Now that Genevieve has moved from her babysitter on an island in the middle of the Mississippi to a Montessori school in midtown, my afternoon pickup routine has changed as well. Part of the new arrangement involves a block of open time between 2:30, when I am allowed to leave work, and 3:15, when the older kids are dismissed from school, since the baby is now the last stop instead of the first. That 45 minutes may not seem like much to you, but to me it means time to run an errand or two without four kids in tow. After the holidays I plan to use it to (gasp!) exercise a few times a week.
Yesterday, I used my precious child-free time to get the few groceries I needed for cocktail hour tonight. A few times I've made a mad dash from work to the midtown Schnuck's, which is not far but in the opposite direction from the way I need to go to pick the kids up. And if you've ever met me in person, there's a good chance I managed to slip in a rant about how much I loathe and despise every single thing about that store. Even if we met for, like, five minutes. Because that's how much I hate it. So yesterday it dawned on me that there is a closer grocery store: the Crazy Kroger at Poplar and Cleveland. That's right. Kroghetto.
For those of you not from Memphis, let me give you just a few pieces of information about this Kroger and its location.
1. Prostitutes work Cleveland in the daytime. Ones that should really only be seen at night. Without the benefit of streetlights.
2. A few years ago, my Dad's business contracted to redo the bathrooms in this Kroger. When they pulled out the panels from the dropped ceiling, they were hit with a rain of food wrappers placed there by junkies who steal food and take it into the bathroom of Cleveland Kroger to eat it.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. In the past year or so, I chanced to visit this Kroger a couple of times, with all four kids, to grab lunch supplies for us before heading over to my parents' nearby (temporary) midtown abode. I went with a "get in, get what you need, and get out alive" mentality, but even so, I sensed a realization hovering around the edges of my consciousness. And yesterday, with time to walk the aisles unfettered by bolting toddlers or begging kindergartners, it hit me full on: I like the Crazy Kroger. There, I said it!
As I walked in the front doors, I found myself in a produce section very similar to the one in Poplar Plaza Kroger, which is where I grudgingly spend about $700 a month on food. Except for two things. Wait, three things. It was cleaner, less crowded, and there was the cutest little floor display that comprised three bins. Guess what was in the bins. Go on, guess! You'll never guess. In the first one were little cans of Vienna Sausages. In the middle one were bottles of $.49 Kroger brand hot sauce. And in the third were Ramen Noodles. I can't really explain it, but that display filled me with a sense of comfort. And I don't even like Vienna Sausages! I think it was just the thought that someone who runs that store was in touch enough with the client base to put together a display that could have borne a sign reading "You don't have to starve even if you are broke as hell." It kind of reminded me of shopping at the midtown Pig back in my college apartment days, when $45 was an extravagant amount to spend on a week's worth of groceries.
I continued on through the store with that warm, secure feeling, looking around me and marveling at how truly clean the store really was. And it was so empty of people! The things I hate so much about Schnuck's are that it is tiny, extremely crowded, and organized like blind chimpanzees chose where each item should go. This Kroger was big, clean, well-laid out, and at that hour of the day, devoid of Patty-the-daytime-hookers and junkies and just about anyone else. It was the perfect grocery store!
As I checked myself out at the U-Scan machine, the attendant let another customer know that she did in fact have a little change left on her EBT card after paying for her stuff. "That's alright, " she called out cheerfully, "that's another meal. You could find you something over there for that l'il bit of change." I think I may start doing all my shopping over there. Seriously.