I rarely buy bread nowadays, not that I’m gluten-free by any stretch of the imagination; it’s just that at my age I’ve only to look at a piece of bread for it to add an inch or two to my waistline.
My wife Danusia loves bread too, and we favor dark bread, preferably whole wheat or something rustic. White bread, aside from having almost no taste at all has the texture of cotton balls.
Last week Danusia went to Fairway to do a little grocery shopping, and she lamented that at Fairway you can only buy whole loaves of bread, instead of a half or even a quarter loaf as you can at Whole Foods, which sells their bread by the pound.
So that was the thought that popped into my head today as I wandered the aisles of the Columbus Circle Whole Foods at 59th Street.
I was thinking about lunch, and lunch was going to involve my famous refried beans on tortillas and my own version of a harvest bowl when Danusia’s words intruded, and suddenly a chant popped into my head.
“Gotta get some wheat bread, gotta get some wheat bread.”
I felt like Ickey Woods in the Gieco commercial chanting about his cold cuts, but mercifully the chant did not reach my lips. I headed over to the bread aisle.
I found the bread I liked, a whole-wheat batard. I have no idea what a batard is, but it sounds French so it was pretentious enough for me. Besides, it’s only $4 a pound and I got half of a half loaf, enough to enjoy a few slices of bread without gaining five pounds. The nice woman behind the counter sliced it for me.
I went to pay, and when my number came up I went to register 23 where a young woman in her Whole Foods apron didn’t bother to look at me when I gave her a cheery hello. She just started ringing up my groceries.
As I transferred my items from my cart to the counter, all the while wondering why she hadn’t acknowledged my cheery hello without even the slightest of smiles I realized to my dismay that the price sticker the bread lady had put on my bread had stuck partway onto the plastic bag containing my lettuce.
I frantically tried peeling it off and succeeded only in ripping a bit of it off, the bit that said $3.30 on it. I started to panic, ready to show the offending piece to the scowling young woman, so she could note the proper price.
Then I remembered the bar code! That marvel of modern commerce, the UPC code. She would scan the code and it would be added to my bill. No worries.
I checked the bar code and it was flat and intact.
But when she tried to scan it, nothing happened. She swiped again with the same result. She put the bread aside, a look of further annoyance clouding her face.
She scanned everything else and then tried the bread again. Nothing. I was about to tell her about the piece that said $3.30 stuck to the lettuce bag when she angrily threw the bread into the shopping bag and pressed done on her register.
I handed her a fifty and waited for my change, and wondered if the bread had registered or not. My eyesight is bad enough I couldn’t read her screen.
She handed me my receipt, and I gave her a big smile and said, “thank you!”
The angry young woman did not return my smile or say you’re welcome; her eyes didn’t even meet mine. I hoped she could at least see my smile somewhere in her field of vision.
As I went up the escalator to street level I looked at my receipt. The bread wasn’t on there.
Who knows what happened to her this morning, maybe her boss yelled at her, her boyfriend ran away, her best friend wasn’t talking to her. It could have been the customer before me.
But it wasn’t me.
In the past I might have wondered if it was something I did or said, but I know I did my part and I didn’t get all bent out of shape about the way she behaved.
I hope she’s OK and has a better day tomorrow, and thanks for the free loaf of bread, by the way.