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Armed & Dangerous.

10 Apr

Star Wars Safeway?

The primary grocery chain in the DC area is Safeway, and most of the stores in the city have widely accepted nicknames. (Don’t ask me why the same can’t be said for their chief competitor, Giant.)

For example, the Safeway by me is known as the Soviet Safeway, because inventory often gets picked over, leaving bare shelves and long lines. (Admittedly, it has gotten better in the past 10 years, since Whole Foods opened five blocks away, but the nickname remains.)

The most popular Safeway is probably the Social Safeway, over on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Perhaps because it draws younger customers from nearby Georgetown University, it has an openly flirtatious vibe. If you ask someone to help you retrieve a box from a high shelf, there’s a fair chance you’ll wind up on a date.

Meanwhile, in Adams Morgan, with its high Latino population, sits the Spanish Safeway. The Senior Safeway is located in the basement of the Watergate complex, and we all know that Monica Lewinsky was the only non-retiree to live there since the 1960s.

The Safeway where I shopped when I first moved to DC and lived on the Hill is known as the Un-Safeway, because it is located in the Southeast quadrant of town, where the majority of our city’s crime statistics come from.

There are others – the Sexy Safeway, the Secret Safeway, the Suburban Safeway – but I won’t bore you. That’s not actually the point of this.

The point is: there is a dude who works at the Soviet Safeway who fancies himself something of an on-air personality. I know when he’s working because he seeks out and seizes the microphone, making constant announcements while I shop.

Somehow, in three years together, Alan had never been treated to his schtick. So when we walked into Safeway last week, he heard someone chattering on the PA and said something like, “Oh Lord. Can we shut him up?”

But with my decade of acquired wisdom, I said, “Just listen,” as I pointed to the ceiling.

What started as a thank you for someone who made a check-out donation to Safeway’s cause of the month (testicular cancer?) quickly morphed into a rave about the Virginia Deli Ham that was on special in the back of the store. And then he kept talking. And talking.

Kind of like this. But smoother.

We largely tuned him out, but as we neared the checkout lane it proved more difficult. It also got more interesting.

“Leon,” he said. “Leon, just because you got to work 15 minutes late doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to wait 15 minutes for our break.”

Then, “Leon, the rest of us got here on time and deserve our break. Now come to the front of the store.”

Pause.

“Leon, man. We have customers here forming long lines who would like to pay so they can leave our store. Get. Up. Front. NOW.”

And finally…

“Leon. Maybe you don’t need this job. But some of us need breaks. This is not cute.”

We had to walk past him as we collected our groceries from the self-checkout area, and in doing so, we accidentally made eye contact. He shook his head with disgust. He looked at us as he spoke into the mike, “Some people!”

And we weren’t sure. Was he talking to us, or Leon?

I do know this: next time, I’m going to wear a smock and be prepared to work the register so someone can get a 15 minute break. If the universe values irony, that someone will be Leon.