Suburbanista: Food Fight in the Wegmans Parking Lot

There are battlefields in Afghanistan. In Iraq. In Ukraine. And then there is the parking lot of Wegmans.

“Well, you can keep going,” Tim barked back. “But I can’t promise your car’s going to look like this when you come out.” The guy stopped, looked at Tim, looked at his car, then walked back to move it.

“I would have totally keyed his car,” Tim explained later. “I might even have stabbed his tires.” He wasn’t kidding. The weird thing is, everywhere else on Earth, Tim is a nice guy. He’s funny. He once randomly purchased ice-cream cones for the entire girls’ softball team and their parents. Wegmans changes people. It not only makes people mean; it makes people mean when they’re calling out other people at Wegmans for being mean. It’s, like, meta. The mean starts in the parking lot, seeps in through the doors and past the car-carts, then oozes around produce, spreading like some airborne pathogen, multiplying and mutating as it comes in contact with various foodstuffs.

“This kind of behavior is what’s wrong with the world,” says … well … just about everyone I talk to about Wegmans.

“Ridiculous!” exclaims one friend.

“Americans have become inconsiderate assholes!” condemns another.

“Oy! They need yoga and mindfulness!” advises one more.

Right.

Cherry Hill Wegmans would be a nicer place if people did more yoga.

Probably.

But I already work pretty hard on being a kinder, nicer, gentler soul. I yoga on Wednesdays. I’ve read The Happiness Project — and even signed up for the blog. I’ve nodded knowingly each time I’ve read that proverb that always shows up on Facebook feeds: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I strive every single minute of every single day to not shoot up my middle finger when a driver pulls out in front of me without using a turn signal, to not roll my eyes when my husband comes home late from work again, to not yell at my kids for yelling at each other.

The truth is, randomly acting kind is a shit-ton of work. There’s so much social pressure to be nice all the time, to teach your kids to be nice all the time, to smile and say “Have a nice day!” all the time, even to the crossing guard at 8:17 a.m.

Suddenly, it occurs to me: Maybe I’m all wrong about the Cherry Hill Wegmans.

Maybe being the meanest place on Earth is actually a great service to society at large. Only there, in that three-acre abyss, does the general public expect the rest of the general public to not be nice. We can get our anger out there. We can get pissed off and get the best store-made guacamole ever. And here I’ve been struggling to be all civil and smiling — all kind — even in that constant traffic jam between the bagged whole wheat and the Club Packs of pork.

Not. Any. More.

THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY, after Winter Storm Titan basically passes us by (and leaves me at home with my three kids on a useless snow day), I write out a shopping list. The parking lot at the Cherry Hill Wegmans is so thronged that I’m forced to stalk people pushing their carts to their cars, inching behind them at two miles an hour. Other cars line up behind me. They honk. I want to flip them off in my rearview. But I do not.

Inside, there are so many people in the produce section, it probably would qualify in a census as a small town. I consider forsaking fresh fruits and vegetables, but my middle daughter wants a pineapple. So I forge ahead, zigzagging past a man smelling every cantaloupe in the crate, past a woman with children hanging off all four sides of her cart. Finally, I’m mere feet from the pineapples. But an obstacle is blocking my way — a woman, parked smack-dab in the middle of the thin aisle between the bags of organic Gala apples and the three-for-$3 Meyer lemons. And she’s chatting on her phone.

I try to back out, but another cart has come up behind me. And then another behind that. We’re all waiting. Eyes start rolling. I hear a “hmmph.” I know it’s my duty to fix this. I’m closest. It’s all up to me.

“Excuse me,” I say. Cell-Phone Talker ignores me. “Excuse me,” I say again, and push my cart an inch forward to bump her cart, which then lightly bumps her. She turns. Her eyes open wide, like I’ve just pulled down her pants. She mouths two words: “What the … ?”

Remember where you are, I think to myself. Remember.

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