Saturday, October 31, 2009

What's the big deal?

Jusco is our local grocery store right down the street. That I know of, there's nothing fancy in it or around it, nothing special that would draw you in for any particular reason. It's just regular, everyday grocery store that just happens to be (as all things are in Japan) overpriced. Nary will you find a sale, or anything interesting worth going for, above and beyond everyday grocery items.

Having said that, I've always wondered at the crowd that gathers before the opening moments at Jusco on the weekends.

Some force draws people here, every Saturday and Sunday morning, to line up, if for nothing else but to be the first ones rushing through the aisles. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, as if it were the day after Christmas, scores of people line up and wait to get in. Upon looking inside the store, you'd guess that there was going to be shortage of food, a famine of rice or eggs. Alas, though, a 12-foot high mountain of soymilk boxes stand ready, and all of the shelves are stocked completely and neatly, with not a box or can out of place. $4 apples are on sale in the bins, just like they are every other day.

At 9 on the dot, the doors open, and you are ushered in to the sound of chiming bells and chirping birds, which is slightly reminiscent of a soundtrack that Rogers and Hammerstien wrote more than 40 years ago. All that's missing is Julie Andrews in a habit, although, in her place, are not hills alive with the sound of music, but the store employees, who have lined up on both sides of the entrance to bow and ask your honorable forgiveness for making you wait until 9 to get in, as well as share their honorable pleasure for the opportunity of getting to serve you so graciously each and every day.

And as the doors open, I am typing this on my 6-inch keyboard (while it's fresh in my mind), and 70- to 80-year old grandmas and grandpas barrel past me, angered by my lack of urgency. No joke. It's just what I imagine being on Supermarket Sweep is like, only with the smell of moth balls permeating your nose. Mothers with small children race past me to get to their kiddos shoved into the kiddy carts so that they can be first to the rows and rows of regular-priced frozen vegetables waiting to be purchased.

I just don't understand. Yet, something draws me as well. Is it the music? The honorable apologies at the door? The scads of oba-chans and oji-sans giving me the foreigner eye? Maybe. Whatever it is, I just can't bring myself to arrive any later than 9:00. I need to be there with the crowd. And now that I think about it more, maybe I believe, just like them like them, that one of these days, the eggs will actually be on sale...

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