Letters to the Editor

Grocery store confusion

The other day, I received a call from my son in a panic. “Dad, I just went to my local grocery store (in Seattle’s U District) and came home empty-handed. Now I don’t know what to do about cooking tonight, and I’ve invited a few friends over.” I’ve discussed this with my Island friends and discovered that my son’s predicament has been repeated throughout Puget Sound by many other Mercer Island kids who leave the Island totally unprepared for the off-Island shopping experience.

Let me explain. Growing up on the Island presented our family with identical shopping experience at three grocery stores all dedicated to a common theme: basic foods for basic people. Nothing fancy, but put in other words: they get the job done.

So, there he was in a new neighborhood with only a Metropolitan Market and Whole Foods to choose from, and I fault myself for not preparing him better for what I knew would prove to be a rough transition.

“Dad, I wanted to get some frozen fish sticks, but all they had was this huge aquarium with unrecognizable seafood. What was that all about?” He queried. “Oh, that’s a live fish tank with fresh seafood that you can purchase just like you can in the frozen food section at QFC,” I responded. He continued, “Another thing — I’m looking for generic white bread, but all they had was this fancy stuff in paper bags!” I promised I’d get some Wonder Bread at Albertsons and assured him that it would be double-wrapped in plastic so to last well into the fall.

No paper or plastic option in this case he discussed: “Why are there so many people trying to feed me there, when all I want is some processed meat and cheese and diet coke?” He didn’t understand that many of these fancy stores have samples that range from exotic fruits to specialty meat, cheeses and breads. “What were you going to serve for dessert?” my wife inquired. “I was hoping to find some Hostess Twinkies or Sarah Lee brownies, but all I found was this Italian dessert called tirametoo (we think he meant tiramisu) or crème brûlée, whatever that is.”

“OK, I’ll pick some up for you at either QFC or Albertsons on the way home from work,” my wife offered. “And while you’re at it, mom, we could use some macaroni and cheese, Captain Crunch and a six pack of Diet Dr. Pepper.”

My son is both distraught and obviously disoriented. So, I am writing as a public service to my fellow Island residents that this kind of shopping disorientation can happen to any of your children. And I suggest a field trip with them to a potential new off-Island residence to preview the neighborhood grocery opportunities. If your child is as unlucky as mine, it could lead to confusion, disorientation and ultimately bitterness. I love our empty nester lifestyle but am afraid our lack of preparedness with our children may trigger the dreaded boomerang effect and propel our children back to our home and more familiar grocery peace of mind.

Michael Levin

Mercer Island

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