Touch

In Boston in the Back Bay on Boylston the Trader Joe’s looks built for the bite-sized.

The storefront is not one-third the size of the usual glass portion of a TJ’s and far less than the width an entire layout usually commands. There is one set of double doors covering both entrance and exit — also odd for that chain whose concern for traffic flow can rival Ikea or Costco.

Entrance answers one of the questions — where they gonna fit it all? — because the first thing that happens is you go down an escalator. The store is built in a basement. The twice I went while in the city for four days you also note the ‘up’ escalator isn’t working, which cd affect the quantity of your food choices while there.

But TJ’s is here to help because the quantity of each individual food choice is already altered — reduced — as part of the overall model railroad motif at work. Items in inventory are smaller; selection doesn’t seem to be (tho how cd it not?) but the specific SKU, as the retail kids say, is a lesser version of the standard. Club soda, for instance (the reason I went in) is one liter and tall and thin as Twiggy. The half-and-half might only be in pint-size, literally, that day.

The floor plan is an oval, one oval, which allows for two aisles, with kind of a halfsie third aisle which leads to the checkout line. Singular. There’s one line, half-dozen checkers.

They call you when they’re ready.

*

[Video of the store’d be ideal but that much-reduced front door still had room for a sign admonishing against photography inside and anyway that’s not what I’d have done, anyway, being a word man, anyway.]

*

No carts.

Only baskets and those little wooden swing-out surfaces to set them on.

*

My second trip, having run out of club soda and half-and-half, I set down the tall drink of water, as Da wd say, in two flavors (two of the newer ones, if you must know), and the milk ’n cream, and, after looking at the ones in front of her register, went poking for a Boston-themed TJ’s bag different from the one I’d got the first time, found it, I thought, and came back.

The checker she said, a bit crisp, that the bags were all the same but the two sides were different. The ones I’d seen in front of her were set on the hooks facing one way.

She was an older lady, sharp and angular like the thin and if bitter can become. We both moved at the same time to extract my items from the basket. Twice. Our fingers touched both times. She flinched both times.

A quart (this time) of half-and-half … fingertips touched … flinch!

The backward move linear, direct; let her get it; didn’t learn the lesson.

One of two bottles of club soda … fingertips touched … flinch again.

Learned it then and she continued her work.

*

‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘Still getting used to living in the city. Everything’s so close together.’

‘Yes, it can be difficult,’ I said.

We talked of how such things can happen; she allowed it was uncomfortable; I assured it was unintentional.

‘Where are you from?’ I said.

‘North of the city,’ she said.

Chatted of this and that — fast. I only had a couple items and my mind works quickly, to a fault. I often don’t listen as well as I’d like and sometimes in the moment don’t savor something someone just said. It can, does happen but I usually have to be off-guard or out of breath; or paying attention.

I in fact love being caught up mid-word by what another has just said, or rather my realization of it — a benefit of the quick mind — in that moment. I have done this often in class or conversation.

She asked where I was from, likely a common question for that store, and I told her.

She asked if I was enjoying Boston, which of course I was. I love that town, the Red Sox wd beat the Yankees twice while I was there and I went to a chapel in a mall. What’s not to like?

We chatted about TJ’s in California and I marveled a bit at the size thing. It came out, I think, or at least was heard as, criticism, which it wasn’t. I was just fascinated. So that meant added ameliorative, emollient — the curiosity of it, the connection to the urban location; on reflection this grocery was more like the bodega NYC has on every corner.

[I’m prolly in trouble now with God, a Sox fan, for comparing the two towns.]

*

Felt like I was treading water, fast.

Wanting not to lose ground, also fast.

Conscious of the moment, mostly deeply in it.

*

Touch is huge.

Of all five — devotion, affirmation, gifts, time, touch — it is my fave.

Time might be bigger to me but miss touch the most.

There is even an entire book on it, something of a modern classic, tho that mean may it has few competitors, or caught on quickly, or both.

[Yes, of course I bought it.]

There’s a poem, too.

Here’s the part I mean

He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands — 
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done

*

We continued to chat, also huge.

DW calls these conversations talking about one’s pansies — the conversations folks have for mere moments at side fences with good neighbors about nothing but everything.

Well, we continued and it wasn’t going to take long.

Really sought kindness (continue being … ?) to her.

Saw her name tag — ‘Sandy’ … noted it’s the name of my mom’s best friend in ever.

Smile.

She wished me a pleasant time in Boston.

And held out her hand.

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