Happy Π Day. I celebrated by riding, more or less, about 31.4 miles, give or take a couple tenths. I couldn't think of anything more suitable, though the notion of drinking 3.14 margaritas did occur to me.
It took about an hour to get the 'cross bike shifting and operating properly before I went out. I guess riding in all that mud and snow did a number on the thing. I cleaned it after Capital Cross, I really did, but I didn't clean it thoroughly, and a lot of mud was stuck on it in strategic places. So today I rode without fenders, hoping that a constant spray of water from the road would soften up the hardened mud and grit. It definitely helped. When I got home, Son-of-Rouleur and I went for 5 or 6 easy miles, then we washed our bikes (thoroughly) together. That's a nice way to end a ride. It almost made me forget about the burning in my lungs.
I had to go to the three local supermarkets today to get various things for the Rouleur Celebration of Ersatz Irish Culture, which is going down Wednesday. Corned beef, colcannon, Guinness, and eye-watering/nostril-searing farts until noon the next day. It's just like the old country Irish used to do... except they didn't really eat Corned beef. So who's countin', right boyo?
My ambiguous feelings about St. Padraig's day, and my uneasy relations with pop-Irishness notwithstanding, this was an interesting opportunity to do a taxonomy of the local supermarkets' customers. I know there are some differences in the customer bases, but until today, didn't really notice them formally. Since I had to hit all three to get all the ingredients, I decided to give you a demographic breakdown.
Chain 1: Local discount shopping chain.
Percentage of people with meth face: >10%
Most prevalent type of hot chicks: young, in sweatsuits, and you can see looking at them the particular way they plan to go to seed over the next decade (booze sweat on a Sunday at 5:00 PM, high fat / high carb diet in the cart, boyfriend who looks like he just got out of prison helping her with the shopping).
Typical customer: middle middle class or a little lower; upper middle class in disguise. If they have any money to spare, they aren't showing it in this store.
Typical male customer #1: Blue collar white retiree with a flattop. He don't look happy.
Typical male customer #2: 23, prison tats, or at least prison wannabe tats. Dangerous looking, because stupid is always dangerous. Bonus: he probably just got out of prison, and probably is actually dangerous.
Typical female customer #1: 38, one or two kids in tow, tired out looking. She's workin' hard.
Typical female customer #2: age indeterminate, meth abuser based on skin tone, loss of fat in the face, lack of teeth. Probably 22.
Typical female customer #3: 25, recent immigrant dragging bored recent immigrant husband/boyfriend around. The only hopeful, non-tired looking people in the whole store.
Out of Place Customer: hot chick with big diamond engagement ring, very nice casual clothes.
Cashier: Marge. 40, bored, would rather be reading People than checking out your groceries.
Reason to go to this store: good produce, cheap meat, which is good so long as your eye for picking out the good quality meat is comparable to a practiced butcher, or Pam Anderson. Truly awesome ethnic food section, with multiple kimchis, hard-to-find foreign mustards, a Mexican section that is just like being in Mexico except with less danger of being killed by an out-of-control drug cartel. Good deals on hygiene products and name brands, and the local pipeline for Turkey Hill Ice Cream (BOO YAH!)
Reason not to go to this store: the same reason you buy your jeans from WalMart, but are afraid to admit it to all your friends, you pretentious bastard. It's CHEAP and you're embarassed by the notion that you are watching your spending. Avoid the bakery at all costs unless your S&M club is having a coffee and pastries party and you are looking to hurt a special someone in that special kind of way.
Clothing brand: Ed Hardy. Slogan T-shirts from nearby K-Mart. Generic jeans. West Coast Choppers hats.
Most unusual shopping cart: young heavily (badly) tattooed couple, both with meth face, with probably $500 worth of frozen pizza, pizza pockets, and Doritos and a doomed three year old girl overflowing out of the cart.
$17 gets you: 4 one pound T-bone steaks in the "family pack." They have a short shelf life and are cut somewhat unevenly. One is remarkably tough for a T-bone.
Chain 2: Regional middlebrow chain specializing in HUGE savings if you join their Big Brother We Monitor What You Buy And Send You Creepy Targeted Marketing Mailings Club.
Percentage of people with meth face: <2% style="font-weight: bold;">Type of hot chicks: career women. Suits on weekdays, Levis on weekends, tights if it's post- or pre-workout.
Typical customer: middle to upper middle class, more or less normal shopping cart. Upscale immigrants.
Typical male customer #1: Fireman, military, Federal law enforcement, IT professional or middle manager.
Typical male customer #2: middle class white collar retiree. Well groomed. Owns a boat. Coaches in the local kids' sports leagues. Happy go lucky.
Typical male customer #3: 22 year old white male with wannabe tats. Has a teardrop on his neck, but frankly would have trouble killing a Michelob Ultra, much less a human. Refugee from Towson State. That's a college, not a prison.
Typical female customer #1: 35, professional, left the kids at home with Dad and is hauling ass around the store. She's busy, so don't get in the way of her cart, if your plans for future years include "walking."
Typical female customer #2: 25, just came from working out at Gold's Gym. Clothing - well, that's why they call 'em "tights," ain't it?
Clothing brand: Columbia. Joseph A. Bank. Levis.
Cashiers: Each shift has one dynamic female cashier who knows what she's doing, and then there's 20 high school kids who try hard but are clueless. Doesn't matter; cash-out is the big cost-saver here, with half the registers run by minimum wage kids, the other half "self-checkout," which means you do most of the work until the process stalls, then you wait a couple minutes for the dynamic female cashier to walk over, swipe her card, and bail you out.
Out of Place Customer: Nobody. The clientele runs the gamut.
Reason to go to this store: it's a pretty normal grocery store. They have everything you want, mostly. Good organic section. Good bakery.
Reason not to go to this store: stuff is arranged not by type, but by association. So if you want beans, go to the Mexican section. Or the Cajun food section. Or the Picnic section. Or the Indian food section, between the lentils and the saffron rice. Getting the right can of beans can take a half hour, if you aren't sure what your beans' particular ethnic association is supposed to be.
Most unusual shopping cart: a half dozen beef briskets, a 12 pound pork loin, and a king sized pack of chicken breasts. Backstory: Probably an Irish chick who just started the Atkins diet.
$17 gets you: Two 1 pound T-bone steaks, marked down from $32.99. Bonus: Two weeks from now, you'll receive a flyer in the mail advertising Emeril's T-Bone Steak Flavoring.
Chain 3: Regional Aspirational Highbrow grocery story.
Percentage of people with meth face: 0%. You're in powder coke country here, kiddo. Or maybe X, if you're downscale.
Type of hot chicks: young women living above their means; cougars.
Typical customer: upper middle class. Lower middle class with aspirations.
Typical male customer #1: Clean cut white yuppie. A bit of a foodie. Married to a sorority girl who has a slender build similar to his own. Comparable haircut too, when you think about it. And they dress the same too.
Typical male customer #2: Well dressed middle-aged professional. Doesn't mind paying retail, besides it'd be a pain in the ass to drive to Store 1 or Store 2. It's just food, right?
Typical male customer #3: Disoriented retiree who hoofed it over from the nearby 55+ community. Doesn't remember a loaf of bread costing $5.50 when he was a kid, but chalks it up to bad memory.
Typical female customer #1: 35, professional, nanny has the kids and hubby is still working. Hit LA Fitness first, and is now taking her time working around the store. Ah, they've got king crab this week...
Typical female customer #2: 23, retail clerk at nearby strip mall. Fly-ass clothes. Rents a Baby Merc, pays retail.
Clothing brand: North Face. Patagonia. Rock & Republic. Prada. J. Crew.
Cashiers: Special ed students from the local group home. Eastern European immigrants with PhDs. (No, really. I'm not making this up).
Out of Place Customer: The badly dressed. Non-asian, non-upscale immigrants. People who don't know their brie from their camembert.
Reason to go to this store: The bakery section is to die for, with great pastries. Good cheeses and gourmet stuff. If you are severely caffeine deficient, this store has the tools that will let you get through the day, or at least the produce aisle, without going into withdrawal - there's a Starbucks in the store and a Caribou adjacent to it. You want people to know you don't mind going to a store with cashiers with mental disabilties, you just wish some were minorities working here too, instead of just buying stuff. You are frontin' and want people to know you aren't afraid to pay $6.99 for a pound of green bell peppers. You dig on the good meat and fish counters. There's a bank in the store. You're there for the hot chicks. It's next door to a good wine shop.
Reason not to go to this store: It's overpriced. The bakery's fresh bread sucks, compares unfavorably to hockey pucks. You are more into buying food than meeting attractive new married people. You don't like paying full retail, plus. For the cost of the produce, the quality is frustratingly mixed between superb, and "we picked this up off the streetcorner." The bank's never open. You've dealt with the cashiers, and wouldn't mind strangling a few of them, and probably will if you keep shopping there.
Most unusual cart: $300 of gourmet cheese and quart baskets of assorted berries.
$17 gets you: A one pound T-bone steak, that tastes okay and costs as much as the local butcher's steaks, but doesn't taste like it's taken from the same species of animal.
So that's my Sunday afternoon. Ride, wash, recover, then gawk at fellow shoppers. I feel like the (dorky male) Margaret Mead of local suburban shopping enclaves. Yeah, it's probably over-simplification to talk about my co-shoppers this way, but I'll let my local commenters, who frequent these stores, clarify anything they feel is off the mark.