I live in a densely populated area. I have learned how to deal with extreme crowds and where to escape when I need a respite from all the people. I have gotten quite skilled in the fine art of knowing where to go when in order to avoid being in the same place at the same time as too many of my fellow New Yorkers. Today I failed, epically, at navigating the overly populated waters of my neighborhood. I walked into Fairway around 2:00PM expecting to dash in and out with the produce and baking supplies I needed. Apparently every resident of the Upper East Side had the same thought.
I slowly made my way into the produce section, which I would like to point out is quite large, to be greeted with wall-to-wall people. All ages, sizes, and colors of people carrying and pushing shopping carts were attempting to get fruits and veggies. When I found myself at a complete standstill at one of the major walkways I shrugged and decided to go down one of the smaller aisles. Thinking myself pretty brilliant at having the navigating skills to bypass the major walkways and still get what I needed I took two large strides without getting bumped into or bumping into someone. Then…BAM! My ignorant belief that I am the only one who knows Fairway’s produce section like the back of her hand was shattered when I found myself amongst at least 50 people crammed in a tiny aisle way trying to figure out how to move more than their facial muscles without hitting someone else. After delicately weaving through the produce section, acquiring and causing less than a dozen bruises, I made my grand escape through a woman who thought it funny to actually make loud beeping noises while backing up her cart.
I was already plotting which olive oil I was going to use to dip the amazing baguette I was about to scoop up in when I came face to face with empty shelves. I, and about 20 other people, stood, staring in shock and despair at the shelves that are usually overflowing with fresh baguettes just out of the oven. We were speechless. We were also causing a major traffic jam for people trying to get through the already crowded walkway. Some employee shouted something about more coming and our needing to keep moving. None of us responded. Where were our beloved baguettes? How could we go home without this essential item on our grocery lists? How could people so cruelly bump into us in our delicate states simply because they needed to get past us in a store that was probably breaking every fire code ever listed by the sheer number of people crammed under its roof?
I did finally get my baguette. I also survived the checkout, which was surprisingly mild compared to the rest of the store. I walked out onto E. 86th Street and for the first time in my life thought, “What a quiet street this is.” The amount of air and space on the sidewalk was almost too much for me. What had I just done to myself? Had I really gone grocery shopping at the same store with 90% of the inhabitants of my neighborhood? What is wrong with me? The entire 11-block walk home I kept thinking, “Why did I do that?”