February 20, 2010

...a tale of forgetting...

After a delicious breakfast of black coffee and blueberry pancakes {both supplied by Man} it was time for this girl to restock the larder. I had been rather efficient this week, preparing a list the night before and checking it twice. I did wake up in the middle of the night, remembering that I had 1000 yen ($10.00) in my wallet and so would need to detour to the bank.

Today I wanted to try out the new Appleland in Shiojiri. Okay. It has been open for a few months, but I just wanted to see if it would be more convenient to travel one town over than source my meat and dairy {Seiyu has the best meat and yet...no sour cream, which is a must have staple for one of us} at two different stores.

The jury is still out.

There were significant price savings in the dry goods and fruit & veg areas. There was a little less variety but everything was better quality. I wasn't very impressed with the meat selection, but since I am LOV for the next 40 days, that won't really be an issue until the end of March or ManInCharge finishes the meat in the freezer. The bakery was a significant improvement and despite being pricier, had a good discount section and I scored some day old bread for 20% off. [Man does not notice stale bread and I toast all of mine anyway.]

ManInCharge's favorite milk was easy to locate, which was a huge bonus. However I was concerned that I could not find sour cream or ManSnacks, both of which if unlocated, would have required a trip to an alternate store. In the 11th hour I was saved by chance. The sour cream was with the whipping cream in the dessert case, not with the butter, cream cheese and cheese items. I have to remember that for some reason sour cream is a DESSERT item in Japan. The ManSnacks were not in the chip aisle, but they were in the beer snacks aisle, right underneath the prunes and cashews. Yay. Grabbed a bag of those {prunes} as an impulse purchase. Cashews are too much. They make me eat them all.

I got into line behind a lovely old obachan and waited patiently as she paid her bill in coins. As I began to unload my baskets onto the checkout counter, I remembered I had forgotten to stop by the bank. At this point I think I actually smacked my hand to my forehead.

You see as I was driving into Shiojiri there was a police check point and I had gotten flustered. Those men in their white helmets with their white and red batons and clown cars with flashing lights just totally throw me off. They check for speed, seat belts, registration, the usual...but they terrify me. I passed without the point man flicking his baton my way and was free and clear. However, in my nervousness forgot to look at the post-it on the dash to swing by the bank.

I know we have all gone to the checkout without funds before. It is so embarrassing. It is even more so when you need to explain such things in a foreign language. Even more so in a nation where excellent service is KING, and the sales clerks will do just about anything to satisfy you. Somehow I was able to adequately convey my lack of foresight to my clerk before she finished emptying my first basket. Unfortunately, there was no truely simple fix to my dilemma.

Of course this Appleland doesn't have any ATM machines on premisis. They do have complimentary ice for cooling your perishables. They even have a hot drink vending machine and a dry cleaning dropoff counter. But the closest ATM was in the Lawsons convenience store across the pedestrian bridge and four lanes of traffic about 700 meters away.

While I was processing, the clerk had neatly repacked my first basket and loaded both onto a cart. While she began to wheel my milk and eggs away, she informed me that she would keep my purchases safe & promptly disappeared into a staff-only refrigerated area of the store. {At this point I was only guessing. My Japanese comprehension is only terrible at best. I suppose I could have assumed that she was confiscating my shopping and kicking me out of the store, but she had my reusable bags attached to the cart, and that would be a VERY un-Japanese thing to do.} The consideration just served to further embarrass me.

As I crossed over the pedestrian bridge I was once again greeted by the sights of the police checkpoint. {In their infinite wisdom the cops had set it up in the MIDDLE of the intersection of two fairly major national roads, the 19 & 20...} I was momentarily frozen for my awe of these little men, their silly outfits, their bizarre locational choice and the reality that they still managed to intimidate me. I hustled to the ATM & made my withdrawal. Then I detoured to the candy aisle in order to invigorate myself for the long walk of shame back. I needed to make myself feel better about being such a dunce. I ate one of these: It made my teeth hurt.

As I approached the store, the clerk ran to the back and retrieved my shopping. I could see her in the big panes of glass as I weaved through the parking lot. Apparently she had been tracking my progress. I wonder if she saw me staring at the cops. Or stuffing chocolate in my face. There is nothing that prepares you for learning to allow Japanese clerks running around with your stuff because you are an idiot and can't effectively communicate with them. But. Not being able to effectively communicate does for some reason make you feel less guilty about lolly-gagging and eating chocolates.

The rest of the trip was simple. I checked out {and paid}. I packed up my groceries. I utilized the complimentary ice dispenser. I even treated myself to a hot cocoa from the vending machine. I ended up spending about $30.00 less than usual, probably because of the lack of meat. I think I will go back next week and see how I fare now that I know the store's layout. Next time I will make sure my wallet is stocked, it's the least I can do for the staff.


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