Dear Glorious Food Parthenon and Symbol of Excessive Suburban Sprawl:
Elie Mae and I love you like The Donald loves “the blacks.” For my five-month-old daughter, you are the future. I roll her by your fancy patisserie, and, suddenly, the pain of her teething gums seems all worthwhile. She fantasizes about her first birthday, when she will sink her teeny chiclets into a rich chocolate dome or Italian rum cake. (There is evidence somewhere that rum encourages healthy gross motor development in babies.) I know this because my husband has his Ph.D. There is evidence for everything. Including that Popeye’s is not owned by that bubbly black lady from Louisiana on TV. And that its popcorn shrimp is actually a breaded void.
And there is evidence, Wegmans, that you have allowed wackness to creep into your ranks. Exhibit A: Your Eating Area Regulations.
One day, I am carrying Elie Mae in her Baby Björn through your aisles, when we both decide we are hungry. We are also diaperless. So I grab a box of Pampers and pick up a quesadilla in the food court. I have to pay for these items before I can go upstairs to your eating area.
I head toward the elevator—Elie Mae in the carrier, my diaper-bag-formally-known-as-Purse on my shoulder, my quesadilla in hand, and her Pampers in the cart. As I push the “up” button, I am interrupted by one of your kind enough employees.
“Oh, you can’t take that shopping cart upstairs with you,” she says.
I stare. I look at my full hands, my baby, and those pricey diapers. Then I calmly contort my face to express, “Whaaaaaa…?”
She totally gets me. “You can put your diapers under those stairs,” she offers. “They’ll probably be fine.”
NO, she doesn’t get me. She either doesn’t see my baby or doesn’t think she pees a lot or doesn’t think anyone in Ashburn under the crunch of the recession might pick up some diapers for the road that they didn’t necessarily purchase with their own funds.
My thought: Play dumb. Easy enough. (There’s evidence that all women lose half their brain cells during pregnancy and that the human term “mother” is just a euphemism for the scientific term “host.”) So I play—or am—dumb. “Put the diapers I just paid for under the stairs? What happens if they aren’t there when I get back?”
She reassures me that others have left their carts before and they have seemed to be fine.
I look at my diapers, then at the space under the stairs, and I am Daria’s scary history teacher. If I can just find an enlarged, bloodshot eye.
No luck. So I take my Pampers out of the cart. I will carry it all. “What is that rule for, anyway?” I ask.
“Oh, it’s part of the fire code.”
I respect that. I get that. But as if that’s not enough, she adds: “If you think about it as a restaurant, you wouldn’t bring a shopping cart into a restaurant.”
At this, Elie Mae’s head explodes, and I have to catch it. “Mama,” she says, “but Wegmans is a grocery st—“
“Now, now, Elie Mae,” I interrupt. I pop her pacifier into her mouth like she’s any other nonverbal five month old, even though I know MY baby is a genius thanks to Your Baby Can Read. (There is evidence that teaching babies to memorize words actually teaches them to memorize words, which is almost like reading. Or playing Memory.)
But this skill your employee has taught me is actually useful. Since then, Elie Mae and I have pictured life’s lemons more like sour, yellow balls of fruit.
Take the mortgage. “Mama,” Elie Mae will remind me, “Think of those numbers as what the house wants to pay you back in happiness.”
Or cellulite. “Mama,” Elie Mae reminds me, “just think of dimples as one pocket of fat smiling at another pocket of fat.”
And to you, Wegmans, Elie Mae says, “Think of Mommy and me not shopping in your aisles as us making more room for other hungry customers to shop without their babies at a family-friendly grocery store.”
There is only one thing left to say at the bottom of a letter, Wegmans: Please advise.
Taylor and E.M. Harris