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One of the best features of the supermarket where I do my weekly grocery shopping has always been the natural foods department, which until last week was just inside the front door. Imagine my dismay last Monday, then, when I walked into the store and saw a vast expanse of empty floor space where that section has always been. Now, I don't mind if people change their store around, but I do mind when my routine is disrupted.

Eventually I found the section I was looking for. It had been shoved toward the back of the store, with the shelves jammed together so tightly that there was barely enough room to push a cart down the aisle, much less turn one around. And when there was already a fellow errant shopper in the aisle I needed, I had to wait for her to finish reading every label and move on before I could move in.

Needless to say, I was nervous when I went back to do this week's shopping. They have moved things around again, and now the empty spaces are in a different section. But they didn't move the natural foods back to where they've always been. Apparently some feng shui expert has convinced them that condiments need to be just inside the front door, and that natural foods can be safely stowed halfway to the toilet paper. Now the first thing I see is a whole rack of mustard. (Yeah, I bought some mustard. What does that prove?)

The old signs are still in place, though, so it took a good fifteen minutes of scouting around before I happened upon the proper aisle. By that time I was so frustrated that I just wanted to get out of the store, but I managed to go all the way through my list. I had to roam back and forth across the store three times before I knew I'd found everything I was going to find.

The things I couldn't find I will do without until some other day when I'm fresher and less anxious to punch a hole in a bag of kettle chips or slam my cart into the rice cakes. That's a bad image to have of oneself, and yet sometimes I just can't help it.

When I was checking out, I was waiting for that question. You know, the one about whether I found everything okay? I had a rant prepared, but I didn't get to use it. Maybe they know this is a bad time to ask their customers that question. (Or maybe they could just tell by my body language and the look on my face that they didn't want to hear my answer.)

You know how I know I'll get over this? Because the aisles in this store are now the widest and least cluttered of any supermarket where I've shopped in about twenty years. That's the kind of change I can believe in.

But then on the way home I got behind a driver who couldn't manage to get within ten miles an hour of the speed limit. It's a good thing he was (I have to assume) too blind to read my lips through his rearview mirror. By the time I finally pulled into my driveway, I was more exhausted than frustrated.


My outing this morning started much better than it finished. I met Suzanne and Alex and Mom for coffee. I'm not going to complain about the guy in front of me in line who had two pages of notes and ordered eight different kinds of drinks. I tried to tune out his voice so I could remember the three things I was sent inside to order. I knew what I wanted, but the other two were strange to me. I like to say the right things in the right order. You don't want your "skinny" to come before your "venti," do you?

But the baristas were at their most efficient and I kept myself in the mental zone I needed to do my job right. Everybody got what they wanted. And best of all, Alex was in a good mood. In fact, he was in a manically good mood. He wanted to laugh so much that he would eat a cracker, then wind himself up for a monstrous belly laugh (then cram another cracker into his mouth). He laughed and laughed, until he started to run out of steam. Then he laughed again (and again and again), with a little less conviction each time. It was hilarious, but I stopped laughing back, because both of us needed to catch our breath.

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