Friday, July 13, 2012

Shopping: Bring Your A-Game


Grocery Shopping is a contact sport here in Austria. It takes precise planning and execution and a fair amount of aggression. First,you must always go in with a plan. Not only so that you don't break the bank, but because unless you have a car, you must carry everything home with you. This either means you need to shop every day or you have to have the physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because Europe is frantically green, you will have to either bring your shopping bags with you or be ready to pay for them at the counter. Aside from your reusable bag and your sparse shopping list you will need to make sure that you have either a one euro or fifty eurocent coin with you. This is so that you can have a deposit for a shopping cart because heaven forbid those would be open for everyone to use. Now you are ready to walk the few blocks down to your local grocery store. Hopefully the weather is not inclement,which would necessitate weather gear and more planning. Once you have made the hike to the store the fun really begins. First you must get your cart. If this is a busy time, which is likely, you will need to watch out for the people both getting and returning carts. Especially take care not to disturb the people returning them, they just went through the ringer and only want to collect their deposit and get out of there. Carefully you put your coin in the slot and with luck your cart will release from the chain of others. Once you are away from the chaos of the front door you can relax for a moment and look t the fresh bread and rolls around you. This is a mine field,however, if you are like me and trying to stay away from carbs. Austrians do not abide day-old bread so there is never a lack of rolls and pastries assaulting your senses. You resist the urge to pick up that cream filled cloche and push on towards the produce. The produce section is the first of many logjams and for good reason. By the price of your item, which never actually corresponds to its exact location, is a number that you must memorize. This is because all of your produce need to weighed and the number tells the scale which item you have.After this you now hit the narrow aisles and now the elbowing dance to find the rest of the items on your list begins. This is further complicated by the store employees who have chosen this moment to stock the store, since no one can seem to arrive at the store early or work late to do this. You scour the aisles realizing either that peanut butter is longer available at that store or that you forgot that this store doesn’t carry the brand of cereal that you like, but for the most part you have what you came for. Don’t get too cocky because the worst is yet to come. Now you make a beeline for the registers. Usually at this point there is only one register open and a line backed up well into the aisles. You shrug off your need for personal space as you know that if you do not aggressively hold your place in line some overly zealous shopper will find a way to cut in front of you. Then you hear the phrase that turns a relatively orderly line into utter chaos, “Zweite Kasse, bitte!” The call to open up a second register has been sounded and now the entire line is bristling with potential energy. We all know that at any given moment one of the employees will come up from their smoke break and then all semblance of civility is lost. During one recent episode of this Liz and I were both in the store, without shopping bags so we were carrying what we had in our arms. I was fortunate to see the clerk come up and was able to stay ahead of the throng. Liz however was caught in the scrum of oncoming shoppers and in a moment of desperation tossed me her loaf of bread as if to say, “Don’t mind me, save yourself!” Once you get to the register you are almost done. You hand them your discount card and pray that you weighed your produce correctly…they will send you back if you didn’t! The cashier runs your items through the scanner at lightning speed. You bag all of the items yourself (your really didn’t think they were going to have baggers did you?) trying to keep up with the cascade of groceries without crushing any of the items you just bought. Somehow you keep up with the pace and pay the cashier when they finish handing you the last item...or face the scowls of the cashier and the people in line behind you. Finally you drearily push your cart back to the pick-up line and look at the line in-coming shoppers. Poor chumps.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, Matt...remember the two weeks we got stuck in Austria...oh yeah, you remember....you reminded us of that fact not long ago ;) It was the first time EVER I had seen a place that you had to weigh and tag your own veggies and fruit! I stood there staring at the check out clerk as she got louder and louder in German...trying to explain to me that I had to go back and get the tag for that fruit I was trying to purchase. Finally, in exasperation she got up and did it herself! My first real cross-cultural experience. My first of many! Thanks for 'a day in the life of' the Eck family shopping! Love you guys! - judi

Matt said...

I think you guys have the best story staring out on the mission field. It still makes me laugh when I think about it. You guys were cross-cultural pros by the time I got here to "help" you. I'm so excited that you guys will be heading back over this way soon. Hope to see you before too long.

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