Posts Tagged Trader Joe’s

So close from so far

I thought of something strange recently.  Yes, even strange for me.

Imagine you’re a photon.  Through the miracle of science, you are created and shot out of the sun into space.  It’s unimaginably vast, but you are out there and moving at the speed of yourself.  After a couple of minutes of zooming through space, you see a rock in the distance.  You can’t tell for sure, but your current trajectory seems to be heading in its direction.  A couple of minutes later, the rock is getting bigger, and you’re pretty sure that’s where your path is taking you.  Aside from debris and gasses and such, there really isn’t much else to see, so it’s pretty exciting that you’re well on your way to a major player in the solar system.

Eight full minutes elapse since you left the sun, and that rock is now big, beautiful, and only seconds away.  You see giant water formations, lush grasses, majestic mountains, and more.  Where are you going to make contact?  The excitement builds as you plow through some atmospheric layers and keep hurling closer and closer.  You’re arriving!  You’re suddenly less than a second away from reaching that rock you saw millions of miles ago, the culmination of your journey and your entire life as a photon.

And then you hit the shoulder of some middle-aged dude walking from his car to Trader Joe’s, and your only legacy is being part of a fleeting shadow that literally nobody noticed.

93 million miles.  Nearly 500 billion feet.  After getting 99.999999998% of the way to your destination, the plan is thwarted and you’re left just shy of reaching that rock you saw on your 8 minute and 20 second journey of light speed travel.

That’s what I thought of when I contemplated my shadow recently: dashing the dreams of untold photons simply by being in their way at the last possible fraction of a second.  I told you it was a strange thought.

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Chewing the fat

I’ve been trying to bring my lunch to work a little more often in an effort to save some money and eat more healthfully. With that in mind, I spent extra time staring at the pre-made lunchy stuff at Trader Joe’s recently. Their salads are good, but I was getting a little tired of them. I had previously bought a Thai chicken noodle thing with peanut dressing that was spicy and tasty, so I grabbed another one of those. Then I saw something new (to me at least): “Cajun Style Blackened Chicken Breast with Fettuccine.” That sounded awesome, so I tossed it into the cart and moved on to the rest of the market.

When I got home, I looked again at the Cajun meal and heaved a disappointed sigh. “Honey, I missed one important word when I got this chicken thing.” “What’s that, ‘mustard?'” she asked (fully knowing how that would ruin an otherwise tasty-sounding dish to me). “Nope: alfredo,” I said. “Ah, yeah, that’s an important word.” I asked if she wanted to split it with me since it was probably going to be heavier and a lot less healthy than I had planned. She picked up the package, looked at the back, and said, “You’re on your own. It’s 100% of your daily saturated fat.” Technically, it was listed as two servings each constituting 50% of my recommended daily allowance, but it only looked like enough food for one person.

I took it to work and told myself I wouldn’t eat the whole thing, because if I did, I would likely be a little disgusted with myself. As it was warming in the microwave, it smelled delicious. I brought it over to my desk and took my first bite. Not only was it very good, but it was also wonderfully nostalgic for me. Immediately, I pictured myself sitting outside a place called “Cafe Orleans” in Santa Barbara, eating my favorite dish there, “Creamy Penne Pasta Pontalba.” (It wasn’t just the alliteration that made me enjoy ordering it, though I’m sure that part helped a bit.) I got that dish every time I went there, and I also ordered it to go more times than I can remember. Oh yeah, and it was twice the size of the TJ’s meal in front of me. I felt retroactively disgusted by how much fat I must have eaten back then. Even though it came with a little side salad and raspberry vinaigrette, I don’t think that canceled out the “more fat than two people need” aspect of the pasta and cream sauce. In any case, I managed to eat the chicken out of my TJ’s lunch and just a little of the pasta (the part with the least amount of cream sauce on it) before making myself toss the rest. My mission of non-gluttony was accomplished.

So what’s the big deal, right? It was one meal and it tasted good, so what’s the real harm as long as I don’t make a habit out of it? Well, that’s exactly the same rationale I’m using right now as I strongly consider getting a McRib sandwich for lunch sometime this week. I don’t know what the recommended daily allowance is for random pieces of meat forced into an unsightly shape and slathered with barbecue sauce, but I think I might exceed that.

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What’s in store

It was early for most people, but since I’d already been up for a couple of hours with our kids, it felt more like ‘late morning’ to me as I arrived at Trader Joe’s.  I got the very first spot in the parking lot, which reminded me of the day’s true time.  I got my cart, put my brought-from-home bags in it, and walked inside.   Less than a minute later, I heard an older woman say this to a TJ’s employee: “I can’t find anything since you moved everything around.”  Quite earnestly, the employee replied, “Would you like my help locating something?”  “No,” she said, “I’ll find it.”  Then she walked away.  I laughed to myself about that interaction and thought it would probably be the most interesting one of the shopping experience.  But my cashier had other plans.

There were three open checkout lanes, and each had one customer nearing the end of the transaction.  One customer brought out a checkbook, so fuck that one.  The second cashier seemed to be bagging pretty slowly, so I got into the third lane.  “Did you check the eggs?” the young man behind the register asked the customer.  “Yes, thank you,” she said.  “They’re eggceptional,” he replied.  He glanced over at me, and I shook my head at him.  You see, I consider myself a punster and therefore have (shopping) carte blanche to express my likes and dislikes of puns.  I had a little smile, as if to say, “Oh man, that’s a bad one but I’ll give you props for trying it out.”  He must’ve taken my look and shaking head to mean, “I wholeheartedly approve of what you’re doing and would feel cheated if you didn’t continue down this path o’ puns.”

“I hope they’re eggsactly what you were looking for,” he added.  The customer smiled and continued loading the bags into her cart.  Undeterred, he continued: “I’m not eggsaggerating!”  She smiled again, and he added a timely and appropriate one: “You’re egging me on.”  I offered an approving nod for that one, proving that I hadn’t given up on him yet.  He made a joke to her about liking his job, especially since they don’t do drug testing.  It fell pretty flat, so he went back to what he thought was his bread and butter: “Those bags are heavy, so you butter lettuce help you out.”  I liked the play on words, but considering she didn’t have lettuce there, it didn’t quite work for me.  Still undeterred, he followed up with his worst of his shtick: “I’m really milking this!”  I shook my head again and added some closed eyes this time, clearly stating my inner monologue of, “That was a bad one and you should’ve probably quit a while back.”

The lady left and it was my turn to face the famed punning cashier of Trader Joe’s.  We greeted each other and while he was scanning my items, he asked if I had any awesome plans for the weekend.  “Not really.  I just plan on willing the Lakers to another victory tomorrow night,” I said.  “Yeah, that was a good game last night,” he said.  “It was all me,” I told him, “I sat in the right position and wore the right shirt.”  He laughed, and I mentally patted myself on the back for illustrating that I had more than puns in my repertoire.  “I write the Lakers a lot of letters, but they never write back,” he said.  I smiled, though I was unsure of where he was going with this.  “Seriously,” he said, “I’ve written them a bunch of times and haven’t even gotten a ‘Thank you for your letter’ email in response.  At least the Green Bay Packers gave me that to thank me for being a fan.”  “That’s too bad,” I said (and I really sold it).  He then picked up the mini watermelon I was buying.  “I have meloncholy,” he said.  “Ya know, if you had a picture of a collie to hold up next to it, you’d be a regular Carrot Top,” I said.  I didn’t mean that as a compliment, but he smiled and thanked me with some bad carrot pun that I fortunately can’t remember.

Everything fit in the two bags I brought except for some milk and chicken broth.  He grabbed a paper bag for those items and said, “There’s not too mushroom in your bags.”  As with the butter lettuce comment, there were no mushrooms involved, so my appreciation of the pun was dampened by the lack of relevancy.    That said, it was still a high note after some of the other ones, and I was happy to see him go out on top.  But he just couldn’t help himself.  “Oh broth-er,” he said, pointing to the chicken broth.  I gave a polite smile, and we wished each other nice weekends.

Overall, I appreciate what that guy brings to the table.  Sure, there were some groaners and forced lines in there, but he was like a comedian trying out new material at some small clubs before his Comedy Central special.  The next time someone actually has butter lettuce or mushrooms, he’ll be ready and get genuine smiles or even laughs in return.  He was honing his craft, and there’s no problem with that. I hope he appreciated my non-verbal feedback and would rather I express disapproval than not carrot all.

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Market conditions

la storySunday was not only the day that greeting card companies tell us to say “I love you” to one other, but also a day in which I received an unexpected present.  I’ll begin with some backstory:

I went to Trader Joe’s to get a few items while my lovely wife and the two babies inside her did some things around the house.  I’ve gotten to know this TJ’s well, and so I’m able to look at the list handed to me and plan my course of action.  Anything in or near the produce section is in Area A (which I sometimes physically write next to the items), the meats/cheeses/frozen stuff is what I call Area B, and so on.  I’m pretty damn efficient there, as long as there isn’t a new item on my list that throws me off. 

As I walked in on Sunday and proceeded to Area A, a display caught my eye with a bunch of bottles of wine.  I recognized it immediately, for I’d seen it there once before many months ago.  The wine, a red blend with a label that said “Chariot,” was highly praised by the TJ’s staff.  I was told at the time that it’s only available every so often, so people usually grabbed two or three at a time.  It was a good enough marketing ploy that I snagged one for the low low price of either $3.99 or $4.99 and planned on finding a time to try it out.  Well, those times didn’t really present themselves, and I soon found myself in need of a bottle of wine to bring to someone’s house as a gift (where it remained unopened).  Like that, the Chariot had passed me by. 

Though the display certainly grabbed my attention, I pushed on to Area A.  After B and C, I was near the cash registers and ready to check out.  But like Steve Martin’s car in “L.A. Story,” my shopping cart magically guided me back toward the Chariot display.  (There was no sentient freeway sign though imploring me to, “Sing Doo Wah Diddy.”  Oops, spoiler alert.)  I grabbed a bottle, and then went back to the register with the shortest line.  To my right, a TJ’s employee stepped toward me and said, “I can help you over on this one.”  I looked up and saw that he was indicating the express lane, expressly serving those with a maximum of ten items.  I tried quickly counting what I had since I knew it would be close, but he was waving me on and so I just went with it.  Hey, he’s the one who suggested it.

Here’s where the unexpected gift came: “Can I see your ID?” he asked.  “Yes please!” I answered.  “It’s been a while, so I appreciate it.”  He took a look at my birthday on the license and said, “Oh yeah, you’re good.”  Ladies and gentlemen, on February 14, 2010, I had been legally able to drink alcohol in the great state of California for 11 years, 7 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days.  Since this is currently the oldest I’ve ever been, that’s a personal record.   (It’s hard for me to get too excited about this since my fellow blogger MC Squared will probably get carded until he’s 45.) 

When we opened up that bottle of wine later that evening with some friends, it was indeed tasty.  Maybe I’ll go grab another one or two before they’re gone to see if they age well…since I apparently do.

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Like butter

yacht-a know betterI was in a check-out line at Trader Joe’s recently, and the guy in front of me just had that douchey air about him.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Maybe it was canvas loafers with no socks that screamed, “I’d rather be at my yacht club right now, har har har,” but something just really didn’t rub me the right way.  Then I listened in to the rather one-sided conversation he was having with the cashier:

Douchey McGee: You don’t carry margarine here, right?

Cashier: Yes, we have some.

Douchey McGee: Oh, well butter is so much healthier and natural that I wouldn’t expect you to carry margarine. 

Cashier: (smiling) Well, we do.

Douchey McGee: Did you know that margarine is naturally black in color?  It’s true; they add food coloring to make it look more like butter.

Cashier: I didn’t know that.

As I sat there questioning the veracity of his statement, she handed him his receipt, thanked him for coming in, and wished him a pleasant rest of the day.  I stepped up and faux-apologetically said, “Sorry I don’t have such interesting tidbits to share.”  She gave a large sigh of relief and said (surely breaking the friendly TJ’s code), “That is more than fine with me.  Did you hear what he was complaining about?”  “Margarine?” I offered.  “No, before that.  He was complaining that he had been on vacation for three weeks and so it was difficult for him to get up at 10am this morning.”  We agreed that his plight didn’t garner too much sympathy, wished each other well, and parted ways.

When I got home, I went online to fact-check his margarine origin story.  Wikipedia tells me: “Margarine naturally appears white or almost white.”  That makes much more sense.  More importantly, that guy was wrong with the trivia he brought up in the first place.  So if you’re scoring at home, that’s a douchey air about him, complaints regarding a three-week vacation, and false spontaneous trivia.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that I won’t be asking to hang out on that guy’s yacht anytime soon.  Har har har indeed.

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