Steve Martin had a stand-up bit in which he'd tell the audience he was going to do his impression of the Incredible Shrinking Man. He'd ask the audience to close their eyes for a moment, and when they opened them, he'd have raised the microphone several feet.
This is the opposite of my experience at Whole Foods.
Do you have Whole Foods in your town? They can be identified by their Euro-woodsy exterior, heaps of local weeklies toppling in the doorway, and parking lots clogged with honking Land Rovers, their drivers flipping each other off while wearing organic cotton t-shirts printed with sayings like "Practice Random Acts of Kindness" and "Namaste."
[Note: Whole Foods is not to be confused with Trader Joe's - the rebel grocery sibling whose share of the industry involves lulling customers into thinking they've spent the afternoon buying carob-coated pumpkin seeds and miniature quiches in a cross between an Army PX and Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride.]
I live in a volatile bubble on the time-space continuum, equal distance from three (count 'em) three Whole Foods stores and buffeted by the unique socio-political vibrations of each. Each store has its individual quirks: the hair-raising U-turn across an onslaught of cross-traffic required to enter the Brentwood parking lot, the glacial pace of the elevator in the Wilshire store, and the thicket of tropical orchids (one of which I swear fired a poisonous dart into the back of my neck) that one must hack through to enter the store on Montana Avenue.
The matter with which I take issue is one that pertains to each of these stores, nay (that's right, I said "nay") every Whole Foods store I ever entered.
Whole Foods stores are too friggin' SMALL.
Yes, SMALL. As in bite-sized. As in Lilliputian. As in I should be able to fit down an aisle sideways without my shoulder blades emptying the shelf behind me and my nipples wiping out the shelf in front of me.
I'll admit, at 5'9" I'm not petite. I get that. I have to say, however, that I never worry about banging my forehead on a ceiling-mounted security camera when I'm in Albertson's.
No, it's only in Whole Foods that I feel like I've morphed into a water buffalo upon passing through the automatic glass door.
Oh, sure, they try to fake you out with those little weirdo shopping carts that aren't built to human scale. You have to bend at the waist to reach the handle and if you arrange things just right they'll hold a grape and a box of Tic Tacs.
Then there's the tricky packaging, designed to make you think you're in a normal-sized store. Should I buy 20 grains of rice, or splurge and get the economy-sized box of 50?
Why am I there, you ask? Well, honestly, I forget. I walk out in a grump with my bags (which upon returning to full-scale land, I discover are the size of paper lunch sacks), swearing that I'm never going back and rubbing my ankles, raw from being sideswiped by the exotic olive barge.
Then, six months later or so, I am desperate for some fresh idea for dinner and I figure it can't be as bad as I remember, right? I was probably just having a bad day.
Which is what happened yesterday when I found myself mooing and swishing my leathery tail down the produce aisle, my cloven hooves cracking the distressed wood floors with each step and my horns spearing bundles of aura-balancing soy candles with every toss of my head.
Come on, I thought later as my family struggled to survive the evening on a roasted chicken the size of my fist and asparagus spears my husband initially brushed away as grass clippings. Who was I kidding? I'm a child of the suburbs, where the parking is above-ground, TP comes in 48-roll packs and the grocery store is roomy enough to cut doughnuts in a Delta '88 without riffling a single page of The National Enquirer.
I've learned my lesson. From now on, I'm livin' LARGE.
By the way, as long as you're here, could you help me load that pallet of Pop-Tarts onto my forklift?