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Supermarkets and memories Supermarkets and memories
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-01-18 09:32:07
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The next time I met the woman she was without her companion and this time she was sitting in a wheelchair, which was something that somehow took me by surprise. You see, what I forgot to say is that the woman with the cat was a young woman - obviously in her mid-forties - with the beauty and self-confidence women of this age have. Seeing her with a cane in the wintery Finland and being myself a few times the victim of the ice on the streets of Helsinki was not a surprise, she might have had a skiing accident or encountered a slippery step, but a wheelchair somehow was too much, so I just waved hello and continued on my way to the metro station.

Her case bothered me all the way to my destination and I started making stories in my mind. Bad car accident, somebody drunk hit her in the middle of the street and let her suffering for hours in the cold. She had gone for a walk to the nearby forest and fell and for hours she was trying to reach a light she could see crawling on the ground.  Sometimes I think I did the wrong professional choices, I should make horror films because every time I see something that …inspires my imagination I turn it into horror!

Why didn’t I ask? Why didn’t I say anything? While trying to answer these questions I soon found myself out of the metro and inside the mall I was going to and soon inside the supermarket. While trying to choose between the orange juice and the berry juices she was there again in her wheelchair just a few meters away, obviously puzzled in front of a shelf full of different labelled jars of marmalade. Strawberry, I whispered, and she picked one I could not see what it was.

I’m not a great fan of supermarkets despite the fact that I have spent a part of my professional life working for retail businesses. And the bigger they get, the more I hate them. I love these little shops of my youth in Athens back in the sixties. Just a few square meters with the smells of the herbs and the spices overwhelming you the minute you reached the door. All the kinds of beans and all the colours of lentils in sacks made from thick brown hessian fabric and then the cheese behind the glass window with its strong smell coming out and sometimes feeling more sick than happy to eat it.

Most of all I liked the sort fat man with the thick moustache behind the counter telling you what cheese he had just brought from a place with an impossible name to pronounce, giving you an olive to try or wrapping the ham in an old newspaper. Oddly with all these laws about hygiene nowadays I think food had more taste then and perhaps more quality. And his wife always behind the till counting the coins and looking at you to make sure that you got everything you needed, always ready to suggest something extra.

In my childhood it was an adventure and thrill going for shopping to one of these little shops and there were a few. You see, there was one specializing in good cheese and then another one that had the best salami in the area; of course the butcher and then there was the other butcher the more expensive but with the best meat. There was the small grocery shop with another fat short man with a thick moustache who was choosing the tomatoes for you asking for each one he was picking from the sack if that was the best tomato you had ever seen. And till you got home you thought you bought the best tomatoes ever until you opened the bag and you found out that between the best tomatoes ever there were a couple that could easily be the worst tomatoes ever. But that was part of the entertainment, part of the magic all enjoyed.

And while I was thinking all that I was still standing in front of a shelf full of juices trying to decide which one I wanted to put in my basket. Back then we didn’t have to choose between labels but between oranges and then we would go home and then squeeze them to make a fresh natural orange juice. I checked the alley with the marmalades and the jams but the woman in the wheelchair had left… hopefully with a jar with strawberry marmalade!

All characters and events depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to persons living, dead, or fictional or situations past, present, or fictional is purely and completely coincidental. 

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