Brotherton: Down the rabbit Whole

Customers walk into Whole Foods at MarketStreet in Lynnfield on Friday.
Customers walk into Whole Foods at MarketStreet in Lynnfield on Friday. (Spenser R. Hasak)

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went to Whole Foods Market for the first time ever. We were shopping for lamb’s lettuce (aka mache lettuce), which we enjoyed in a salad at an Endicott College alumni dinner in Beverly. Market Basket didn’t stock it. McKinnon’s didn’t have it. We refused to cross the picket line at Stop & Shop. So I got the idea to travel to Whole Foods at Lynnfield’s MarketStreet outdoor mall one sunny Saturday afternoon.

“I bet they’ll have it,” I predicted. “I’ve heard their produce department is bigger than Kim Kardashian’s bum, and everything is organic.”

So, we went. Wow! Big mistake.

Let me start by saying the Whole Foods employees were very pleasant and helpful, joining us in our search for the lettuce, which they didn’t have.

But the customers, oy vey! What’s with these people? It’s as if they consider the entire Whole Foods Market their personal shopping space. “Who are these heathens in my store,” I imagined them thinking. They’re important people in a rush, dontcha know, and their time is much more valuable than yours or mine. They’re on a mission and the heathens  better stay out of their way.

In a 10-minute span, we saw several supermarket snobs push their carts into fellow shoppers, with no apology forthcoming; Grocery shopping as a hit-and-run contact sport, what a concept. Others sampled a full meal’s worth of sunflower seeds and macadamia nuts available in the buy-in-bulk bins. Many, for reasons unknown to Luddite me, shoved their phones into the face of butchers, bakers and soy-candlestick makers.

Some verbally assaulted and peppered employees with increasingly mundane questions about the beef and poultry being sold. Wiseacre Bill was tempted to approach the counter and ask, “I know your meat has no added hormones or antibiotics, but can you tell me if the cow babies were forced to binge watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or Marvel’s ‘Avengers’ movies? That would surely make the meat tough.”

As soon as we stepped into the gigantic organic produce section, it was obvious this wasn’t the place for us. It was as if we walked onto the film set for “The Stepford Wives and Their Significant Others” or “Dawn of the Dead.” Zombies all, fashionably disheveled or stunningly dressed in Lauren polos and Lululemon yoga pants. The missus and I wore ratty sweatshirts and dungarees. “Oh, look. They must’ve just dug up and delivered potatoes from the farm,” some might have thought.  

It’s not fair to paint every customer with the same, stereotypical brush, but if there were nice people in the store I didn’t meet them. They all seemed angry, stressed, obnoxious, insufferable. It truly was a mad-house.

It was like they were part of a cult, worshipping at the altar of organic fruits and veggies instead of Sun Myung Moon. I felt out of place, like Jed Clampett at the Metropolitan Opera House, or a turd in a punch bowl filled with Organic Harmless Coconut Water.

There was always a cart parked where I wanted to be, and its owner was  nowhere to be found. Do you move it and risk eternal condemnation or wait for its owner to return? Oblivious customers in their own little world stopped in the middle of an aisle, creating a bottleneck, staring across the way, taking forever to decide whether to buy the Gluten-free Omega Flax & Fiber Bread or the Organic Spelt & Grain Bread.

I couldn’t wait to leave.

Even that took a while. In the parking lot, a dad struggled for what seemed like days to buckle his children into car seats and then move a big, black, gas-guzzling GMC Yukon Behemoth Edition out of a tight space and into the rotary exit.

When we got home, I looked online to see if our experience was abnormal. Seems it isn’t.

Still, before writing this, I decided to visit once more, again on a Saturday, to be sure I wasn’t being unfair. I wasn’t.

But this day, I decided to buy a few sweet baked goods. I couldn’t resist delish-looking macarons, madeleines, moonpies and a pecan coffee cake. At the express checkout, however, I committed the mortal faux pas of placing my items on the wrong side of the express cash register. People on both sides of me stopped talking on their phones and glared. You’d think I was wearing a MAGA hat or something. Maybe they were angry that I was going to enjoy macarons for dessert, while they’d be nibbling on organic, fat-free, unsalted kale chips.

I exited through the smoothie bar, looked at the menu, and considered bringing home a large lip-smacking Chlorophyll Up (cucumber, celery, spinach, parsley, lemon, green superfood). Doesn’t that sound yummy? I would ask for three plastic straws. That would probably send everyone over the edge.

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