I’ve had two Triple-A roadside assistance experiences in the past 12 months. Two.
The first occurred on Labor Day ‘14, on a drive from Boston to Cape Cod. About twenty minutes into the trip, my vehicle’s hood betrayed me. As in, it detached from its typically secure position at the front of my car, flew backwards, and crashed into my windshield, shattering a bunch of glass, which blinded me while I was, you know, driving on the highway. The hood remained barely affixed to the car, covering the windshield entirely, and making it near impossible for me to pull over to the side of the road. I slowed down to about 10 miles per hour, listened to the angry beeps from those with loyal hoods behind me, and peered through a tiny crack at the bottom of the windshield, making it to the breakdown lane. It was scary.
The second incident was far worse. It occurred earlier this week, at a large, innocuous Whole Foods near the beach, on a beautifully sunny day, with no impending doom near. Here’s what happened:
I arrived at Whole Foods, exceedingly pumped about my forthcoming food purchases. I silenced the radio, put my phone into my pocket because I was done driving and wouldn’t be bored anymore, and turned off the car. I placed my keys in a key-sized holder in the car door (MISTAKE! MISTAKE! MISTAKE!), opened the car door, locked the car door, closed the car door, took a few steps, and realized my keys were still in the car door, inside of the vehicle. I had locked my keys in my car. Oh no.
There’s nothing more annoying than locking your keys in the car. Nothing. It’s the worst. The feeling you get when you realize what you did — 100% embarrassment and 100% frustration — is not something I’d wish upon my worst enemy, who’s this dude named Matt.
I threw myself against the car, desperately wiggled the door handle, fell to my knees, and screamed. I screamed a loud scream. A trill, really. A long, constant trill that scared every civilian in the parking lot, as well as the preponderance of the shoppers inside Whole Foods. I took a deep breath. I went inside.
I spent six hours in Whole Foods. I didn’t need to; let me get that out of the way first. I could have called Triple-A immediately and been done in two hours. But instead I spent the first two hours searching for something — from clothes hanger to police officer — that would help me gain entrance into my vehicle. Then I decided it was a good idea to call Triple-A, but I didn’t have my card with me, and I had no idea how to deal with that. So I spent another two hours searching for a clothes hanger or police officer. Then, finally, I called my dad, who served as a liaison between me and Triple-A.
Here’s the hour-by-hour breakdown of the other things that happened:
Hour 1: The Baked Goods Aisle
Exhaustion hits first. It’s a debilitating feeling, one that I immediately wish upon my worst enemy, Matt. I trudge slowly through the aisles, gasping for air. This lasts seconds. Very immediately I find some water — there’s plenty of this in Whole Foods, which is a grocery store. My exhaustion is cured.
But the realization that you’re stuck in a grocery store comes with the realization that you’re around an abundance of food, and then, unavoidably, you start eating all the food.
It begins with the free samples. Then the prepared foods. And then every sweet thing I lay eyes on. Cookies, cakes, doughnuts, chocolate, candy, ice cream. Everything. I quickly develop a stomach ache. But the good news is that it’s Whole Foods, and Whole Foods is America’s Healthiest Grocery Store, where values matter, so at least it’s helping me lose weight.
Hour 2: Cheese Man
I travel over to the cheese section. The man behind the counter is a treasure. An absolute delight. He strikes up a conversation and frantically samples out his many cheeses like there’s two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Cheese Man’s discussion topics soon transition from cheese-related to olive oil-related, and things gets really interesting. Apparently the olive oil industry is super corrupt and you can’t trust any of the olive oil being imported from Italy. He tells me that it’s crazy, and to look it up for myself. I tell him I will. I haven’t. But look it up for yourself, I hear it’s crazy.
Hour 3: Delirium
You’ve probably spent close to two hours in a grocery store before. Not regularly, but it’s happened. Three hours? No way. And the side effects of such marketplace longevity start hitting me hard.
Triple-A troubles fresh on my mind, I start confusing every Whole Foods employee for a Triple-A agent. Everyone wearing a green apron has that apathetic hero look — you know, like they’ve just arrived fashionably late to a dangerous accident scene, simultaneously saving the day and just trying to get home.
Then I start confusing every Whole Foods employee with my mom, who I love. I think about going to customer service and asking them to make an announcement: If Austin’s mom is in this store, please come to customer service. I don’t do this.
I think about making a fort in the frozen food aisle. It’s cold over there, so a fort would kinda make sense, right? I could use some of the ice bins as columns, the towels and clothes as ceilings, and I’m sure I could find a chair to sit on. Maybe get a magazine, just relax for a while. I don’t do this either.
I do, however, take a half-gallon of apple cider and place it near a sunny window to begin the fermentation process. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, and eventually I’m gonna want some hard cider.
Hour 4: RETURN OF CHEESE MAN
There are only so many things one can do in Whole Foods, and after three hours you tend to start walking in circles. I inevitably wind up back in the cheese section, and upon lifting my head from a particularly enticing cheddar, there he was, staring me dead in the eyes. Cheese Man. Back again.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” I say.
“You’ve been here a long time.”
GET OFF MY CASE CHEESE MAN.
“Anyway, I wanted to tell you, the thing with domestic olive oil is—”
SHUT UP CHEESE MAN NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR OIL.
I run. As fast as I can. Past a lady eating blueberries out of their containers, testing to see if they’re good, like this is Shaw’s. Past a man being detained by security for drinking juice in the bathroom and then throwing it away so he didn’t have to pay for it. Past an elderly woman yelling at her more-elderly husband, who sampled a pickle, which apparently contained too much sodium for his weak-ass heart. Past employees engaged fervently in an ice war, throwing cubes and shards at each other with their bare hands, shielding themselves with ice scoopers. Past everything. Past an entire Whole Foods scene. A village, really. A civilization. An entire world of food, goods, services, love, loyalty, betrayal, tragedy, war, crime and enforcement, fighting and peace-making, child-rearing, coming-of-age stories, sex, drugs, rock and roll. Past it all. And back to Cheese Man.
Hour 5: The Secret About Whole Foods
In hour five of a Whole Foods expedition, the secret about Whole Foods kinda just presents itself. You don’t need to search for it. You just get it.
The secret about Whole Foods is that it’s not about the food. The food is the last thing you want. The food isn’t even good. I don’t even think the candy and doughnuts and ice cream are that good for you. The food sucks.
The secret about Whole Foods is that it’s about the non-food. The clothes, the toiletries, the tools, the fun stuff. I buy it all. Tooth paste, a tooth brush, deodorant, body wash, flip-flops, a magazine, a book, a CD, a scarf, a hat.
I realize I still can’t get into my car and I have no place to put all this. I head outside to hide it somewhere. Immediately upon walking out the door, I’m blinded by the sun. I go back inside. I’m not meant for the outside world any longer.
Hour 6: CHEESE MAN’S REVENGE
This tale ends, of course, with Triple-A arriving, opening my car in like ten seconds, and me going home safe and sound. But that’s boring. What happened just before Triple-A got there is a weirder ending. So let’s just pretend.
I blindly re-enter Whole Foods after my unsuccessful journey outward, stumbling through the main entrance and into … yep, Cheese Man. He was standing there, innocently flirting with Bakery Girl, like he wasn’t about to commit the most heinous crime of his adult life.
As I try to brush past him, I trip over his foot (remember, I’m blind) and crash to the floor, spilling my bags of Whole Foods’ finest non-food items. I rub my eyes, gather my things, nurse my ankle to earn some sympathy, and look up.
AND CHEESE MAN JUST WALKS AWAY.
He did it on purpose. I know he did.
We, as humans, are not meant to be in Whole Foods for six hours.
Contact Triple-A immediately.
This has been a public service announcement.