‘Communication leads to community: that is, to understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.’
There’s nothing quite like a good bit of retail therapy to help clear the mind and calm the soul. Throw in a good BOGO deal and some bubble tea and you’ve got the making of a good Friday out. This past Friday, September 1st, one of the larger local Asian grocery stores in my area had their annual first of the month ‘buy one get one free all day’ sale. Every first day of the month around 90% of their entire store, from produce, meat, fish, dry goods, frozen, to even their prepared foods, becomes ‘buy one get one free’ for the entire day or until supplies last. I did a preliminary scope a couple days before, stopping in for some bubble tea and a chat with the bubble tea cafe owner while watching the endless convoy of trucks unloading pallets upon pallets of goods and the small army of orange-vested grocery store staff trying to fill every available nook and cranny of space left on the floor. On a Tuesday afternoon the store was practically a ghost town, save for the employees who knew that come Friday there would be a constant never-ending line of shoppers that would stretch from the registers all the way around, touching every corner of the store and ending practically right at the entrance.
There are those who would say only a madman would dare to brave the chaos of a store-wide BOGO sale. That only the very desperate or the very insane would ever find themselves shoulder to shoulder, cart to cart, basket to basket, with other equally desperate or insane shoppers. Well, call me desperate, call me insane, call me what you will, but for all the madness and chaos, I actually quite enjoyed my time there. Despite the best advice of Joe, the friendly owner of the bubble tea cafe inside the grocery store, I did not think it entirely worth it to queue up outside the store at 7 in the morning, as the more seasoned veterans are more wont to do. I didn’t even think to worry about parking at the pharmacy across the street to avoid the mad dash for valuable parking space in the limited lot in front of the store. I came in around 11, and ever the child of good fortune, found a spot right up front as they were pulling out. Shopping carts were even rarer than spots, and that did actually take me a good bit of time to find. It gave me a chance to check in with Joe though and he gave me a rundown of some of the better, more valuable sales to take advantage of. It’s amazing how the words ‘buy one get one free’ can affect your decision making process. Did I ever in my life consider I’d want to buy a can of boiled silkworm larva, a delicacy in some other Asian countries? No, absolutely not. But did I suddenly find myself holding not one, but two cans in my hand, contemplating the same question because it said ‘BOGO’? Yes, I’m ashamed to say, I did. (I ended up not buying it though, thankfully.)
After spending about an hour shopping and another hour waiting in line to pay, I decided to reward myself with some bubble tea and Filipino food from a cafeteria-style casual Filipino place also inside the grocery. As I’m sitting there tucked away in the corner with my rice and my barbecue and my drink, and I’m watching the line of shoppers pass me by and the cafeteria regulars chatting it up with the workers, thinking about the past night, I get that faint hint of what it was I’ve been missing. Community. It’s what made butting carts against endless throngs of shoppers and waiting in line for hours all okay for so many of these people. They came in with family and friends with systems and plans. One would man the cart and wait in line while the other roamed the store and returned to dump all of their findings before jumping back in. They would search the crowd for the familiar faces they knew would show up to chat and pass the time away, to ask about work and family and the health and happiness in each other’s lives. They may have been somewhere they didn’t want to be, doing things they would rather not want to do, but they were in a place doing these things with people they were happy to be with. I’ve lived in this area for twenty-seven years, and only recently started showing up at this grocery store. I see whole generations assembling here and enjoying the benefit of that shared sense of community.
Though I wrote a couple days ago that I found myself alone yet surrounded by people, I have to admit that I should also be partly to blame for that. I never built that sense of community, that channel of communication, outside of my relationships. Only recently have I started to build myself as a member of other communities outside of that. Obviously WordPress is one of those communities that I’ve tried harder than most to really become an integrated part of. But I have so many opportunities if I would just look where they are. I’m not saying I need to become a grocery store regular, buying stockpiles of things I don’t need because I want to make friends with locals who shop all the time. A 15 lb. bag of white rice may be $12.99, a large taro-almond bubble tea $4.95, a two side one rice combo with drink $6.50, but a sense of community is priceless. I’m still learning a lot about relationships. And not just the romantic type but the social, friendly, ‘you are not alone’ types too. One of the first things I learned last year was that I need these relationships as well. That I can’t hang everything of who I am and what I want to share on this one type of romantic relationship. Then I started to grow my world ever larger, bit by bit. I visited the communities of archers at ETAR, communities of people with similar interests through the MeetUp app, communities of locals through my travels. Now, I need to keep learning how to stop visiting, and become an actual member of these places. Share myself, and receive others in return, in ways outside of romance that before, I neglected, and now realized, I need.
Jerel says, ‘communication leads to community’.