I stopped over at mom and dad’s house this morning to see if they needed anything. Dad was asleep. Mom was in the kitchen.
“Are you going to be here for a while? I want to go to Giant Eagle. Your dad needs some yogurt.”
“Do you want me to stay here or do you want me to go with you.”
“It doesn’t make any difference. I can’t find my car keys. I left them in my blue pants and I put those in the laundry chute. I should get my grabber and pull them out.”
“We’ll take my car, then.”
“I need to get some yogurt, some milk, some water…have you had breakfast?”
“I ate at home.”
“Give me my cane, it’s by my chair.”
We get to the front door. “I’ll back up the car to the driveway for you.” While she’s getting down the stairs, I back up the car and open the passenger door.
Mom gets in. “You car’s lower than mine. I have to sit on cushions in my car.”
“So, which way do we go?”
“We can go to the Giant Eagle over here, or the one on Ridge Road.”
“Which one do you usually go to?”
“The one over here. Just go down to 130th street and turn left, it’s on the right hand side.”
So we drive along. We get to an intersection. “Straight ahead?”
“Yes, turn left.”
Left it is. “Your father goes up to 140th but I go this way.”
Over to 13oth. “Turn right.”
Down 130th. “Just turn left. It’s on the right.”
Left on Lorain, along we go until Giant Eagle appears. Into the parking lot. “Find a handicapped space.”
“I can’t park in a handicapped space.”
“You can if I’m in the car. I have that hanger for the mirror. There’s a spot there, take that one.”
“This other one is closer.”
Park the car. Mom hangs the handicapped hanger on the mirror. We’re technically legal.
Into Giant Eagle we go. She grabs a cart which becomes her walker for the duration. We take a slow stroll among the racks of foodstuffs. The produce section is right near the doors. She regards a display of peaches. “They don’t look so good.”
I worked in a produce stand for several years, so I cast my professional fruit peddler’s eye upon the peaches. Indeed, they are large, firm, smooth, peach-colored fruit. I’ve had peaches like this; they are all appearance–juiceless, with no flavor, a product of careful breeding. I remember peaches that were small by comparison, covered with irritating fuzz, easily bruised, but with distinct aroma and pungent flavor. These are mass market peaches.
“I need some of those small Reese’s cups. I have a recipe I want to try.”
We find candy right next to the produce, close to the entry. Halloween season is upon us. There are bags of “snack size” Reese’s cups. She’s looking for the tiny ones wrapped in foil. “We’ll look at the other candy racks.”
Down the hot food aisle. It’s 10 am and the Fresh Hot Chicken is cooking. Cooks and clerks look at us expectantly. Someone stops to order something. I pull the nose of the cart so mom doesn’t run into him.
Mom winks at me. “Didn’t you want me to run over that man?”
“If I let you hit him, I’d have to fight him.”
She smiles. We’re in the bakery section. She regards the racks of donuts and bagels, lined up on sterile plastic racks with clear plastic covers that have little plastic doors you can open and reach through to get your bagel or donut. The bagels appear mildly embarrassed to be seen in public with their sugary cousins. A couple of quasi-bakers are working in the white room behind the racks of cakes and pastries. The old man baker is slicing something. The middle-aged woman baker is decorating a birthday cake, turning the cake on a rotating plate while she applies chocolate frosting with a plastic-gloved hand. Everything in the modern store is wrapped or packaged in the clear sterility of plastic.
“69 cents for a bagel!” says mom. “They’re cheaper at Marc’s.”
We round the corner into the meat department. A couple of quasi-butchers are sawing something back in the white room behind the racks. We pass by the remnants of slaughter.
“Is there anything here you need for home?” says mom.
“No, we’re good.”
“These pork chops look good. Do you guys eat pork chops?”
“There’s the milk.”
We find the milk. Yogurt is 20 for $10.
“You father likes peach yogurt. Get some of those. Don’t get any lime flavor, he doesn’t like lime.”
There’s a wide variety of flavors. Peach, lime, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, cherry…
“Oh look, there’s cinnamon roll. He’d like that.”
Yes, there is cinnamon roll flavored yogurt. There’s also lemon meringue and apple turnover flavored yogurt, each with a little picture of the item from which the yogurt makers extracted the flavoring to put in their yogurt. We get some cinnamon roll, some lemon meringue, and definitely some apple turnover yogurt.
“He likes that apple turnover. We’re almost done. Now I need some canned peaches, some denture cleaner and some dish soap. Is there anything here you want?”
“No, I’m fine.”
Canned peaches are back near the bakery aisle. On our way we stop at the beverage aisle and pick up a 24-bottle package of bottled water. Dish soap is nearby. “Give me the lemon soap, I don’t want that bleachy stuff.”
Down the canned fruit aisle, conveniently shared with the canned vegetable aisle. We find the canned peaches. “He likes those. Get me some of those pear halves. He likes those. Get me some of those asparagus spears. He likes those. Ok, we’re done.”
Off we go to the checkout line. While there, she picks up three dark chocolate candy bars. “He likes dark chocolate. Do you want a soda or anything?”
We get through checkout, then to the car. I load the groceries into the trunk and we’re back on the road.
“Let’s stop at George’s, I want to get some carry out.”
We stop at George’s Kitchen. George’s is always busy; it’s one of those local short order places everybody goes. I find a parking spot as close as I can to the door–the two handicapped parking spots are taken.
We work our way to the door, then into George’s we go.
“Hi, welcome to George’s!” As busy as they are, whoever is at the register sings out the greeting whenever a customer comes in. George himself, in a chef’s white shirt, is in the booth by the register. People who sit on the stool to the right are there for carry out. People who step to the left will be dining in, and George escorts them to their seats. “Two? This way please.”
One of the ladies addresses mom, “How can I help you, dear?”
“I’d like some carry out.”
“Would you like to see a menu?”
She brings the menus. Each menu has a picture of George on it. Mom looks at me. “You can order anything you want.”
“Hi, welcome to George’s!”
It’s one of those short order menus. You know the kind–breakfast all day long, dinner all day long, lunch all day long–eggs, omelets, chicken tenders, breaded fish, baked fish, ham, steak, potatoes, hash browns, pancakes, cole slaw, onion rings, fries, soup, salad, coffee, iced tea, soft drinks.
Mom orders baked fish for dad with baked potato and beef barley soup. She orders chicken tenders with mashed potatoes and salad and chicken noodle soup for herself. “What you do you want?”
“Hi, welcome to George’s!”
“Three? This way please.”
“How about the turkey club sandwich with an order of fries.”
Mom looks at me. “Is that all you want?”
“Ok, how about the breaded walleye, mashed potatoes, beef barley soup.”
The waitress took the order and yelled it to the cook (I suppose there were more than one cook; I could only see one). The waitresses have to stand in line to yell orders to the cook. There’s a NO TALKING AT THE WINDOW sign above the narrow, stainless-steel-clad aperture into the realm of the kitchen. Below that are cauldrons of chicken noodle, beef barley, and vegetable soup, next to the toasters. The ebb and flow of waitresses and cashiers is a marvel of cooperative choreography. “WESTERN OMELET HOLD THE BACON SIDE OF HASH BROWNS EGGS OVER EASY SIDE OF HASH BROWNS DO I NEED TO REPEAT?”
They get the finished orders from somewhere behind us and around to the back. “HOT TRAY COMING THROUGH!” You learn very quickly to sit on a stool if you’re waiting for carry out and not to stand in the aisle.
Mom orders an iced tea and sips it while we wait. “Can I get change for this twenty?”
The waitress brings the change. Mom leaves two dollars on the counter for the waitress, who politely ignores it while she puts thick slices of bread into wax paper bags, twists the tops, and puts into paper bags which she shoves into plastic shopping bags with bright red script Thank you! on the sides. Little plastic containers of cole slaw, tartar sauce, slices of lemon; plastic bags with plastic forks and knives and spoons; little paper packets of salt and pepper; and finally the styrofoam boxes of baked fish, breaded walleye, chicken tenders, potatoes mashed and otherwise, and the soup, all go into the paper bags and the tops of the plastic shopping bags tied in little granny knots. Mom slides over her debit card, signs the little receipt, and we’re good to go.
Thank you for coming to George’s! Have a nice day!