Mushrooms, Artichokes, Celery, Oh My … the Perils of Produce Shopping

Every Wednesday, I make the trek to visit my daughter in downtown Chicago. I always stop first at Joe Caputo & Sons in Des Plaines to buy her portabello mushrooms, rapini, and a few other veggies. This location is ridiculous in that everything is squeezed into too tight a space and their parking lot is treacherous. Their stores in Palatine and Algonquin are huge, clean, well laid out, and offer up a mind-boggling array of choices. I can understand that they have loyal shoppers in Des Plaines and so don’t want to close this location, but this shopping experience is less than ideal and they should really consider finding a new building.

I am usually the youngest patron by 20+ years and end up feeling like I am in the Mr. Bean episode where he gets stuck behind retirees on the staircase while on holiday. Before I could even get a foot in the door, I encountered an older woman spouting off trivial nonsense to one of the stockers – totally blocking the very narrow entrance. I finally entered the store and she was still blocking the aisle with her cart. I grabbed a few orange peppers and suddenly heard her exclaim loudly, “This is totally outrageous, I cannot believe it.” At first I thought I had knocked one of the peppers on the ground and she was reacting to my lack of produce etiquette. It is nearly impossible the way they pile up produce here to not knock a veggie or two onto the ground. No, that was not it at all – whew. She tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at the artichokes. “This is an absolute crime – these were 2 for $1.00 just yesterday and now they are 98 cents each.” I just shook my head and agreed with her, although I was thinking to myself – hey, laaaaady, that is how it goes with weekly sales.

My next encounter involved Portabello mushrooms and celery. The mushrooms were partially blocked by a display of some greens, so I had to step to the right side close to the celery to make my selection. Another much ruder older woman came along and pushed me out-of-the-way to look at the celery – then she summoned a clerk and barked, “Why isn’t there a price on the celery?” Mind you, there was a large and obvious sign that said 59 cents a pound. She angrily asked, “Aren’t there celery hearts advertised for 98 cents and where the hell did you put them? Hey, laaaaady, what the hell is wrong with you? If you are going to cast me aside, the least you can do is buy the damn celery. How rude!

I was ready to pay and chose what looked like a good register with just one person already paying. Boy was I wrong! This old lady was so doddering and out of it that she could not figure out how to find a few coins from her change purse that added up to 31 cents. She kept giving the poor cashier different coins that did not add up, finally conceding defeat and telling her to just break a $1.00 bill. The clerk asked her if she at least had a penny and it took her another 45 seconds just to find the penny. I finally paid and caught a glimpse of this woman teetering to her vehicle with her shopping cart and all I could think was, “Oy laaaaady, I cannot believe you are going to get behind the wheel and drive!”

Who would imagine that produce shopping could be so fraught with perils! Later in the day my daughter and I went to Stanley’s Fruit and Vegetables, but I will leave that for my next blog.

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