Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The New Normal

When I first moved to Old Lyme from New York City I was warned that the local A & P supermarket happened to employ the grouchiest women in all of Southeastern Connecticut.  I learned this for myself right away when I was poking around in the produce department and heard one of them growl to the other, "I hate this fucking department.  I want to go back to the courtesy desk."

But Old Lyme is a small village and there's only the one supermarket in town so I became a steady, loyal A & P customer.  In fact, I've shopped there several times a week for 25 years.  And I've discovered that the women who work at the A & P -- and they are mostly women -- aren't grouchy at all.  They just don't like to be treated the way some of the people in town treat them, which is rudely.   But if you're nice to them -- if you talk to them like people -- they'll be nice right back to you.  More than nice.

In fact, I've gotten to be pals with a lot of them over the years.  Not pals who go out to dinner together but pals who catch up with each other for a few minutes every day to exchange tidbits of local news and gossip.  That's small town life.  It's a community where everyone is connected to everyone else.  When you go shopping you stop and chat with with your pals.  I'm pals with, let's see, there's Rosie and Sue and Yvonne.  There's the two Lisas, there's Tina, Marian and Mary Lou.  I've probably been pals with Terri the longest.  Terri was a cashier fresh out of high school when I first moved here.  Now she has a daughter of  her own in high school.  Terri and her husband Greg just adopted a black lab puppy named Riley.  I saw his picture on Facebook.  Terri and I are Facebook friends.

I know what goes on there with them.   I know whose husband is no good.  I know who can't get along with her mother no matter how hard she tries.  I know whose son just got back from Iraq. I know who has a new boyfriend and who wishes she did.  "I'm still searching for Prince Charming," she informed me brightly one morning.  "But all I ever meet are frogs."

And they know what goes on with me.  They always want to know when my newest Berger-Mitry mystery is coming out.  When it does they all read it.  They are some of my most faithful fans.

So it came as something of a blow to me when we were informed last week that our local A & P is closing at the end of October.   The market has been sold to another chain called Big Y, which intends to shutter it for a month and then reopen it under new management.  Only about 30 percent of the 88 people who presently work there will be retained by Big Y, and most of those people will be transferred to other Big Y markets.

I'm going to miss seeing my old friends every day.  They're going to miss seeing each other.  Already, they've begun exchanging tearful embraces.  And they're planning a major farewell blow-out party.  I know what they're calling the bash but I've sworn I won't tell anyone.

In case you're wondering why Big Y isn't keeping them around it's really pretty simple.    The A & P is a union supermarket and Big Y isn't.  So those lucky 30 percent who do hold on to their jobs will make be making less money and enjoying fewer benefits.  Which, of course, is what our economy is all about these days.  Squeezing more profits out of an existing business by taking money from the pockets of the people who work there -- if they're lucky.

I'm sure it will all be fine in the end.  I'm sure I'll get used to shopping at the new market and I'll make new friends with the new ladies who work there.  But it won't be the same.

It'll just be the new normal.


1 comment:

  1. you make me laugh, then cry. that seems to be the new normal, too.
    thanks for all of us who've been there