Harvesting Bitter Fruit

March 31st, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Bastardized Harvest LogoBeware of organic privilege!

My brief visit to the JP branch of Harvest Co-op may properly belong in the Weekly Dig‘s Cruel World section. Quite literally every contact with other customers was crazy hostile, entirely on their parts, while my interactions with the staff were pleasant and mannered.

I was just on Centre Street for one thing and was in no hurry. I do enjoy my steel-cut oats (a.k.a. Irish oatmeal). Harvest has it in bulk at considerably less than McCann’s in the tin, sold in Whole Foods and some big supermarkets. A bulk pound at $1.59 does a lot of breakfasts. Moreover, today when I arrived, I was surprised and pleased to see it was on sale at 89¢ a pound.

So, early afternoon…low traffic on the street and in the aisles…New Age/do-gooder store… It had the trappings of an easy, pleasant moment, and unremarkable one after days of fighting the basement floods.

Instead, I stumbled into a zoo of self-indulgent, self-righteous twits. As a co-op venture, the Harvest’s staff likely were volunteers, doing their hours for the discount. Again, they were super as always. The customers, on the other hand, were mannerless monsters.

One followed me to the bulk-food area. I was writing 370 (the oats code) on the twist tie as the store requires. Harvest must have lost a lot of those sub-10¢ stick pens because they had their two on six-inch strings. In the few seconds it would have taken me to write three numbers, a hand and arm jutted in front of my eyes and bumped my arm.

A clearly very important, very impatient woman said, “I’m getting a bag!” She did not go to the clear side of me to take one off the reel without interrupting me. She did not say anything else, certainly nothing resembling, “Excuse me, may I get a bag?” Of course, had she done that, I would have had time to have written 370 and been gone. In fact, she did not wait two seconds. What she had to do was the most pressing task in the building.

In contrast, after I got my bag of oats, I turned to head to the registers. A staff member was stocking the lip balm area and had almost entirely blocked passage with a small wheeled cart of inventory. He immediately apologized, but I said I was sure I could get by and he shouldn’t try to move anything. I did sidle past and we had a pleasant interaction with swapped smiles.

Only one of the three registers was open. I was the next person after a customer buying lots of chicken broth (apparently also on sale). I waited near the register, but not crowding anyone. There was room behind me for two people to pass each other…or so solid geometry would imply.

Instead, I got a huge whack in the ribs as a customer came from the deli area, almost passed behind me and pirouetted to turn. She had one of those trendy, overpriced canvas briefcases with leather trim. It was filled with papers or something else bulky. While there was no way she could not have been aware that she clumsily slapped into me hard, she didn’t apologize or even acknowledge my presence. She tucked the bag closer to her and headed up to the dead-animal display cases (beef, chicken and fish that would be).

At my turn, the clerk was cheerful as well as efficient. She seemed mildly pleased that I would not take a plastic or paper bag to put my bag of oats into afterward.

Then on the way out, a young mom with a wee one in a stroller headed to the store as I was leaving. She saw me and suddenly switched from the entrance door to the exit one where I was. Instead of being in a position of exiting and immediately coming behind them holding the entrance door for her and her snowflake, I was stranded by the outward-opening door and unable to leave or help.

She may have been spatially challenged and not raised by wolverines. On the other hand, she may have been one of the many, many parents who seem to figure if they are armed with a tot in a stroller, everyone else be damned!

None of those three grobers, as my Yiddish speaking friends would peg them, got to me. I won’t bother with Cruel World, as I don’t feel oppressed by their uncivil actions.

How is it though that they could be by my estimate 40, 56 and 23 and devoid of common courtesies and so fail to be the moment to not be aware of their schmuck behavior? None of them seemed equipped with such niceties as excuse me, may I, thank you, or please.

I don’t think this is necessarily organic-food store shopping behavior, although the lefty haters at FoxNews and such like to depict all of us who’d buy such things as steel-cut oats at Harvest at effete.  Also, as I am aware from the Harvest staff, not everyone in JP is without breeding.

I confess that I bemoan the combination of geography and mores of these times. Those of us who grew up in regions and during periods of courtesy struggle a bit. It has been difficult to raise three polite children in the last couple of decades in New England. Visitors from Europe and the rest of the country regularly express surprise at what is acceptable behavior in Boston. Amusingly enough, locals here like to proclaim that it is those New Yorkers who are rude.

I can’t even waste a curse on those Harvest customers. After all, they and their familiars already have to be around them. That should be punishment enough for them.

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9 Responses

  1. Uncle B says:

    This is why I especially enjoyed that slam poet’s riff during the Olympics, about saying “please” and “thank you” and meaning it. My Brit upbringing poured that into me, but it’s troubling how much 39 years in MA has corroded it.

  2. Uncle B says:

    Oh, and I once got into a conversation about this with a New York cabbie. He said it wasn’t them: it was those losers from Jersey who gave New York a bad rap on manners.

  3. kntel says:

    Ha, weird. I was just there today (later on) and was struck by how friendly the customers were. While I was stocking up on my oats and brown rice, I saw some random customer helping another with the bulk bins, pretty sure doors were held, and so on. Maybe the days of rain still had everyone down and dour earlier on?

  4. RB says:

    I am from NJ and have lived in Mass. for many years and still can’t get used to the unfriendliness here.

  5. Robin Edgar says:

    Oh dear. . .

    It looks like you just handed me some ammU*Unition Harrumpher in the form of a blog post that the dreaded Emerson Avenger can rework a bit aka plagU*Urize to create a brand-spanking new critique of “less than polite” U*Us in general and in your face rude U*U clergy in particular, to say nothing of U*U churches that can be justifiably described as “a zoo of self-indulgent, self-righteous twits.” 🙂

    I am forever in your debt now Harrumpher and will be doing some harrumphing of my own using most if not all of this blog post soon enough.

  6. Harrumpher says:

    R.E., I must say you are relentless. I’m not sure how you twist health-food store customers into UUs, but….

  7. Robin Edgar says:

    Let’s just say I know some U*U ministers who, besides being “self-indulgent, self-righteous twits” are also “mannerless monsters“. . . I expect that you know a few such U*Us yourself. Right?

    Much of your above critique of the “less than perfect” health food customers *could* be applied to certain U*Us and that is what I intend to do when I plagU*Urize this entertaining and educational blog post of yours.

    BTW You are far from the first person to say I am “relentless” although some use more flattering terms like “dedicated” and “steadfast” etc.

  8. Al Ire says:

    I think the Harvest Coop customers could be ruder, but I’m not sure how.

    Shopping amongst these grumpy entitled sourpuss aisle hogs is one of the most singularly unpleasant activities in my day to day life in Boston.

    I am completely at a loss to explain the dependably vile behavior of the customers there.

    I especially feel for the hard working staff at the Coop who bust ass to keep the place stocked, and then have to deal with the antisocial butthole customers.

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