Where Shopping is a Leisure

Grand opening of new Publix brings many obscure observations

It's 4:34 p.m. I am barreling down the left lane on 66th Street North, keeping one eye on my illegal odometer speed and one on the row of Publix banners that are whizzing past my passenger window.

"Ah, I found it!" I shout in pathetic victory. I coast into the parking lot and head for the aisles; the new parking garage looks like it has reached its capacity for the moment. Maybe I should try again next time.

As I spot a parking space on the outskirts of the parking area, I slam on my brakes to prevent a customer from smashing the side of my Mountaineer, while they carelessly haul it in reverse. This place is like a fucking reptile zoo.

As I walk into the new Publix, I am greeted by the small lobby area, with escalators and elevators. I hop on the upwards escalator, feeling like I am entering an airport for some kind of secret mission: "WHERE IS THE BOX OF SACRED CRUNCHBERRIES?! THE PRESIDENT NEEDS AN EDIBLE PEACE OFFERING!... SHOULD WE INITIATE DEFCON 4?!"

No worries, America. I'm here now.

When I get to the second floor, I am puzzled by the circular desk in the central area, complete with its own friendly receptionist. Apparently this is where I go for lottery tickets, Money Services and Publix Services. I wonder if I could also make a room reservation, schedule an appointment or book a flight out of this bitch.

Shoppers are infesting the store like termites at the Grand Opening today. I see young teenagers, middle-aged adults and their children, elderly people and even two nuns perusing the store. There is a line at the seafood counter.

There are so many shoppers, it seems like there should be some kind of holiday around the corner. However, Publix is lacking islands of canned yams and sales on Pillsbury pie crusts; it is just a normal Thursday.

Sometimes, humans remind me of Furbies. No wait; make that hamsters. People will get excited over anything that's new, even if it consists of the same crap they are exposed to everywhere else. It's just like adding a new plastic tube to a hamster cage; all of the tubes are the same, except now this one curves to the left.

It's the same brands. Same white shelves. Same "amazing sales" that rotate every other week. And oh yes, those are the same Totino's Frozen Pizzas that they sell at Sweet Bay. But oh those Publix free samples. Decision swayed.

This one even has its own shopping cart escalator and an ENTIRE aisle of Hallmark Greeting Cards! This one has a self-serve soda fountain in front of the deli, so I can have a Pepsi on the rocks while pushing an unopened 2-liter around in my cart. This one must be better.

I know I always need an overdose of caffeine and Get Well cards while I shop for food. Does anyone know which aisle carries beach sandals and unleaded gasoline? Anyone?

This store even puts all of the healthy snacks in the "Greenwise Market" section of the snack aisle for easy identification. I would say that's convenient avoidance for the average American diet. Come on now, Americans don't like eating "wise." It's like disguising aspirin in applesauce; you gotta mix that shit in with the Doritos. What are you thinking, Publilx?

As I comb the aisles, I notice that Publix officials are watching me like a flock of hawks. I pass them a few times while scribbling in my notebook to see if they say anything to me.

Their facial expressions give a distrusted vibe of my presence: "She's not shopping!!! Why does she have a notebook?!"

I hop down the escalator and decide to stand at the entrance, to count how many customers get confused about how to enter the new Publix messiah. Four people in 3 minutes. In three minutes, 4 people try to enter the store through down escalator; the one for the carts no less. I think I'll stop counting now.

I spot two suited Publix officials moving towards me on the electric staircase. They touch the floor and bolt in my direction like CIA agents. A hasty departure may be necessary in the upcoming seconds.

"What are you writing??" questions Mark Andrews, the store manager. The other Publix agent remains silent. He must be the back-up, just in case I get out of hand.

"Just takin' some notes..." I reply vaguely. It's always fun to make people wonder.

"All good things? Who are you with? What are you writing about?" he interrogates, as customers whiz past us in the direction of the incorrect escalator.

Right now I'm counting the number of people that are confused about entering your store, I thought. "Oh yea," I say. "Lots of good things."

On my trip home, I pass my local Madeira Beach Publix. The parking lot is half empty. There are no balloons. No crowds. No fucking banners. It's just a normal Thursday.


My Resume

I like it.

Free writes are fun. Wafflehouse? Even better.

I'd like to be a restuarant critic. Someday. Maybe.

This is by far the grossest thing I've ever witnessed in the 21 years I've been alive. Wafflehouse. 3:46 a.m. I can't believe humans are actually consuming this food. How the fuck do I always get dragged to Wafflehouse?

Last time I was with my best friend and a group of guy friends we'd only known a couple days. They did coke in the parking lot while my friend and I waited inside, swivelling on the stools at the front counter. We didn't hang out with our new friends after that.

Nobody inside a Wafflehouse past 2 a.m. is sober. Anybody in their right mind and sober state would see the 1,502,289 health code violations in the cooking area alone. When you're wasted, everything tastes amazing. That soggy, half-cooked waffle is like a breakfast fiesta in your pie-hole. Any kind of waffle would taste delicious; even your taste buds are inebriated. It's like heaven when the irritated, underpaid waitress sets the plate of chocolate chip waffles down on your table smudged with ketchup from the previous shoppers.

However, in your drunken stupor, you fail to realize that the entire restaurant is a breeding ground for E. coli and other fun bacteria. There is lively a germ festival taking place in the midst of the waffle iron area. It's like a bacteria circus; the waffle irons are definitely the Ferris wheels of the joint. Jesus Tapdancing Christ. Even the employees are intoxicated. I think I'd have to be to work here.

Nobody in a Wafflehouse past 2 a.m. is sober. Except me.



Recent study shows that age may predict the future for first marriages.

"I don't buy that," said Teresa Scroppo, a wife of 34 years and mother of seven kids. "Twenty two isn't much older than 18. You choose to love. Anybody who goes into a marriage with divorce as an option is doomed to fail."

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reflects the current marriage patterns of couples in the United States. The findings are based on the results from the National Survey of Family Growth, a study of women ages 15-44.

The study links a woman's age at the time of her first marriage to the length of time it may take that marriage to collapse. Patterns show that the older a woman is at her first wedding ceremony, the longer that marriage may last.

For example, 59% of marriages to brides under age 18 end in separation or divorce within 15 years, while only 36% end when the bride is 20 or older.

Overall, findings suggest that 43% of all first marriages fail within 15 years of declaring holy matrimony. Scroppo is a part of the 57%. Could this have anything to do with her age on the wedding day?

"We were both 22 when we got married," she said. "I knew immediately that he was the one for me."

Nineteen year-old Blance Simonin is having a different marital experience. Married at age 18, she now has a 9-month-old son and two jobs. Simonin finds it hard to be married at a younger age: "I'm still learning to understand how it works."

For video clips of young couples experiencing the married life, check out MTV episodes of Engaged and Underage.

(This was my first article assignment ever in Writing for the Mass Media)