The things you see in the grocery store.
I kept a fellow shopper in my sights in Farm Boy last week because she was so fascinating. It started at the bananas. She grabbed a bunch, a big one, and started turning them around, slowly. Then she took one off, and another, and another until she was left with just one banana which she put in her cart, leaving the single orphans strewn over the tops of the bunches.
Next, it was grapes. She picked up several bags and examined them thoroughly. Having satisfied some sort of criteria, she emptied one bag of its contents and began tearing stems from the cluster. Small stems, with perhaps 5 or 6 grapes attached. Half she left naked on top of the bags, the other half she put back in the bag and into her cart.
She felt almost every Royal Gala apple, turned over romaine lettuce with the precision of a surgeon, probed and poked the broccoli and eyed the beans with suspicion. I finally had to stop watching her before she got to the bulk food for fear of what she would do and how I would react. But I wanted to get into her mind. Yes, we all want the apple with no bruises, but most of us don’t paw every single one in our hunt. She was incredibly inconsiderate. What’s the next person at the bananas to think? That a half-dozen of them made a run for it and failed?
She brought to mind a character in a novel I recently read. The book, Norman Bray in the Performance of his Life by Trevor Cole, was recommended by a reviewer who claimed it was “her favourite book”. She must not have ever read anything else. But I digress.
Norman Bray is a self-centred, has-been and delusional actor who maintains his impossibly high standards and turns down work despite being on the verge of losing his home and having no money at all. He justifies things to himself, for example, how it’s perfectly okay to break apart a dozen eggs and buy just six. He applies this to lightbulbs as well. He removes two from a blister-pack of four because he doesn’t need four. Then he’s shocked when he’s accused of shoplifting because he has popped them into his coat pocket.
Perhaps he’s related to the banana separating woman. To her, it must have made perfect sense. So many questions come to mind. Has she never shopped with anyone else? Have those people been too intimidated to say anything about her selection processes? Perhaps they thought, if she’ll do that to bananas, what will she do to me? Also, if she drops her bag on the way out of the store, does she think she’s entitled to all new fruit? She was an experiment in a petri dish and I was a scientist peering down on her through a microscope, and I’m no closer to understanding her.