This morning while the children slurped their Cheerios and I slumped at the kitchen table, half awake, sipping at my orange juice, Otto slid a section of newspaper across the tabletop to me.
PUBLIX GRAND OPENING TODAY, 7:00 AM!
I checked the clock. 6:45.
Chickadee craned her neck, allowing her to read sideways instead of just upside down. “MOM! It’s today! You should go right now! Otto can take us to school!” Methinks my daughter is tired of walking up and down the aisles at Kroger with me while I comment on the fruit flies, the gray meat, and the fact that no one seems to actually work there.
“Well, I don’t think I’ll go right NOW,” I answered, “because I’m just not sure I need to be walking into Publix in my PAJAMAS.”
“But MOM!” she continued, having read the full-page ad top to bottom, now, “You can get a FREE TOTE BAG!”
Thankfully, the free tote bag offer was good for the first 1,000 customers. So there was no need to go tearing out of the house in my butterfly jammies. As entertaining as that might have been for my fellow shoppers.
The opening of the Publix is significant in that (and I may have mentioned this once or twenty times) our neighborhood Kroger is perhaps the most maddening grocery store I’ve ever had the displeasure to frequent. As long as you are shopping for boxed pasta and juice pouches and pop-tarts and cereal, it’s fine. But if you want to get all fancy with your fresh chicken and some fish that doesn’t look like it was straight from the chum bucket, look out. When they do things like put appealing produce on sale, they run out; and let’s not speak of the MANY times I have abandoned a bag of fruit of veggies because picking through thr rotten pieces and WAVING AWAY THE FRUIT FLIES got to be too much for me.
I’ve also brought home cartons of organic milk (which costs about $8/gallon there) only to find that—despite being a month off of the expiration date—it’s curdled. That’s only when they actually HAVE organic milk, you understand. We buy 1%, which I understand is probably not all that popular, fine, but once they ran out of 1% and it was TWO WEEKS before they stocked it again.
[Aside: This morning we ran out of the kids' (organic) milk and I gave Monkey a glass of Otto's (hormone-laden) milk to drink. "I'm going to become a big hairy man!" Monkey declared, between slurps. I said something about how okay, yes, someday he'd be more hairy...? Then he clarified that he thought he'd be a big hairy man from drinking the milk with hormones. I corrected him; the hormones we're avoiding in the milk are actually GIRL hormones. He thought on this for a moment and then crowed, "I'M GONNA HAVE MAN BOOBIES!" Yes. I should totally be homeschooling my children, as the information transfer here at home is clearly superior to anything they could get elsewhere.]
So this morning I showered and got dressed and drove over to the new Publix and shouted “BITE ME, KROGER!” out my window as I pulled into the parking lot.
I was indeed amongst the first 1,000 shoppers, and so received my free Publix tote bag (fancy!) and a handful of flyers and coupons and a happy little speech from the manager at the door. When he told me that he hoped my shopping experience with them would be an enjoyable one, I told him that they would have to work awfully hard to be more rotten than Kroger, and he seemed to find this amusing.
Then my tote bag and I went shopping.
I know that an hour after opening may not be indicative of how the store will be, long-term, but I have to say, they really did it up right. Everything was bright and shiny and the food LOOKED LIKE FOOD and there were about 200 Publix staffers there to take care of the 50 of us who were shopping. Everyone kept asking me how I was. People offered to help me find things. Food samples were offered at every turn. I FELT SO LOVED!
“Ma’am, would you care to try our delicious cajun crab dip?” asked a hopeful man in a hairnet.
“Dude. It’s 8:10 in the morning.” I had forgotten my proper southern lingo in my horror. But I hadn’t had any caffeine yet. Still, this could be a major faux pas. Our eyes locked. He burst out laughing, and I exhaled. Phew. I did not try the crab dip. I bought a pound of tilapia from him, though.
My cart quickly filled up with food the likes of which I haven’t seen since moving to Georgia. Asparagus that looked like asparagus. Strawberries that looked like strawberries. Schnozzberries that looked like schnozzberries! (Okay, maybe not that last one.) But I did buy some pork chops that nearly made me weep.
Best of all? The Publix-brand milk is hormone-free, so I can stop spending the kids’ inheritance on organic. Woo!
In the checkout line, the cashier chatted happily about how much she loves working there, and someone came along and offered me a free loaf of bread. Why? JUST BECAUSE THEY LOVE ME, THAT’S WHY. I happily accepted a loaf of wheat while the bread-bearer yammered on about how the whole grain white is AMAZING.
“I’m sure it’s DELICIOUS,” I joked, because I am a bread snob and white sandwich bread is second only to making a sandwich with cardboard, in my book.
“Oh, it IS,” he assured me, “it tastes JUST LIKE white bread!”
“Exactly,” I agreed. He wandered off, probably regretting his generosity. I lovingly placed my free bread inside my free tote bag.
I paid and realized that the bagger intended to wheel my cart out for me. Possibly because I am so old and infirm. But more likely because this is apparently a Publix customer service thing that they do, because they are so filled with the spirit of love and goodness that THEY CANNOT BEAR TO LET YOU LEAVE, and so they stay with you until the last possible moment.
“I… I can take my own cart,” I assured the bagger.
“Are you sure? I’d be happy to take it out for you and load your car,” he said.
I toyed with asking him to come home with me and do the dishes, but that seemed like pushing it.
I did manage to wrestle the cart out of his hands and make it to the door, whereupon I was assaulted by another manager, wanting to accompany me outside. I explained (again) that I appreciated the gesture but that I was pretty sure I could manage on my own. She seemed sad, but brightened when I told her that I hadn’t had so much fun grocery shopping in a long time.
“Y’all come back again now!” she chirped as I crossed the lot towards my car.
The next time I’m feeling a little neglected I’m heading straight to Publix, I tell you what.