I moved into a lovely attic this weekend in D.C.. The rent is amazing and I live with a great family. Today is day three of “real adulthood,” with my own space, money, and a paycheck (well no paycheck yet). I decided to get out of the house and grab some groceries from the nearby Aldi’s (discount store).
First I needed to eat something, so I wandered into the kitchen where the mom of the house is (my landlady). She fills me in that she is a self-labeled “semi-fanatic” when it comes to energy usage. She said that she likes to try to save money this way (here is where my stomach gets a little queasy). My family is definitely NOT fanatical when it comes to energy. I smile and she goes on. She says that she had an energy audit a few years back and had come in way below the recommended usage (and that this was one of her favorite achievements). I start to panic a little. The landlady goes on…that she knows she doesn’t conserve as much as other Mennonites she knows, for instance a little girl once reprimanded her “you don’t turn off the water when you brush your teeth!” We both chuckled here (me a little self-consciously). I like to just leave water on all the time. I leave it on when I brush my teeth, take my 30-40 minute showers, wash loads of laundry, etc., etc. My whole family is like this, conservation is just not one of our priorities (we are non-denominational-power-hungry-republicans). Then, she goes on that she doesn’t really use her dryer–wait, what?! She says that she doesn’t expect me to do this (phew!), but she just likes to use dryer racks, because she used to live in Europe where they don’t have dryers. My landlady also mentioned that most of the region we live in is powered by wind and that the government is asking that people use energy at night whenever possible, since the windmills blow most at night (and THIS ENERGY CAN’T BE STORED). They don’t tell you that on the commercials.
Here my mind is spinning. She likes to do laundry at night. However, she goes to bed at like 9 o’clock. So that means I would need to do my laundry at 7 so as not to worry about the noise waking her up. Great. I also have to try to conserve dryer use. How many loads will be OK to do in a week. I don’t have many clothes, which causes a problem, because apparently running two loads when you could run one is probably bad for the earth.
[BIG NOTE HERE. My landlady is REALLY nice! She wasn’t trying to guilt me into anything, or make me feel bad. She has just grown up in a very frugal-earth-friendly culture. She probably thinks that I have been raised this way too, not to mention that Mennonite-small-talk is swapping ideas on how to save money. She also gives me a fantastic rent with kitchen and laundry privileges.]
Ok, with breakfast done I decide to go upstairs and get ready to go to the grocery store. I grab my list off the desk, get my keys, check that I have my bus card, and then I notice my phone is dead. So, I plug it in with a groan. The bus that I need only runs like every 45 minutes, which means I will miss the one I was going to take. I decide I’ll half-charge my phone and take a nap.
I get up from my nap and go out the door. I realize that I forgot my phone, but don’t want unlock the door, go up two flights of stairs, and then walk to the bus stop and wait for up to 45 minutes in the 85 degree heat. It’s day time and I shouldn’t need it to just go down the road and back. Right? I promise myself that I will NEVER AGAIN do this (and that there are no serial killers roaming Aldi’s for discount fruit snacks). I walk in what I hope is the direction of the bus stop and find the stop I need in about 5 minutes. I wait for the bus with another woman for about 20 minutes. I get one the bus, the door closes, and I realize that I got on the bus going the opposite direction. I hate moving at this point.
I know that it would make the bus driver mad, if I asked to get off and decide I’ll explore the route. We go across a bridge and into a neighborhood I haven’t visited before. I then remember that I don’t want to be gone too long without food, or my phone. Someone requests to stop near a strip mall (three stops away from where I started), and I see a fast-food joint, and decide to get off. There is a library branch across the street, and I decided to go across and check the bus schedule on a computer. This way I wouldn’t be waiting in the heat in a strange neighborhood.
I cross the street and go into the tiny library. There were maybe 15 shelves, 5 computers against a wall, and about 6 adults with various children cooling of in the AC. I browsed three shelves, then walked over the computer. It wanted a library card number. So much for that idea. So I walked outside and went to the bus stop. Now I am waiting in full sun again on a bench. I think about ordering a pop from the Checker’s, but know that as soon as my back is turned the bus will drive right past. I had already seen two bus drivers drive past stops that had people at them, just because they were digging in their bag and didn’t see. I decided not to risk it. I waited another 10 minutes for the bus going in the right direction to come. I got on and found a seat, rode to my stop, and got off in front of the Aldi’s strip. Then I remembered that I forgot to bring bags. Aldi’s doesn’t have their own and I didn’t know if they sold the cloth ones. Here is where I am a bit discouraged, but I know I have an hour before the next bus comes. So I go into a Baskin Robins to buy an iced coffee ($2.59 ouch) and ask for some plastic bags. The clerk says they don’t have any, only paper bags (lunch size), then asks if this is the first time I had been there. I didn’t know what “there” he meant: D.C., Baskin Robins, or the area, so I just said, “No” and walked out. Then I had a terrible thought, does Aldi’s take credit?! I had this flash back to checking out of an Aldi’s and having to pay in cash. I look around for a place that would have a ATM. There is a gas station and a 7-eleven. Gas stations make me nervous when I am by myself, so I go up to the 7-eleven. I go past a group of Hispanic teenagers to double doors. There is a big sign saying to use the other entrance. So I turn around and walk past the boys again. They start making kissing sounds and saying “Hi.” I ignore them and go in. I can’t see a ATM and the line is long, so I go into the Aldi’s.
I wait in line and ask the cashier if they take credit. They look at me like I’m an alien and say, “Yes.” This is when I remember that my friend and I had been in a “cash only” lane at that other Aldi’s, with a long line behind us. I spot a rack of cloth bags and quickly grab two and start to shop. I now have two full bags and my purse. Half way through the line I realize I didn’t get a cart. Oh no! At Aldi’s they have a two-cart system. One is empty at the register, and you shop with one. After you empty your cart onto the conveyor the cashier throws all your groceries into an empty cart, and then you give them your empty one for the next customer. There is no way to get a new cart from inside the store, and there are already two people behind me. I ready myself for annoyed customers, and politely tell the cashier that I forgot a cart, but that all the groceries will fit in the bags. She smiles and says, “OK” and proceeds to put my groceries in the empty card, and the bags beside them empty. I figure that she will have the attendant bring her an empty cart for the next customer, but she starts loading his groceries into the basket of the cart. I tell her those are his groceries, and she says “I know.” Great, now I have to load up my bags out of some stranger’s cart. I swipe my card and say, “Credit.” She says, “Oh, we only take debit.” Now I feel like I’m going to faint…I haven’t used credit in like 3 years, I don’t remember my pin. I try it twice and tell her that I can’t remember. They must think I’m a complete idiot. Ask if they take credit, don’t have a cart, can’t remember my pin. I try again, and say that I’m really sorry but I won’t be able to remember it. I am stumbling through asking what I do, and she says, “Do you need to go to the bank?” I think that testing pins at an ATM is at least less public, and the angry customers won’t be behind me. I ask if there is an ATM nearby, and she says the 7-eleven. Joy. I assure her that I will be right back, and go back across the street, thankfully the boys are gone. About half-way across the street I have a realization. I know my pin, this is my new debit card, the one I got while at college. I made the pin something easy for me to remember. I had been trying to use my old debit card pin that had been generated by the other bank when I was 13. I think about going back to the Aldi’s and skipping the ATM, but want to double-check–it had been one of those days. I ask the cashier if they have an ATM and he points at the corner. I had looked around the store before, so I ask if it is inside or outside. He looks puzzled and says, inside right over there. I get over there and notice there is a small wall blocking the view to that corner. This is about the 80th time I’ve looked stupid today. I enter my pin and it is accepted right away, I withdraw $60 (+$2.50 charge for the ATM), and head back across the street. I go into the store that I just left not 3 minutes ago, and the cashier is gone. The lane I was in is empty and my cart is nowhere to be seen. I look around for a minute and then ask the guard where “she is,” pointing to the aisle. He says “right there” and points at a different cashier from the one that checked me out. I think maybe I can’t see her and ask again, he points again and says “right there.” Now I feel that I am doomed. I will have to go back through the store to shop again, miss the bus, and then have to wait another hour before getting home. This is when I slowly walk to where the guard pointed and the manager sees me. He says, “Are you the woman with the receipt who would be right back?” I said, “Yes.” He leads me to a different aisle, takes my receipt out to drawer, and starts to punch numbers into the machine. I mumble something about remembering the pin once I walked out the door, and he smiled and graciously said, “That’s usually how it goes.” I still don’t see my groceries. I wonder if he wants me to go around the store with the receipt again, when I spot them off to the side. I grab my cash to hand to him, and he says, “‘Oh, you have cash now?.” I tell him I know the pin if that is easier, and I check out with my debit. While I’m packing I remember the main reason I went shopping, no razor blades. I had spotted them while getting in line the first time, I think about getting out of their, but then think about another few days with hairy legs. I try to act dignified as I exit and then re-enter the store with my bags, get a pack of razors, and stand in line. Thankfully it is another cashier. Now I have one item, right, and the lady behind me has like five items. I think that she notices I have only one thing and don’t get the divider, the cashier was also looking right at me. I start to hand her the razor blades, when the girl grabs the first thing off the belt (the other ladies stuff) and scans it. This is when she notices me, probably looking dejected, and said she was sorry. “My bad,” I said. The security guard said to have a nice day, and I hoped that would come true. As I came out of the store I saw two buses leaving, my route. I couldn’t see which direction they were going, but hoped they were the ones I came on. I cross the street and wait at this stop hoping that I picked the right side of the street. The bus comes, and I guessed right (a miracle). I get my bags, and get off at the stop I wrote from the directions. It is not the stop I got on at, but it is the street where I live. I notice that this is five blocks from where I live. Great. I lug my groceries up to the front door, which I haven’t used yet, because the roofers are working in the back (my landlady is replacing it). It doesn’t work. I go around and the roofer is on the ladder, with the base in front of the steps to the door. I decide that I can get through the space beside the ladder and go up carefully. With visions of the murder charge that would happen if I knocked down the ladder, I got through and unlocked the door, went back through and grabbed the second bag and shut the door.
It is then that I smelled it. It smelled vaguely fruity. I think that maybe the jam I brought broke. It was far worse. Half of generic apple (which is a gag-worthy-cough syrup-scent) dish soap had spilled all over the bottom of the cloth bag, and 70% of my groceries were now and soapy mess. Thankfully my landlady wasn’t home, I rushed into the kitchen, put the bag on the counter, and started washing my groceries. Luckily the bread was in the other bag, but then I noticed the cardboard pancake mix, and pasta. I opened the mix thinking that the plastic bag would save it, but there was no plastic bag. I grabbed a Tupperware container and poured 3/4 of the mix into it, and threw away the rest. I did the same with the pasta. I then rinsed off the cans, jars, and bag of cheese sticks. There is now soap all over the counter and my clothes. I have used two dish towels to wash and dry everything, along with three paper towels from the one roll I’ve seen in the entire house. I put the cold groceries away and try to rinse off the bag in the sink, with the intention of just throwing it in the wash. Then I remember that not only is it not night, but that my landlady’s ex-husband is coming over in an hour, and there would only be the one bag in the washer. I run the washer that way. I rinsed out the bag and then looked for a hamper to put the dish cloths in. There is no hamper anywhere. I finally put them over the sink, put my groceries in the clean Aldi’s bag, then go up to my apartment and throw the soapy bag over the tub.
What a day of adulthood.