Sunday, June 6, 2010

....and More.

Wouldn’t it be really creepy and strange if someone decided that they wanted to run their own grocery store out of a small warehouse?  Well, let’s say that it isn’t a small warehouse, but a large garage that happened to be attached to someone’s home.  That would make it officially strange, right?  That would have to be something a person would make up for a movie about a road trip through the South, right?  Wrong.  That shit exists just down the road from me.  I didn’t believe it until I saw it either.
                I first heard about Traci’s groceries and more a couple years back when Jarmos and I were holding a rummage sale at the duplex we rented on the west side of Green Bay.  The snaggle-toothed old woman from across the street had come over to browse through the DVDs I was selling.   She had come to the one we had the previous summer and bought up several box sets of TV shows I was never going to watch again.  Apparently her emotionally abusive husband didn’t get out much and the only thing that kept him from beating the shit out of her was if she had some DVDs to watch.  Okay, so she didn’t say he would beat her, but she implied he was a shut-in that hated the outside world.  I just assumed he slapped her around if she didn’t bring him a TV dinner at just the right temperature.  Also, his sanity was in question because he was apparently going to be giddy about the Mighty Ducks Trilogy his wife just bought from Jason.
                Any way, I make the mistake of saying more than a few words to the old lady.  She then thought we were friends or something.  I got extremely nervous and was expecting her to invite us over for dinner.  Maybe we could meet her 30 year old son who still lived at home and drove a shuttle van for the casino.  Yep.  I learned that much and still remember it.  I am thrilled that some of my precious brain power was wasted on that nonsense.  During the woman’s rambling, she became excited to ask me if I ever checked out the grocery stand over by Sears.  I had not seen such a stand nor did I have any idea where it would be since there was not a grocery stand in sight.  This was cleared up for me when the lady told me that it was in a grey garage across the street from the Sears on Military Ave.  Now, I probably wouldn’t notice it unless I was there on the first and third Saturdays of the month.  That was when Traci was out there selling the goods.
                I honestly didn’t care about this new information.  However, I had to listen to it if I ever wanted to sell those Scully and Mulder action figurines that were collecting dust on my desk for years.  Traci apparently got her hands on some grade A shit and sold it for less than grocery stores.  I made the mistake of questioning her legitimacy.  The old bag from across the street seemed to be offended by my skepticism.  Now, I wasn’t skeptical of the woman’s prices.  I was certain that they were very low.  I was wondering how legit the operation was.  It was very likely that a grocery truck was getting hijacked weekly by some crazed bitch who wanted to sell groceries out of her garage (but only twice a month on alternating Saturdays).   I smiled and sold those DVDs and action figures to the toothless wonder and then went about my business.
                I forgot about it until one day during my move from the duplex to my new apartment where I still reside.  I don’t remember who I was with, but I do recall driving by that garage on a Saturday when it was open.  Good lord, that crazy bitch across the street wasn’t making shit up.  There really was a grocery store run out of some strange woman’s garage.  Such a golden opportunity for mockery could not go to waste.  Jason and I immediately knew what needed to be done with confirmation that this place existed.  We had to get Amy in that store.  She would be the one to confirm just how shady it was.
                Just under a year later the crew and I were strolling about Green Bay waiting for Steve to get off of work on a Saturday afternoon.  It just so happened that Amy was in town and we suddenly had some free time on our hands.  Light bulbs turned on above our heads as Jason and I remembered that we wanted to get a classic “hmmm” from Amy about the mythical grocery story run out of a garage.  So, we went there.
                The garage doors were not open as they were the first time I had seen the place.  We had to go in the clear glass door on the side.  The glass door made it seem almost legit.  So did the stickers that said they accepted credit cards and food stamps.  How the hell does someone get the state to allow them to redeem food stamps from their garage?  That can’t be legal, can it?  It is no wonder why people were ripping off the state for day care funds.  There clearly are a lot of people working in Madison that half ass their jobs if something like food stamps can be redeemed out of someone’s garage.  Regardless, I was impressed that there were methods other than cash at Traci’s Groceries and More.  Hell, I was surprised she took cash and wasn’t about the bartering of goods and services.  I figured bartering was were the “More” came from in the name of the store.  
                Entering the store was like nothing I had ever seen.  A couple of tables were set up near the door as a check out counter.  There were boxes lined up behind it and a couple monitors displaying the security feed.  Yep, the woman was concerned that people were shadier than the idea of selling groceries out of a garage.  The merchandise itself was set on in narrow aisles on wire framed shelves.  There were also a few of those plastic framed shelves on the walls, just like the ones you would expect in a garage.  The back wall of the store actually had a couple coolers and a freezer.  To be honest, it didn’t feel like a garage.  It also didn’t feel like a store.  If you were to describe to me what a food storage area would look like in a nuclear bunker, I would propose this store was the perfect design for such a place.
                There were two prices for every item.  One for cash.  The other for credit.  Traci didn’t accept checks.  She wasn’t about to be trusting anybody like that.  Personally, I wasn’t about to be trusting her either.  I checked the expiration dates on everything I looked at in hopes of proving my theory that she was a dumpster diver that sold what she found in the garbage.  Nope.  It all appeared to be legit and still good.  The main reason I check was because I needed to purchase something.  There is no way you can walk into someone’s food bunker and not purchase something.  She was already watching us like a hawk on her video monitors.  If we walked out empty handed, we would have looked like we were thieving something from the crazy bitch.
                I am not just saying she was a crazy bitch because she sold groceries out of a garage.  I am saying this because she looked bat shit crazy.  If you have ever imagined a chain smoking redneck woman from the 80s, you have seen Traci.  To avoid being on an episode of COPS, I made sure to buy as all those large freezie pops.  I paid in cash, which afforded me the opportunity to see Traci did for change out of a small money pouch she had slung over her shoulder.  No, there was not a cash box or a cash register in her store.  I can only assume that she kept the money close and on her at all times just in case someone ever came in to rob her store.  Really shouldn’t make a difference because a robber would get the money either way, but to a bat shit crazy person it makes sense to not have a register that someone could ask be emptied.
                What also surprised me a bit was there was no scanner or price charts anywhere at the check-out station.  Traci didn’t have price tags on the food either.  How in the fuck she remembered the price of every single item is beyond me.  If she really did have the correct prices memorized couldn’t be confirmed either because I wasn’t even paying attention to whether or not I paid her the correct amount.  There was too much to process.  I needed to take in every detail to tell Steve later that afternoon.  Needless to say, Steve was a bit upset that he didn’t get to come with us to see the spectacle that was Traci’s Groceries and More.
                That was until this past Saturday when Steve and I met up for lunch.  We had a little extra time after we engulfed our Taco Bell quesadillas, so Steve proposed that we go check out the infamous grocery store in a garage.  So, we did just that.  When we drove across the street I became relieved when there was a parking spot open for us.  That was surprising on a nice spring afternoon when you’d expect all retail outlets to be bustling with activity.  I am not sure Steve really believed it was a store until we walked inside.  Steve was immediate drawn to the rack of movies.  He noted the two year old movies that Traci was trying to pass off as new releases.  I am not sure if he noticed the VHS tapes she was trying to sell.  If I had to guess, I would say that Traci was ten years behind the rest of us.  Steve bought a jar of peanuts and I bought some Keebler cookies. We got the hell out of there as fast as we could because we could feel Traci watching us like we were the shady ones in that garage.
                I am fairly certain I do not have a need to ever go back in that store/garage again.  Unless of course I can get a clear idea what the “More” refers to.

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