Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Feeling Peevish Again

I made the mistake of hitting the grocery store near my office at lunch. I should have my head examined. Or I should just go down to the parking garage and beat my head against the brick wall for awhile. It would be less frustrating.

The Northwest Hills section of Austin has its own particular weirdness on display. This is not the kind of weird that we aging hippie types promote with our "Keep Austin Weird" T-shirts and bumperstickers. Northwest Hills is full of well-to-do (usually old money) types. This means teenagers driving Mercedes and little old grey-haired ladies behind the wheels of their block-long Cadillacs. And in between are the 2nd generation Northwest Hills citizens who are in their 30s and 40s driving SUVs and the occasional Hummer. This whole segment of the Austin populace is moving in its own little fogged sense of reality. And this reality is called "I'm entitled". Or maybe "Just call me Sun, because I'm the center of the universe."

It is really strange. Every last one of them thinks that nothing is more important in the entire world than whatever it is that they are doing at this precise minute. They are totally oblivious to the possibility that anyone else may not recognize their manifest destiny to be numero uno. If you can keep your sense of humor and restrain yourself from snatching them bald-headed, it's pretty funny.

A couple of weeks ago I ran up the hill to a local bakery to pick up a sandwich and cup of soup for my lunch. Should have been a 10 minute errand. But this is Northwest Hills. Mrs. Society Mom was ahead of me in line. First she gave her initial order. Then she proceeded to taste all of the samples on display, chewing slowly to savor each bite. Then she added more to her order already in progress. Meanwhile the line was building behind me. Of course she had questions about some of the items she was tasting. Which, by the way, she didn't buy. At long last, she moved on to the checkout register and allowed someone else, namely me, to place an order. Two minutes later and I was headed to the register myself. There she was, still adding more to her order. And then she had to root through her purse for her credit cards, spreading most of the contents of her purse out on the counter. Meanwhile, in an effort to speed things along, one of the clerks starting taking drink orders from those poor souls standing behind her shifting from one foot to the other. Finally she actually signed the credit slip and spent another few minutes putting everything back into its correct spot in her purse. At this point, you figure there's not much more she can do to stall. Ha. She begins to pick up cutlery, lemons, condiments, etc., asked for a sack to put all of this stuff in and spends more time getting all the stuff put into the bag. You would think she would move over a little and let someone check out while she's fussing with her stuff, but that would be against the rules of Northwest Hills CenteroftheUniversitis. She did finally make it out the door, with the rest of the line moving at a fast clip behind her. Yay, we escaped! Surely you jest. It took her another eternity to get her danged car backed out and moved enough that anyone else could leave. This is how a fast lunch plan becomes your entire lunch hour. This is life in Northwest Hills.

Today's trip to the grocery store was not unusual. The aisles were full of grey-haired folks visiting like they are at the country club. They are so wrapped up in their conversations that most do not notice (nor would they care if they did) that they have blocked traffic to everyone in the aisle and everyone attempting to enter or exit the aisle. If they are really good at CenteroftheUniversitis, they will manage to block the cross aisle, too. They finish their conversation or one dies of old age before they will move on. You can just stand there and watch your cart rust, for all they care. You learn to play demolition grocery carts to survive a shopping expedition. "Oops, sorry. Can I help you up?"

I managed to grab my 2 boxes of cereal and quart of milk and make it to the express line marked "10 items or less". Directly ahead of me in line was Mrs. Society Mom's best friend. I stopped counting her items on the belt when I hit 25. As tempted as I was to inquire whether she had a reading disability or if she had some reason to believe that the sign didn't apply to her , I kept my mouth shut. Another case of NWH CenteroftheUniversitis. It's epidemic in that area bounded by RR 2222, Spicewood Springs, Balcones Drive and Mesa Drive.

You probably think I'm making this up. I invite you to come see for yourself. Just be sure you get your shots before you do.


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