April 13, 2005

This Anxiety Attack Brought to You by the Helpful Lady in the Wine Section

I was doing so well today, where by "well" I of course mean "well for me," which is not quite the same thing as "well" the way your average-functioning adult defines it; but, well. Well for me.

I just got back from a quick trip to Yuppie Market. I went there for produce because, man, you should have seen what they were calling produce at my home-away-from-home, the Wal-mart. Do you know what those jokers are doing now? Putting lettuce in bags; bags with opaque bottoms so you can't see how near-to-rotten the lettuces are.

I know I could just stand there, all figurative brass balls and what-are-you-gonna-do-about-it attitude, pulling lettuces out of bags (replacing them as sloppily as possible) until I found the head of green leaf that was Just Right, but as Stockard Channing once sang in "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee," I Was Not Brought Up That Way.

I was pretty proud of me today, though, because I used to hyperventilate just walking into Yuppie Market. I was convinced, however irrationally, of two things: One, that every other shopper in Yuppie Market was an expert chef who knew exactly what she was going to do with every last bit of food in her cart; two, that my lowly presence in Yuppie Market could only be justified if I were in there wearing a name tag and pushing a mop.

I have issues. It goes with being neurotic.

Today, though, I put three whole things in the cart without wigging out, and that's when I realized that if I could put three separate things in the cart without wigging out, well, then I could probably put all the things I was going to buy in the cart without wigging out, because after all, I wasn't buying much there to begin with. And I mentally patted myself on the back and pronounced myself cured. That was before I got to the wine section.

My weakness at Yuppie Market, besides the cheese section (which I can't really set foot in without crying), is the wine section. Because, as you know, I'm a real connoisseur of fine wines.

Ha! Ha! No. No, I'm not. I care that the wine doesn't come with a screw cap and I care that it isn't vinegar, but mostly I just care that it's under $10, because technically, technically according to the budget, I have no business buying a bottle of wine ever.

I came this close to getting OUT of the wine section without wigging, I really did. I had already picked out my $8.99 bottle, and you quit laughing, because that isn't nice. I was just browsing the whites. I looked at the Italian ones and then the French ones (oh hush) and then the Australian ones and then I got to the American ones and . . . and that's where the very kind lady who manages the wine section corralled me to ask if I needed any help choosing a wine.

Yes, I thought of saying later (because I never think of things to say when it might make a difference), I do need some help. I need to know a polite, tactful way to let the staff here know that if they speak to me while I am shopping I will flee without purchasing another item, even if it's the very item I came here specifically to purchase. I need to find a gentle way of explaining to your organization that your genuinely considerate efforts to induce me to buy more are guaranteed to backfire and make me buy less.

See, it's like this: If I were, say, in the midst of a particularly heavy menstrual period, and I urgently needed sanitary supplies, and a store clerk were to offer to help me pick said supplies out, I swear that I would leave my cart right there and sprint for the exit, no doubt leaving a trail of gore in my wake and reminding all the other shoppers of that time? In high school? When that one girl had to go to the nurse's office? And everyone was pointing and whispering about it? But no one would actually tell her? And then that one guy, Josh, would not stop being a creep about it and trying to get us to throw tampons at her, like in Carrie?


Sad. Not exactly tragic, but definitely sad.

The worst part is, I was all set to come home from the store humming a happy tune and getting to work on a nice batch of pico de gallo, and instead? Instead I rushed right in and sat down to tell the internet that for some reason I can't go shopping without totally losing my shit.

Thanks, internet. You're no Xanax, but you're better than nothing.

Posted by Ilyka at April 13, 2005 11:43 PM in navel gazing

Does this only happen when you're in this store? And what is it about the cheese section that's setting you off?

Just curious. Hope you feel better.

Posted by: Allah at April 14, 2005 12:07 AM

Our Yuppie Market is Whole Foods, and the cheese and wine sections are my eternal downfall. I proudly buy the under $5 a bottle wines! They actually have a nice selction of those.

Posted by: Ith at April 14, 2005 12:18 AM

I wasn't very clear about the cheese section--I only cry because there are all these beautiful cheeses I can't afford. Similar I guess to how women who are into handbags cry at the sight of Prada.

It's not just this store; it's anywhere I feel intimidated. I don't feel intimidated by anyone or anything in Wal-mart (would that even be possible?), so that place is fine. Petsmart is fine. Target is fine, etc. It's when I start asking myself, "What's someone like me doing someplace like this?" that I start to lose it. Which is stupid, because Central Market is really just a haven for the housewives who don't like visiting the farmers' market on account of there being too many Mexicans there.

They're not better than me, I know that, but at some sub-rational level, I guess I still think they're better than me.

It's just stupid.

Posted by: ilyka at April 14, 2005 12:30 AM

Ah, class panic. I hear you. A Whole Foods store just opened in Union Square and not surprisingly the lines are long long long. No way I'm going, though; I'd feel way too self-conscious in there with so many bobos and Beautiful People walking around.

My most memorable experience with class panic was when I was 19 and my college girlfriend came to visit. I took her to dinner at the Four Seasons in Manhattan and it was clear from the look on the maitre d's face that we weren't exactly valued customers. I don't know how I made it through dinner. Oh wait, yes I do: I was thinking about how the $150 dinner bill was almost certainly going to get me laid afterwards.

I was right.

Posted by: Allah at April 14, 2005 12:52 AM

Class panic. That's perfect.

I took her to dinner at the Four Seasons in Manhattan

Okay, that's probably another place I'm never gonna go, even if I pulled an Anna Nicole and hooked up with a dying oil baron who wanted to take me there. It wouldn't matter that I wasn't paying the bill. I would still freak.

I was right.

Yeah, yeah, score another one for Allah the cynic. Hey, but she was your girlfriend before you ever took her to the Four Seasons, apparently.

Posted by: ilyka at April 14, 2005 01:14 AM

The Four Seasons was the only place where we got dirty looks. I took her to the Rainbow Room, the Russian Tea Room, plus a few others and everyone was polite. At the end of the day my money's as good as anyone else's.

In fact, for that very reason, I feel a lot less panicked when money's involved than when it isn't. Send me to the Whole Foods store and make me shop with the bobos? Unpleasant but do-able. Send me to a cocktail party and make me hobnob with Manhattan's alpha males? No way. Without currency as the great equalizer, I've got nothing to justify my presence there.

Re: the g-friend, yeah, I probably could've gotten some even if I'd taken her to McDonald's. But why take chances? Besides, I get enough cynicism from reading things like this.

Posted by: Allah at April 14, 2005 01:34 AM

Thank You, Lord.

At least I know it isn't just me.

Not the wine, not the cheese, but to this day I go all woogedy if I have to buy tampons.

Yes, really, and me an MD. And if the check-out person is male, then well, you can just forget it. I'm sure I could spend all day explaining it to Dr. Freud, but really who wants to??

Posted by: Dr Alice at April 14, 2005 06:30 AM

I'm sure I could spend all day explaining it to Dr. Freud, but really who wants to??

Okay, I admit it: I'm not getting that one. I mean, I would, but I know you're someone who can post about intestinal parasites and not even flinch.

But everyone has her thing. My favorite was this R.N. in the TB clinic I worked at in AZ. She said, "I don't know what I'm doing here. Some nurses hate blood, some nurses hate shit, but I hate spit. Why'm I working in the department of spit?"

Mine is, don't talk to me when I'm shopping for food, because my first reaction is "What? WHAT!?! Did I do something wrong? You hate that I didn't buy the organic lettuce, don't you? DON'T YOU."

Posted by: ilyka at April 14, 2005 08:35 AM

We've got Harry's Farmers Market here. Same deal - all the best food you could stuff in your gullet. In fact, they were acquired by Whole Foods a couple of years ago.

I love that store. I mean I really LOVE that store. As Margi would say, I luuuurve that store. I get a chubby every time I go there.

Cheese. Oh, the cheese. And they give samples of it! Which is oh so cool because even though I'm a cheese lover the chance that I'll ever taste a $20 per pound cheese because I bought it is just about absolutely nil. But the (relatively) more reasonably priced ones have become Jim's Treats For When He's Been An Especially Good Boy. Old Amsterdam is a particular favorite.

We don't go there very often though since we can't seem to escape the store without dropping $50 more than we can afford.

Posted by: Jim at April 14, 2005 01:13 PM

Y'know, I have the exact opposite feelings in one of those stores. I laugh at the yuppieness and sometimes very loudly speak the prices (in shocked tone) like, "They want WHAT for this?"

I go there for fresh produce, generally. Sarah G. and I go to The Yuppie Store in Yuppie Central in Richmond regularly during the summer. They don't make me blink.

Wal-Marts, now--those stores can creep me out. Sometimes, the clientele has obviously just been released from prison. Sometimes the employees have, too.

So of course, when I need something from a 24-hour store, it's the Wal-Mart I'll go to, eyeing the customers suspiciously. But surreptitiously. Don't want 'em following you out to your car.


Posted by: Meryl Yourish at April 14, 2005 04:50 PM

I can totally relate, it's not going to send me out of the store but if I were in the wine (or cheese) section and an employee approached me I suddenly have no idea what I'm looking for.

I'm otherwise comfortable in the local Yuppie Markets but I'm a cullinary trendiod, though I'd like to think I follow trends with some thought and fiscal prudence.

(Funny thing is when I start comparing prices... organic plain whole milk yogurt is the cheapest option at the nearby Whole Foods while the same item is the costliest at Safeway... while the Whole Foods charges a lot more for the non-organic national brands that Safeway puts on special every month.)

The Four Seasons story reminded me of the time I went to Chicago and had some time to burn after I landed. I decided to check out Marshall Fields and was browsing the store dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and carring an empty-looking bag (my carry-on bag emptied of everything but reading material for the train). I had so many attentive staff members come by and ask how I was doing and if I needed help finding anything... don't think I ever got so much attention in a store.

Posted by: Lyle at April 14, 2005 06:14 PM

You could try this: next time you're asked if you need help, shrug and say "nope--just browsing" while giving them this contemptuous look that says "you think *you* are in a position to help *me* with wine?"

Jerky, but it might work. The best defense is to give offense. Or something.

Posted by: someone at April 15, 2005 04:24 AM

once you master the yuppie store, please tell me how to master the yuppie salon...

or any salon for that matter.

if i could just get my hair cut by walking in, sitting down and not moving during the experience it would be a good day.

Posted by: punctilious at April 15, 2005 06:06 AM

I actively judge tony establishments by how they treat me/my mom if she/I go in looking like a snob. If I get weird looks, or anything but the best service, they aren't the real thing.

Real class lies in how you treat people. If I'm wearing jeans I'd better get the same damned service you've give me if I were in a suit--or you just lost my business for good.

But I'm an Angeleno: we get weird about it if people demand that we dress up. There's a strange kind of anti-snob snobbery around here that's hard to explain to people outside SoCal.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 15, 2005 09:54 AM

My reaction in Yuppie stores is similar to Meryl's. I look at and listen to some of those customers and think, "That's someone who lives in a gated community". Those gates should have guards on both sides. One to let those twits in and one even more selective to let them out.

Posted by: Rob at April 16, 2005 12:31 PM