Of course I didn’t remember those coupons in my pocket until I was buried deep in the checkout line. The coupons that came in the mail from Safeway: one for 20 percent off of meat and seafood; one for 20 percent off produce -- a great (and rare) deal. Safeway must be overstocked. I should really be taking advantage of that. (cont.)
I looked down at my purchases shamefully. Not a single one even qualified. My items: bread, generic lunch meat, cheese, coffee, soft drinks, jelly, cookies -- mostly the makings of a bag lunch (I’ve recently been “lured” back into laboring and I need to bring one). Money is tight. These are the rations of a dietary-survivalist who knows he must toil in the days ahead. That’s my excuse anyways.
I looked at what the woman ahead of me was purchasing. She didn’t have any fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, or seafood either. She was buying mostly noodles in big, boldly-blue rectangular boxes and a few discreetly marked Asian spices. In turn, the woman behind me -- with two notably well-behaved young children -- had in her cart a cornucopia of various junk foods, sugary cereals, and other nonperishable items.
No fresh food was in sight.
Perhaps those soft, brown, motherly eyes were drawing the same conclusions as my own. Or perhaps she read my mind. Or perhaps still, a cautionary umbra of diabetes had settled over the entire store. But as I packed my purchases (I brought my own bag not that it’s a big deal or anything), she made a comment. It was so transparent and honest, I wanted to hug her.
“How are you?” the cashier asked.
“Conflicted,” she said looking down with a sense of worry (Did I mention she was pregnant too?). “I’m seeing way too many brightly colored boxes full of sweet things in my grocery cart and not enough green, fruit-and-vegetable things.”
I wanted to reach in my pocket, pull out the coupon for 20 percent off all produce, and hand it to her. I wanted to encourage her to go back and reevaluate the consequences of everything she ate. I wanted to tell her to break the cycle of junk food while her kids were young enough to have their eating habits impressed upon.
But I didn’t -- of course I didn’t. That would be rude. And it wouldn't have mattered. She knew. She wanted those things too, but subsisting off of carby, over-processed, liquid-sugar-soaked crap is affordable. Simple as that. Based on my own purchases, I was in no spot to advise anyways.
Instead, I walked out with the beep…beep…beeping of the check-outs echoing in compartments of my mind which I prefer to ignore. Maybe Safeway was trying to tell us something: Whether because of Hawaii's isolation and a lack of local produce, nutritional education, or funds to do so, not enough people are buying fresh foods these days.
The coupons are valid until Sept. 18th. I hope I remember to use mine.