Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for November, 2016

So Berkeley

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

I’m doing a Facebook fast because it was stressing me out post-election (I’m still following the news and reading stuff, just sourced differently, with fewer memes and commenty scream-fests, and I’m still on twitter because it’s way easier to control my experience there; I can mute some stuff when the howling inside grows too loud and unmute things when I’m better able to cope). The only downside is that Facebook is where I have habitually posted my too-long-to-tweet comments, but then I remembered: I have a blog.

I had a very Berkeley moment this morning at my local grocery store, the Berkeley Bowl (locally famed for its great cheap produce and expensive everything else and old hippies parking their carts sideways in the aisle to block the entire pathway as they gaze raptly at lentils and people occasionally getting into screaming matches over the limited spots in the parking lot; I live walking distance so ha ha).

I had a cart full of Thanksgiving ingredients and went to the register with the shortest line (because the joint was already jammed at 9:30 a.m.) and, as usual in such cases, it proved to actually be the longest line. There was one woman in front of me, of the down-vested fortysomething clearly hikes all the time local variety, standing at the register holding a handbasket that contained three vegetables. As I arrived she sent her clearly hapless husband off in search of some cheap berries they’d seen someone else buy. She was just… standing there. At the register. While the cashier waited patiently.

Resigned to the fact that she wasn’t going to tell me to go ahead of her (to be fair, I did have a ton of stuff in my cart), I said, “Do you mind if I start putting my stuff on the conveyor belt?” I would have simply done so, but she was standing just exactly completely in the way.

She beams at me and says “No, you can wait. You’re young.”

Reader, I did not ram her to death with my cart.

In due time hapless husband arrived, with the wrong, full-price berries, and they engaged in a vociferous whispery snipe-fest about his relative competence versus the relative clarity of her instructions. I could have told them where the cheap berries were, but, you know. The cashier could have, too, and he didn’t feel moved to do so either. She finally puts her three vegetables on the conveyor belt and I throw the divider down and load up my stuff behind it. Then hapless husband wanders off to look at gourds or something and she starts yelling across the store that he has the money and has to come back and so on. Finally they managed to pay and depart with their vegetable bounty. The whole experience only sapped about ten minutes of my life.

Then the cashier couldn’t find a price for the dinner rolls I bought and after much debate and consultation and walking over to the service desk and back again, they gave ’em to me for $1.39, which was a number they clearly and unapologetically just made up at random, but which we all knew was probably at least two bucks too cheap, so happy times.

I said to the cashier, “It’s going to be a long weekend, huh?”

He nodded gravely. “I’m just hoping the rain will keep some people away.”