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It’s rugged terrain out there on Planet Safeway

June 30, 2010


After avoiding the remodeling chaos for several months, I ventured into the grandly re-opening Proctor Safeway in Tacoma. Now, instead of being the only Safeway in town small enough that I could walk around without becoming thoroughly exhausted, the Proctor store has acres of concrete walking, less convenient parking, and bratty help.

I won’t use the cashier’s name, because he could be a minor, so I’ll just call him Jock.

Background: I had already been to Target and Trader Joe’s that morning. I have fibromyalgia and chronic adrenal failure (Addison’s disease). Errands tire me under the best circumstances. I only wanted to venture into the new store and pick up some oranges and a few small items. It was a wearing search mission, and the usual people on the floor asking if I needed help finding anything were nowhere about. This is likely because no one knows where anything is anymore. I finally found what I needed, though the oranges were not obvious at first because I was too distracted by the amazing array of boutique fruits, like starfruit. I mean, Tacoma is so totally starfruit country.

At the checkout, Jock bagged up my items in no time at all, in one bag. Then he hefted the bag and asked me thoughtfully whether it would be all right, or whether he should put things in two bags. Nearly brain-dead with fatigue, I thanked him and said it probably was a little heavy, and that I’d like two bags. A cashier had once before opened a mesh bag of onions or oranges with her scissors, and distributed the produce between two shopping bags to lighten my load, so I assumed that was what Jock was proposing. But he said, “ARE YOU KIDDING? I HAVE LITTLE OLD LADIES WHO COULD CARRY THIS OUT FOR YOU!”

I felt my face crumbling. I snatched the bag back from him, said, “Thanks, fella!” and stormed out without my cart. I dropped the oranges on the way, scooped them up, and made my way to my car, where I spent about 20 minutes talking to my husband and composing myself before I was able to drive home.

My husband said if I was not up to calling the manager, he would stop by the store on his way home from work and talk to Jock and the manager. I decided not have Safeway’s earthquake worthiness tested this way, so I called Debbie, the customer service person. She said it sounded very bad, and put me through to the manager.

The manager agreed it was a poor choice of words on Jock’s part, but assured me that Jock was a good kid, which I’m sure, by all reckoning of secular parlance, he is. He suggested that Jock was probably just trying to be funny. I emphasized that I have no visible handicap, but that Jock definitely needed to cultivate some better manners and a more staid sense of humor. The manager agreed and said he would talk with him. Then the manager asked what he could do to “make this better.” I was a little offended that he assumed I was trolling for compensation, and assured him that I wanted nothing, that it was unlikely that I would ever return to his store, that Jock was not going to be a hit with my cohort if he said something like this again, and that I thought he deserved a reprimand.

It occurred to me that Jock may have thought I looked so young and capable — an REI employee once said I looked buff — that it was a joke that I couldn’t carry more than five pounds. Unfortunately, my sense of humor is a little marred from spending nearly half my life seeing much older people out-function me. Still, I try to share others’ lightness when appropriate. This I did not find appropriate.

I polled some of my friends with health challenges of their own. So far, all votes are that Jock was over the top. My favorite comment was, “If Jock ever hopes to move up in the world, like into video rental, he’ll need some insight.”

For now, the terrain of Planet Safeway is too rugged for me. Life is too long for this sort of thing.

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