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Friday again. Payday again. You’ve been down to Ramen noodle soup since Wednesday. You’re in North County, but you are far from retiring, much less retiring rich. Vons is on the bus route along Rancho Santa Fe Road, and you have a bus pass. It’s only a buck to ride. Cash the paycheck at the bank stall inside the grocery store, and you’ll have enough to buy food for the week, maybe. Enough food so you’ll need a taxi to schlep the stuff back home, anyway. Sixteen bucks for that ride.

Inside the grocery store at 6:30 p.m. you decide on a coffee from the Starbucks stall. A dozen others follow suit as you sit in the café seating area, drink your coffee, and observe. Very revealing, one notes, the stuff people buy for their weekend.

Here’s a man, gotta be 80, at least. He’s buying a single box of baking soda, Arm and Hammer. That’s it. He’s in line behind three other people in the express lane, but what’s the holdup? It seems they all use Peruvian currency, three different charge cards, food stamps, and out-of-state checks with no ID. You don’t know, but it’s the only possible explanation for why it takes half an hour to get to the guy with the baking soda. This usually only happens when you are in that line.

A woman enters the express line: fiftyish; tinted, copper, short-cropped hair. She’s buying a single jar of applesauce, three Lean Cuisine dinners (all chicken dishes), and a bottle of California chardonnay. A divorcée, for certain.

Another man, at least 80, is buying an econo-pack of Ensure, a four-pack of high-fiber fruit in plastic containers, a jar of fruit cocktail, and two gallons of cheap California Mondavi wine: Chablis and burgundy. A lost weekend maybe, but a regular one.

It is the end of February, the 27th. Maybe investment dividends have arrived, pension or Social Security checks. A lot of seniors up here. Many under the age of 50 are buying 12-packs and cases of American beer: Coors and Bud.

Say you try interviewing a half dozen folks out front. The only ones willing to talk to you about what they are buying are the ones buying the usual stuff: ground beef, eggs, milk (mostly low fat and nonfat). No one seems to buy much bacon anymore. At least not this evening. Vons moves stuff that has “low sodium” labels, low in cholesterol, high fiber, and gluten-free (whatever that is — you think it is in bread), and stuff that is “flavored.” “Chocolate-flavored drink” or “lemon flavored.” Stuff that you are pretty sure means no chocolate and no lemons are contained in these products.

A pretty young girl, early 20s, is buying mini-pads, maybe maxi-pads — you’re not that close. You can’t interview people like that. At the checkout, she buys a Snickers after deliberating with herself, staring at the candy rack.

At the magazine-and-paperback shelves you see more people studying the mags than the books. No surprise. So far the few book buyers are women. Maybe the publishers are right. Here are Susan Wiggs, Carol Higgins, Nora Roberts, mostly women writers but punctuated by Robert Crais’s Chasing Darkness; Steve Berry’s Venetian Betrayal, The Amber Room, and The Alexandria Link. Clive Cussler’s Plague Ship is right next to Mariah Stewart’s Mercy Street.

You do ask the manager a couple of questions, like, “Is Friday night a big night for your store?”

“Not any more than any other weeknight. Sunday is big and Saturday. Tuesday too, because the ads come out on Monday with the coupons.” He’s bagging groceries himself. A couple in their early 30s is buying mostly cleaning products: mops, a broom, sponges, scrub brushes, cleaning solutions, etc. They also buy four bottles of wine, about $15 each, both white and red. They are well dressed. The man is in tan corduroy pants, a flannel shirt, Ugg boots, a rust suede vest. He is bearded. The woman’s brown hair (a luxuriant gloss fresh from the salon, possibly) is in a ponytail. She wears matching boots, a denim shirt, and jeans.

Maybe they just moved into one of the ubiquitous condos up here, moving out of an old apartment, house, or condo and want their cleaning deposit back, or maybe they’re just really clean people. Anal, maybe.

You are judging people, maybe, and you shouldn’t do that. But you are surprised to find that people are rather private about what they buy in the grocery store.

So what did you buy? Shoelaces, Cheerios, two steaks, a gallon of milk...enough food for yourself and your roommate for a week, maybe. What does this say about you? Your weekend? Not much, you think. It is just everybody else who is so revealing here.

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Comments

monaghan March 12, 2009 @ 2:29 p.m.

Guys buy Starbucks and take taxis who live from paycheck to paycheck, eating Top Ramen the last three days of the month? Wow.

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EricBlair March 12, 2009 @ 9:49 p.m.

I kept waiting to read about the giant stone coins of Yap. Peruvian money is just tip of the annoyance iceberg in stores!

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cosmo March 20, 2009 @ 1:04 a.m.

Until I saw Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull I never realized that Peru is actually a theme park.

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EricBlair April 1, 2009 @ 5:20 p.m.

So where are Mr. Brizzolara's columns? Is everything okay?

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NotQuiteADiva April 3, 2009 @ 10:26 p.m.

I’m worried too…

For a guy who lives from week to week, missing three paychecks is not a good thing!

Not to mention the achy melancholy regretful poignant life observations withdraw I’ve been having not reading TGIF.

:/

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