It probably goes without saying that one of the best things about living in California is the abundance of fruits and vegetables that are available in our grocery stores and farmer's markets. Additionally, organic items are readily available at almost any large market giving us a choice in how we feed our families. Our grocery stores are truly a feast for the eyes with everything at the peak of freshness, ready to eat.
If you live in the suburbs, either in California or else where, you probably get into your car*; drive not very far; ease into a nice, wide parking space; shop in supermarkets the size of half a city block with (nice, wide aisles); check out with ease; have someone load the groceries into your car (if you so choose); and cruise back home where you pull into your driveway or garage and unload your purchases. I know, I've been there. It's a no-brainer.
Come along with me now, as I attempt to grocery shop (in a supermarket) in San Francisco.
Let's assume you do have a car (no garage, but a car).
First, stand on the street in front of your house for a few minutes and try to remember where you parked it. Once located, get into the car and drive across to the city to get to a "decent" market. You do this because your neighborhood market is:
- a filthy Cala or a sucky Bell and you only go there when you are desperate for NyQuil or Pedialyte or
- a small, organic-only, natural foods independent grocer with produce so beautiful it looks as if it has been Photoshopped, but you'd rather not shell out your hard-earned cash
for a $6 heirloom tomato and an $8 package of hand-made, organic, whole grain tortillas or
- a liquor store with two sad looking apples, an shriveled orange, and a bunch of spotty bananas in a basket by the cash register.
Now that you've arrived at the market you have some choices. You can:
- take a ticket to enter the parking garage
and make a mental note to remember to have it validated by the cashier
upon check-out so you don't have to pay for parking to shop at the
- attempt to find parking in your grocery store's overcrowded, traffic-ridden parking lot that they share with a Starbuck's, a GapKids, a Gymboree, a Peet's coffee, a bookstore, a bank, a hardware store, oh, and another grocery store, say "fuck it" and then slide some coinage in a parking meter out front.
- sit in a long-ass line of cars (so long that the city had to make 100 feet of the curb out front a "No Parking Any Time" zone to accomodate the horrendous traffic back-up caused by the grocery store's poor parking planning) waiting to enter the store's parking lot, and then when you get to the front of the line, wait for the parking lot attendant to tell you where you are allowed to park. No, I'm not shitting you, I swear! Look! Here's a photo of said lot taken yesterday. See the parking attendant out in front of his little hut? See the orange cones? (Right now San Franciscans are staring at this photo mouths agape wondering where the line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot is. Yes, my fellow Frisconians, Wednesday morning at around 10ish (besides Saturday night) is, apparently, the time to go to Trader Joe's.):
Oh and "re: all of the above," don't forget to add your children to that fun, fruity melange!
Now that you are in the store, choose a rusty, rickety, 70's cart that once hauled the personal belongings of a string of homeless people around town and begin shopping. Before you head down any aisle you must first look down the aisle to see if anyone else is in it. If they have no cart, proceed. If they have a cart, wait until the person exits the aisle and then it's your turn to head down. Why all the waiting? Because the aisles aren't wide enough for two carts, silly! Remember: real estate in San Francisco is expensive.
As you feel yourself start to get frustrated, repeat the following mantra, "This market sells 14 kinds of cheddar cheese (some of them vegan)...Organic beef and chicken are plentiful here...my kids won't get mad cow disease...I love you San Francisco...I love you San Francisco...I love you San Francisco..."
Okay. You've checked-out. Groceries are loaded. You remembered to validate your parking ticket although it's slightly soggy because your baby has been chewing on it. Let's go home.
As you leave the parking lot, begin silenting chanting for parking. Repeat chant all the way home. As you pull onto your street, pray a little harder.
Damn. The gas company is doing some kind of construction work under the street. All the parking for two solid blocks is reserved for their big, blue trucks. Begin circling.
While you are circling, your toddler begins to nod off in her car seat. Start calling her name, tickling her knees, and singing loudly. Pass her your sunglasses, your lipgloss, and an ATM receipt to play with. Fifteen minutes later, find a spot three blocks away, an uphill walk to your house (San Francisco, remember? Aren't our hills tres charmant?).
Once parked (wheels properly curbed), curse yourself for forgetting the stroller. Now you are going to have to force your tired toddler to walk home while you carry the groceries up that muthafuckin' hill. Decide to leave toilet paper, laundry detergent, and canned goods in the car. Your 23-month-old is testy. It's nap time. She is not pleased. She wants to be carried. Switch grocery bags to left hand, pick up toddler with right. Begin slow, steady walk home. (Remember the Cheddar Mantra. It's what gets you home.)
Repeat this whole scenario once or twice a week (cuz you forgot something). Or...
Have your groceries delivered!
The beauty of living in San Francisco is that there are many firms from local CSA's to organic grocers to big-chains that are ready and willing to deliver groceries right to your doorstep. Even Amazon delivers organic non-perishables. (I love you, Amazon Grocery!) That plus Amazon prime is a beautiful thing, I tell you what. Especially when they run their diaper specials. (So see? You can enjoy the beauty of grocery delivery, too!)
Who remembers the heady days of Kozmo.com and Webvan? God, I miss being able to get a pint of Bovinity Divinty and the Tommy and Pammy DVD delivered right to my waiting arms at 2:00AM, don't you?
Another great thing about San Franciso that has nothing to do with grocery delivery is that any day of the week there is a farmer's market happening in some part of the city. I love to shop for produce. It inspires my cooking so much to be able to smell basil to touch the peaches. I just don't like shopping for everything else that goes with it: the toilet paper, laundry detergent etc. So, we have most of our grocery items delivered and then I hit up a farmer's market for our fruit and veg.
So why do we have groceries delivered other than "because we can?" I fully cop to being a little spoiled about this. Yes, I've taken a few creative liberties to make a point about grocery shopping being a bitch in San Francisco, but I'm not that far off. We have a car and a garage space (though that is three blocks away) so it's not like I have to circle for parking. I could say it's because I'd just rather spend my time doing other things and that would be true. I could say it's because I'd rather not take my kids to the store with me and that would be true, too. I could say it's because I work between 20-30 hours a week, usually in the early morning hours or until late at night after the kids go to sleep and I just don't feel like hassling with the grocery store during my "free" (ha!) time. But I think the real reason we have our groceries delivered is this:
You know when you are on the StairMaster and you think, "Where the fuck am I going?" You're going to my house.
Come on. Walk with me. Up the 100 foot long 30ish% grade to get to the first set of steps. Up all 20 stairs to where you see the people standing. Then up a further 10 or so more to get into the house.
Now let's do that holding the grocery bags and a child.
So, yeah. Grocery delivery? It's an important part of my life.
We chose this house on purpose because it's a great freakin' house. The fact that it's on a hill with a shitload of stairs and no parking became a non-issue when we realized that we could have our staples (and anything else, really) delivered right to us. (Oh, and we're lazy mofos so believe you me, we realized that right quick.) To me, time is more important than money. Spending a little more on groceries is just one of the tradeoffs we make that makes living here (more?) bearable. And I don't mind one bit. Now. Aren't you happy you live where you do?
[voice over]Stay tuned next Thursday for more...San Francisco Stories.
*Yes, I know I'm generalizing.