Day 148: A 24 Hour Supermarket Is A Beautiful Thing

I took Meijer for granted. It took me a very long time to realize that. In all of the hustle and bustle that goes into living in New York, you tend to forget about the little things that might be lacking in your life. Years could go by and you’ll realize that you miss parking lots. You might not immediately miss a good radio station. You’ll have to go somewhere else in the country and realize how much the radio out here sucks. Remember doing laundry in your own home? Me neither, but I heard that it’s a thing that’s possible. Among all the things that The City That Has It All™ is lacking, the one that suddenly cuts deep is a place like Meijer. No, I’m not seeking a place that I can buy kale and ammunition at, although the idea of one-stop shopping is also non-existent here. I’m talking about the idea of a 24 hour supermarket.

I can already hear people saying, “BuT cOzE, tHeRe’S tOnS oF gRoCeRy StOrEs OpEn AlL nIgHt!!!”. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m missing a place that I can walk around freely and buy a cart of stuff, not a place to get dusty ramen and expired Mountain Dew while the clerk cuts his toenails. It’s not a very common commodity and especially in pandemic times, it’s something that we all could use. The idea of full-on grocery shopping in New York is one filled with chaos and loathing. There’s never a good time to go. Big Supermarkets are generally full at all hours of operation. If you go in the morning, the place is filled with people that had the same idea. If you go right before closing, there’s usually still an ample crowd, but with much less things in stock and even fewer cashiers on the clock. There’s just no good time to go to the supermarket. This is why I made the habit of writing while I waited in line. I needed to make something productive out of my gargantuan waste of time.

Moving to Queens, the game seemed to change a little bit. Equipped with a reserved parking spot, the world was suddenly my oyster. I could literally buy groceries wherever the hell I wanted and it was a wonderful feeling to hold so much power. Our first experiment was a Shop Rite in Flushing. The parking lot looked spacious and I was told once upon a time that it was cheaper than your typical grocery store. Instead, we got crowds, inflated prices and bags with no handles. Wasn’t awful, but still felt like a bust to me. Weeks passed and my second idea was much, much stupider. We went to the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream because why the hell not? I now know why the hell not. Because the place was hell. I almost got hit by a car numerous times just wandering around the parking lot trying to find a cart. Other poor souls were begging exiters for theirs. Once I got inside, it was like nothing I had ever seen. Just trying to get to the grocery area took 10 minutes, as every aisle was gridlock human traffic. Employees without masks were shouting at customers. The beer/water aisle consisted of pallets of bottled water, with hordes of customers piling them into their carts. There was no sale. There was no storm coming. It was just 6:00 on a Thursday evening. We abandoned our cart. We plowed our way straight out the door and will never look back.

Defeated, we retreated back home with no food. If only the Wal-Mart was open 24 hours, it’d probably be comfortable to go to at 2AM. Grocery shopping in the city has worn me down over the years. What we really need is a place to go to while the world is sleeping. And as it turned out, that place was only a 7 minute drive away. The Food Bazaar on Norther Blvd looked to be the ticket. Spacious, affordable, ample parking and open for us to come any time we pleased. We got there just after midnight, grabbed a cart and went inside.

Going through the door, I was transported to a different world. One that I missed so dearly. It was so unbelievably sleepy, but also welcoming. At no point did we feel like we weren’t supposed to be there. The shelves were amply stocked and every corner was still well-lit. The radio softly played Golden Oldies. Like actual Golden Oldies. Like Purple People Eater Oldies. I found myself dancing through every aisle, just loving every second of it. The few times that we encountered other customers, they were also tired and polite. It was as if suddenly, we had left the city. This place reeked of the Meijer stores that I would shop at after hours. It unlocked a calm in my brain that I hadn’t felt in over a decade. Suddenly, grocery shopping was no longer a hassle.

Wherever you move to, there’s going to be something about the previous city that you’re going to miss. Some day, I will long for a place to buy dusty ramen and expired Mountain Dew at 4 AM. It probably won’t be anytime soon, but it’ll happen. It’s just a fact of life. But once you’re reunited with that commodity, it’s going to feel really goddamn special. Take it from me, the grocer that missed grocery stores.