Gettin’ some (food) at the social Safeway

The “Social” Safeway
1850 Wisconsin
Ave., NW
Friday, March 7, 2003
3:05 p.m.

Every weekend it’s the same. I put on some tight pants, mascara, tall boots and head out to a bar. Standing in a cloud of smoke on a beer-soaked floor, I make dull conversation with guys of varied blood alcohol levels. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my nights out, but I have yet to meet one Prince Charming. This week I decided it was time for a change of venue. Forget Madhatter and The Front Page. Where’s an available college senior to go in search of a date? The grocery store, of course.

Dubbed the “social” Safeway by native Washingtonians, the District’s elite (senators, cabinet members and journalists) are rumored to frequent this Georgetown market. While the thought of cruising down the canned goods aisle arm and arm with Dick Gephardt did seem exciting, the store’s main attraction was its fame as a place for D.C. singles to intermingle with each other.

The Safeway is pretty far up Wisconsin – way past Thomas Sweet and Paolo’s. As I was huffing and puffing through Georgetown, I imagined the new guy I would meet while comparing oranges in the produce section. I finally saw the red Safeway “S” just as I was getting out my cell phone to call information to make sure the store actually existed.

I decided to take a basket over a cart when faced with the choice at the automatic doors. Baskets could be swung around in a flirtatious manner, while pushing around a big cart is very awkward.

I was a little disappointed when I entered the store. The first few customers I saw were a little out of my age range, and I am not talking the lone 40-year-old in the 1987 leather jacket nursing a beer in the back of the bar. I am talking gramps and granny. Grocery stores must be the hotspot for the over 80 crowd looking to relight the flame.

One elderly lady was exceptionally feisty. I was hanging out by the strawberries, seeing as they are an aphrodisiac and all, in hopes some bachelor would come my way, when she pulled up with her cart.

“We should get some strawberries,” she said softly to her male companion. And if she hadn’t been sporting the world’s thickest glasses, I am sure I would have seen her wink.

The gentleman examined the berries and then the price. After some thought, he gave what I thought was a very age-appropriate response: “Why don’t we just get some preserves.”

His lady friend did not seem as amused as I was.

I placed a carton of aphrodisiacs in my basket and was on my way.

I spotted a fairly attractive guy coming out of the cereal aisle clutching a box of Cap’n Crunch. Perfect, I thought, I love Cap’n Crunch. What beautiful mornings we would have together, shouting sweet nothings over each other’s crunching.

My daydream was interrupted when a granola-carrying girl threw her health food into his basket, right on top of our Cap’n Crunch. He smiled at her and said, “You know whenever I get home from the store I realize that I needed something else.” I was tempted to shout out “me!” but decided to cruise down to the junk food aisle instead. That’s where the real college hotties hang out.

Down at the end of the aisle a tall, dark, curly-haired guy was pushing his cart toward me. I grabbed a spot right in front of the chips and salsa, the perfect place to start a hot romance. I nonchalantly flipped my hair over my shoulder and studied the corn chips. At bars it is easy to come up with things to say to get a guy’s attention – “do you come here often?” or a comment about the song playing.

“I wonder if these guacamole chips are good?” I said so loudly I surprised myself, holding up a bag of green tortilla chips.

“They look pretty gross to me,” a male voice replied. I turned to see the respondent was not my curly-haired boy, but rather a bald-headed man about my father’s age. My latest love interest was examining the school supplies on the other side of the aisle. And they were not even cool supplies, but the kind of folders with horses and tigers on them that you used in second grade. I agreed with the man that the chips looked disgusting and decided to find a new aisle. Who wants a guy who chooses school supplies over salsa anyway?

Meat. Real men love meat. I walked to the back of the store to check out the beef. The managers at the social Safeway know what they are doing. Bottles of faux champagne (sparkling cider) line all the raw meat refrigerators. Suggestive? I think so. As I was meandering around the steaks, a middle-aged woman approached one of the employees.

“Do you know where they sell the earwax kits?” she asked loudly. All heads turned to look at her, including some seemingly eligible middle-aged men.

“I’ve never used them,” she said, trying to recover. “I’ve only heard of them.”

But the damage was done. I didn’t see her leaving the store with anything but an earwax kit.

But who was I to talk? All I had were my strawberries and no one with whom to share them. I hightailed it out of meat and down to dairy. A young man was checking out the Gatorade at the end of the aisle. Once again I was stumped about how to start up a conversation.

“Hi,” I said smiling. “I have sort of a weird question. I have to buy my brother some Gatorade and I don’t drink it. I was wondering if you could recommend a good flavor.”

What was I thinking? At least at bars if you say something stupid there is an 80 percent chance they did not hear you anyway.

“Uh, yeah, sure,” he replied. “Fruit punch is pretty good. So is lemon-lime.”

“Oh, thanks. It all looks pretty gross to me, though I think my brother said he liked strawberry once,” I said, unable to end the Gatorade conversation.

“Yeah, I guess,” he said, escaping from the aisle before I could ask his opinion on the Safeway-brand sports drinks. His loss, right?

Standing alone in the dairy aisle, I decided meeting people at the grocery store is no more fun than talking to guys at bars, and obviously the conversation is not much better. At least at a bar I am holding a mixed drink instead of an unopened bottle of strawberry Gatorade, which I really do hate.

I put back the Gatorade and the strawberries and picked up some stuff for dinner. What’s better than guys if not good food?

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