April 5, 2010

Benton Harbor Meijer Time Machine

It is the night of the NCAA national championship. It's opening day for Major League Baseball. The regular seasons for the NBA and NHL are drawing to a close, with their respective playoff races heating up. In times like these, I need to do what any red-blooded adult American male would. I'm going to write about grocery shopping.

For those of us who grew up going to Meijer, a visit to the Benton Harbor Meijer can be like a trip back in time. Every other Meijer in the world seems to have been updated and outfitted to modernity, with the accouterments to make grocery shopping feel like an event: Low lights, exotic fruits, rustic-looking muffin carts. For me, grocery shopping is an event, but not because of the rustic-looking muffin carts. I think it has to do with having an excuse to spend a bunch of money on food. I don't need accouterments. Which suits the BH Meijer fairly well, because it has no accouterments. It might not know what accouterments are. I'm not sure I do.

A few months ago, I was going to buy a TV. But I couldn't find them at the BH Meijer. I assumed they didn't have them, because they were nowhere near the CDs. A few weeks later, I found them. They were by the jewelry and houseplants. They still cram all their TVs into one narrow aisle, so you can't spot them from across the store and wander zombielike toward their warm, motherly glow. You have to take in the grandeur of a 50" Plasma screen from three feet away with a hook of coaxial cables digging into your spine.

The BH Meijer has the layout that every Meijer had before focus groups told them not to put the milk by the shoes. It's not pretty, but you can still buy a whole lot of stuff there. I would like to recommend that they conduct a focus group about the music they play. It's really terrible. Honestly, I know they haven't updated their floor plan, and that's fine, because I can still get great deals, but they can update their music.

Today, I started at one end with the frozen foods and meats. I realized as I began my cart-fillery that, depending on the direction I went at the beginning, I was choosing the people I would either be consistently stuck behind or crossing paths with once an aisle. In the end, this really doesn't make much difference because I inevitably skip whole aisles - mostly the ones with household cleaners and healthy stuff - and spend a long, long time debating which cheese I want, or whether or not the tomato sauce will make an acceptable pizza sauce.

The ice cream aisle tonight could best be described as a clusterphooey. Someone had been charged with rearranging the novelties - probably at the urging of a focus group - to a more modern arrangement. The Skinny Cows should not be with the Dippin' Dots. I thought, as I maneuvered my cart between tall stacks of hurriedly melting pints, that this was the sort of thing they should do when there aren't people around, like how they do road construction at 3:00 am. They should not be doing this at 8:00 on a monday, prime bachelor ice-cream buying time.

On the tea aisle, there were two women speaking with English accents. Whenever I hear someone speaking in an English accent, I get the feeling I am somewhere significant, where people from all over the world need to go for some reason. And I desperately wanted to ask these foreign women where they were from and what they were doing in the BH Meijer. I was genuinely curious. I also wanted to try to talk to them in my English accent and maybe get some pointers on how to improve it. But this is exactly the cliche kind of American thing to do, especially if you get it wrong. "Scuse me, gov-nah, ah you from Australia?" They would inevitably dismiss me as a stupid American. Of course, these two women were having the most cliche English conversation they possibly could be, berating American tea habits. "They drink it cold here," one said. "I don't like it cold," the other replied. I moved on.

The rest of my grocery shopping experience is pretty uneventful. I bought a mango. I saw the English chicks again, and there were a couple other foreign dudes buying a whole lot of booze.

There's one thing that the BH Meijer has that needs not be improved: The parking lot slopes gently down, away from the entrances. This makes it prime cart sailing territory, and with a good shove, you can easily coast right up next to your Honda Civic.