I don't know if anyone has told you, but this week in the New York of Cities was a cold one. No one's been talking about it, so, in case you were wondering. It was cold here. But that's alright because Downton Abbey is back on, I'm a wanted woman in the state of North Carolina due to a reckless driving ticket and failure to appear in court (exciting!), and my mother gave me a Trader Joe's gift card. That's right. I'm 25 and I got a gift card. Gift cards are the nucleus to living the most bougie life possible in NYC. I know this in my heart to be true. I'd like to preface by saying that while I wanted to spend the entire card at the Trader Joe's Wine Shop, I refrained from doing so. A lady has to eat once in a while, and how does one even BEGIN to entertain without a fridge stocked with a variety of cheeses and cornichon? I fucking love those little pickles. So to Trader Joe's you go. With your gift card. At 5:30pm on a Monday. In 5-degrees. Fahrenheit...that's the measurement scale that's supposed to be a big number.
Now the thing about the Union Square Trader Joe's is that, once in a while, you have to wait to get inside. Like it's some hip speakeasy that you shouldn't "know" about but was written up in TimeOut, so everyone does. And the thing about waiting outside on a Monday at 5:30pm when the temperature is in the single digits is that you start to lose your mind. Or any semblance of sanity you had possessed earlier in the day. And it was at this precise moment when I proclaimed to the entire line, "This is Russia. We are in Soviet Russia I think." "Yes," says an elderly woman in front of me. She knows because she was probably there. The NYU student behind me just giggles, but I know she agrees. She's probably hiding her copy of Animal Farm in her backpack and trying not to create waves, I get it.
We wait. And we wait some more. Four come out, and two are let in. What is this fuzzy fucking math going on here?!? It's FREEZING. I hallucinate how I need to rush home to care for my ailing grandmother. She needs new shoes, she needs a new coat. I must provide. In my mind, my grandmother sounds like Angela Lansbury and we are playing with this little music box. She tried to catch my hand and hoist me onto the train, but I hit my head and OKAY I know this is now embarrassingly historically inaccurate. But again, it was so cold.
Finally, I get allowed in. It is warm! I can start to feel my toes again! Life is so good. But then, I see the line. It's easily distinguishable because it starts forming the minute you enter. And then it wraps around the circumference of the entire store. Men and women carrying large flags that read, "LINE STARTS HERE" in obnoxiously bubbly font want you to join the line. I don't want to join this line! Where is my choice? I want to wander around the aisles searching for those dark chocolate covered marshmallows! I want to grab four packages of Inner Peas, not because I NEED THEM but because everyone else is grabbing them and they might be gone and then when I do WANT them the moment will have passed me BY. I think about revolting and joining the damn line when I'm good and ready...but I'm not trying to be in this Trader Joe's for the next four hours of my life. So I join. Reluctantly.
As we wind at a turtle's pace in and out and around each aisle I start to notice a common trend. Couples. Couples in Trader Joe's are killing the game! They start together, as a family, by joining the line at the beginning of the store. Then, one stays with the cart while the OTHER ONE GETS TO WANDER. The cart person collects the groceries easily accessible from the line and gets to check their Facebook and send emails and read Buzzfeed articles. This is some brilliant new-age hunter/gatherer shit and I want in. I noticed a single man behind me. Would me maybe wanna...I don't know...couple up with me in this Trader Joe's? A biddie doesn't know until she tries. "Heyyyy," I say while smiling and displaying my good dimple, "I don't know what your plan is in here today, but what say you to sharing a cart with me and you tell me what you want from those middle aisles and I'll go run get it for you? Before we make this commitment to one another I think it's fair I warn you: sometimes I run, sometimes I hide, sometimes I'm scared of yo---" "Omg!" handsome man shrieks, "I'm so gay stop quoting Britney lyrics to me! Let's do this!"
Something magical happened to me during this Trader Joe's excursion. What originally appeared be an inescapably long night, alone, fighting for the last Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip turned into a beautiful partnership. Shawn has long-term boyfriend and a fancy-town apartment on Irving but that didn't stop me from dreaming about our adopted Asian daughter who we would name Perestroika, but call "Roika" for short. She would take tap on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but if it got in the way of her Suzuki violin training, we would pull her out. Every Monday night we would go to the Trader Joe's in Union Square, all three of us, shopping together in perfect harmony. Taking only what we need, leaving what we don't. The reality? I may never see Shawn again. But what we shared, the camaraderie we felt will never fade. We'll always have Roasted Garlic Hummus. Do svidaniya, my love, until we are back in the U-S. Back in the U-S. Back in the U-S-S-R.