Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Not Your Food -- Yet.

Again and again, Etiquette Bitch finds herself shaking her head asking, "Didn't your mother teach you any manners?" The answer, unerringly, is "no."

When I was a little girl, Mom took me to the local WiseWay to grocery shop. Not eat. That's what you do at home in the privacy of your own dining room.

About 10 years ago, I was shopping in Andronico's with my friend Tina. Apparently, she was hungry. She brandished a bag of cookies. "I'm starving. I'm going to eat one of these now," she said.

"Are you kidding me?" I said.

"What? Don't you just eat in the grocery store when you're hungry?" she asked.

"No. That's rude. It's not your food yet; you haven't paid for it." I also mentioned to her I thought it was disgusting--when you open food and eat, you've got germs and bacteria flying around. And who knows where your hands have been.

Tina ate a cookie, then sheepishly stowed the bag in her cart, to be paid for later. After that day, Tina loved to gush at parties about how, "Etiquette Bitch thinks I'm rude for eating cookies in the store."

Well, yes, I do. And I'm still appalled to see this happening. Today, ~ 2 pm, Whole Foods Evanston, the checkout line. A little imp of about 9 years old was helping push his mom's cart into line behind me. He whined about how heavy it was (it was; the woman was cramming a month's worth of groceries into one of those half-carts); he started to unload the cart onto the conveyor belt, and then he yelled for the cashier who was waiting on the guest ahead of me. He jiggled a Stonyfield Farms yogurt in his hand. "Excuse me! Excuse me! Do you have a spoon?" he called out three times, before the cashier, bless her, answered him.

"No, I don't have a spoon," she said.

Okay -- let's just pause here for a moment and examine this situation. The kid is in the checkout line. He will be out of the store and free to eat in 3-5 minutes, if that. And he has to yell two customers ahead to get a fucking spoon so he can eat right now.

So, of course, the impatient brat didn't wait. "Do you know where I can get a spoon?" he called.

"They're in the cafe," said the cashier.

The kid blew outta there, and in a flash, he was back, plastic spoon in hand. He ripped open the yogurt faster than you can say "Stonyfield Farm," and had three spoonfuls shoved in -- most of it dripping down his chin--before his mom asked him to go get yet another item, because she needed four--not three-- pounds of butter. He kept shoveling and guess where the yogurt ended up? Some on him, some on the groceries.

What galled me, too, is that the mother stood there, ignoring: his yelling, his impatience, and his mess . Why are we not teaching our kids patience? A two-minute wait would not have killed him.

NOTE/UPDATE: I will allow that when the grocery store is handing out free samples, chow away. They are giving you the food. The unopened bag -- you haven't paid for it. And how grimy/uncouth is it to ask the cashier to ring up your opened, empty bag that just had your food-coated hands all over it?

I recall another food store visit when the woman ahead of me in line had just snarfed down a candy bar. She then handed the grimy, chocolate-smeared, torn wrapper to the cashier with a, "here."

Folks, I don't care how hungry you are. You're not supposed to go shopping on an empty tummy. You spend a ton more money that way. If you're hungry on the way to the grocery store, go get a cookie at Starbuck's, or drive through some fast-food joint, and chow down. Eating food you haven't yet purchased is not only rude, it's pretty disgusting. I'd even say unethical -- you have yet to pay for it.

The food isn't yours 'til you pay for it. Wait until you get to the car, then snarf away. Believe me, Etiquette Bitch does this regularly with her bulk chocolate and bananas.