There’s a pug in the produce aisle, and not nearly enough caffeine in my system.

Certain events should not be paired. For example: 1. Being awakened when there’s a 4 on the clock should not, under any circumstances, be combined with 2. Running out of coffee and having to substitute decaf just to make one measly cup.

Maybe I should rephrase that. Certain events should not take place, period. For example, 1) Being awakened when there’s a 4 on the clock, and 2) Running out of coffee.

This is, obviously, not how I wanted to begin my day. I’ve been tossing around writing ideas all weekend — big, book-length ideas.* Because Monday is one of the days I’ve got childcare, I was eager to get cracking on fleshing out one or both of my ideas today. Alas, certain environmental factors are not conducive to productivity. See also, sleep deprivation. See also, running out of coffee.

Anyway, despite my low levels of caffeine, I managed to leave the house, stagger through some semblance of a workout at the gym, and drive (accident and road rage free!) to the Safeway in the Castro. It should be noted that of late I have been spending more time in the Castro Safeway than seems remotely necessary or healthy. What can I say? I’m a poor grocery shopper/meal planner and everyone in my house is way too hungry. Alas,  the Castro Safeway. It is … other-worldly. It is San Francisco. Homeless people abound. Activists with clipboards assault all those who enter. (Please sign to help us legalize marijuana!”) Shoppers are always talking to themselves, and they are never speaking about groceries.  Signs proclaiming “no dogs allowed per San Francisco health code blah blah blah” are taped on all of the doors, yet someone is always walking his or her dog down the baking aisle or through the meat section.  This morning, a Jack Russell with an adorably scruffy beard was sniffing the cereals. On every visit, I encounter someone who has flagged down a Safeway employee and is dragging said employee all over the store. As in, the shopper has a list, and they are making the Safeway employee lead them directly to every item on the list and place said items in their cart for them. I have never seen so many lost shoppers in a grocery store before.

In the Castro Safeway I have seen a woman carefully select some bagels from the bins in the bakery section, place them in a bag, dump said bag out on the floor, and then return the bagels to the bins for some unsuspecting shopper to buy and eat. I have been approached in line by a teenager “trying to get back to Las Vegas” who begged me for a donation of $50. I have seen dogs in baby strollers. I have seen dogs in backpacks, purses, and shopping carts. This morning a man looking for cake flour (and led to it by a Safeway employee) kept repeating “you’d think that it would look like what it is!” until the Safeway employee had no choice to agree (though he was clearly humoring cake-flour guy and very confused) that indeed, cake flour does not look at all like what it is. This morning a woman knelt on the floor in front of the milk case, reading her grocery list, despite the line of people waiting to open the case and get out cartons of milk. They clustered around her, all of them afraid of interrupting her thoughts. When, finally, someone did, she simply got up and out of the way, no apology, no apparent surprise at holding up five people from their shopping. This morning someone got on the intercom and said, “Safeway employees, I need some productivity.”

I once ordered a coffee at the in-store Starbucks, only to have the cashier burst into tears and walk away.

This morning, my cashier, who as I was to discover was Norwegian, told me that he’s recently noticed an uptick in the number of former Catholic priests coming through his check-out line. (How does that come up? “Do you have a Safeway card? By the way, are you a former Catholic priest?”) And then he told me about how he once carried 60 packages of Peet’s Coffee home to Norway for his family, only to be held up in Helsinki by the authorities, who thought he was smuggling drugs. He kept describing how “they kept sniffing” the coffee, and finally I had to speak up — it should be noted that thus far, I had only nodded and smiled politely. I said, “you mean drug-sniffing dogs?” He did not mean drug-sniffing dogs, and I left the store imagining Finnish customs officers taking long, deep sniffs of the rich scent of Peet’s. I did not blame them.

*Frankly big book-length writing projects are not necessarily what I need to jump into right now, but here I am thinking about them anyway. I’m considering doing something for National Novel Writing Month, which starts in less than a week. I have no reason whatsoever not to do NaNoWriMo, though I keep providing myself with all sorts of excuses (I don’t have time! I might have another tendinitis flare-up in my arm! What about all my other half-written projects? etc.) But, hey, why not? I need a kick in the pants. Right! Right?


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