Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Jaunt to Coles (my local grocery store)

Plenty of my posts are dedicated to exciting moments and events, trips, holidays, etc. The purpose of this blog, though, is to record my thoughts and feelings about not only those special times, but the mundane everyday parts of life as well. Hence this post about the grocery store.
Expensive GF cereal

I go to Coles almost every day. When you don't own a car, have limited storage space in the stroller, eat most meals at home and have only planned a meal or two ahead, you end up going grocery shopping a lot. Most of the time I buy five to ten items, but sometimes even fewer than that. Last week my bill came to $1.25 when I purchased one red onion and one-vine ripened tomato. And I wasn't embarrassed by this at all. The cashiers know as well as I do that when your total is $1.25, it's more about the journey than the actual groceries.

Indeed, a journey to the supermarket is the perfect outing for Lachie and me. It's close by so we can go in the stroller or the front pack. It's on the same route as most other places we go: the doctor, mother's group, the library, etc., so we can easily combine a quick stop to the market with our other errands.

Our Coles is underneath the iconic Coca Cola sign in Kings Cross, a neighborhood known for its bars, nightclubs and brothels. The folks I see shopping there during the day are mostly normal-looking: middle-aged working people, families, elderly people, but the occasional junkie spices things up. Kings Cross is also home to a number of youth hostels so a trip to Coles usually involves overhearing groups of German, French or Japanese backpackers debate what type of cheese to purchase for their Bondi picnics (at least that's what I imagine they're talking about).

We've lived here long enough that I often see people I know at Coles: mums from mother's group, the guy who cuts my hair. It feels comforting to run into people I know at the market even when I haven't put on makeup and have wild hair. It reminds me of childhood trips to Vons during which we'd always see friends and neighbors. I guess it provides a small sense of community within a large city.

The other familiar faces at Coles are those of the employees. There seems to be a high turnover rate among the mostly South Asian immigrants who stock the shelves and work the tills, but when you're there every day, you recognize people. It would be hard to forget a man called Joy and a lady called Sultana (the Aussie word for 'raisin'). The older lady whose arms are covered in warts regularly asks Lachie questions about whether he'd helped me do the shopping. I always answer in the affirmative on his behalf.

We don't do a lot that's terribly interesting each day, so I save up my Coles anecdotes to share with Mickey when he gets home. I update him on what's happening with the produce: blueberries are down to $3.20 a punnet again, so I bought two, or the first peaches of the season are in and they're $15/kilo! I have him try to guess who I ran into or complain about the stench of the homeless guy I waited downwind of in line. As of yesterday, the employees at the deli ask you if you want to try anything behind the counter. Free samples are not as big of a thing here as they are in the states so tasting some Virginia ham yesterday was fun. Today I couldn't try anything because I had a cough drop in my mouth when they offered.

Coles lost our business for a while when Lachie was first born. We hadn't even noticed that you couldn't get in without going up a flight of stairs and going down an escalator, but with a stroller it suddenly became a challenge. We were very cautious with our newborn and went out of our way to shop at the Woollies in Potts Point (they have a ramp). Convenience ultimately trumped caution though and now I take the stroller down the escalator.

Coles won't be my local grocery store for long and there are plenty of things about it that I won't miss: $10 boxes of cereal, the fact that dog food is refrigerated but eggs aren't, the absence of black beans and the way they replace more and more registers with those awful self check bagging stations.

I wonder what my relationship with my new local grocery store will be like. How long will it take me to learn where everything is? Will I go there everyday? How long before I start seeing other people I know there? Time will tell.

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