every single meal of the week. And let's not forget about home necessities like toiletries and other boring stuff that consume lots of space in the shopping bag.
The supermarket i go to in the city is the Trader Joe's that fit just into my route of doing things in the city on Monday afternoons, Normally i would be there at around 5-ish and be ready to stack it up. One thing i really liked going there was basically about its price. There are no supermarkets offering a wide range of fresh ingredients with a cheaper price than Trader's Joe and its quality is also so good that is almost comparable to those of Whole Foods. And for one example, the 29 cents banana. I love bananas, i could be those people who eats banana everyday and still be bananas about it. So Trader Joe's basically is a money saver for i could save more than half of the money of the same stuff i buy when compared to that in Walmart or Target.
The Trader Joe's i normally go to is the one that sit by the 72 st, Broadway overlooking a subway station which its entrance and exterior looks a lot like the facade of a little house of market or a church and at the back, just one street behind stood the grand and majestic building called the Ansonia (which i found out the name 6 months later) which almost made you feel like you have suddenly arrived on the middle of the streets in Paris because of its style of architecture that features some Parisian-like balconies at each window.
As you can imagine, the journey of walking down to the supermarket was spectacular. But what's more impressive is the experience i had when shopping at Trader Joe's, right there at the cashiers.
After filling in my trolley with cabbages, kale, apples, and yes, bananas and all other types of groceries and necessities, sometimes i would grab myself a pot of flower just to travel with 2 bags of grocery with a stalk of flower sticking out on my 2 hour train ride, which seems perfectly normal... I would line up with other fancy women to get to the cashiers. As 5 p.m is more like an off-work hour so sometimes people would just grab their trolley or basket and line up straight away to pick up food on their way to the cashier. I did not choose to do that, i just simply added on the step of grabbing more things during my queue to the cashier.
Surrounded by the colorful walls of hand drawn painting featuring the drawings of the Upper West Side stood about 20 cashier stands. Each one positioned a staff, wearing the Hawaiian print staff shirt who would greet you with their greatest smile. It not only happened once, but at least three times that i love to go to that store because of the friendliness of the cashiers that i started to wonder if it was written in the staff rules.
While i was laying the goods on the tiny little cashier table, one time, i remember how a female cashier just started a short but very good conversation. While the other supermarkets' staff usually finish off the whole buying process with phrases like ,"Hey, how are you", "That's _____ dollars", "Debit or Credit" "Have a nice day", the cashiers here were so different and made me feel like i had known them forever and could casually grab a drink with them afterwards. The female cashier began asking what i did just before i came here, asking where i study, what productions i had been in and in turn i asked her if she knew another language and visited another places in the world. That short moment alone really made my day because it turned something ordinary, like paying, into a close human interaction that made you feel like you are a part of the community, that people's experience are intertwining with each other and these kind of conversations made you learn about a new person and other things as well. Like you were reading a brand new story of a person.
Like i said, it not only happened once, it happened almost every time i go into the supermarket. Another time i remember is when a male cashier pointed at the corns in my trolley and he went : " Oh there are corns now?" I replied yes (because yes.. the store has it now?) And he went on saying how summer has come early and if they skipped spring. Just like that, i didn't know corns were in great supply in the summer but not winter until he spoke about that. Another lesson learn, checked. More than that, another small talk about which weather he and I like best also went on just at the cashier.
Just like that, I think its not about how beautiful one store is decorated, of course it can't be to shabby, and its a bonus if it's pretty...but the truthful human interaction and conversation you have with each other that can transform something ordinary into something more. Whether it was the rule of Trader Joe's that you have to strike up a marvelous conversation with each customer or it's just in them, i feel like these people are the food source of our souls and every week i would love to go there again to learn a different story, to meet these wonderful and nice people and to fill each other's soul with love and energy.
(the last 2 photos above were taken from the web)