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Wednesday, February 28, 2007  

Up in the Air

The thing I like least about going to the Trader Joe's in our area is the parking lot. There's one way in and one way out, and the fact that every spot there is always taken means that driving in constitutes entering a traffic jam. You know how traffic reporters say a really bad traffic jam is a parking lot? They're talking about this parking lot.

Parking on the street is pretty sparse there too, so we try to time our visits with non-peak times. We figured that the weekend of a city-burying snowstorm qualified. Most Trader Joe's customers don't drive Hummers, after all.

M. Small's favorite thing about Trader Joes's is that he always gets a balloon. Usually he's willing to wait until we ring out. But today he saw them on the way in -- floating in colorful clusters above the cash registers the way they do -- and started clamoring right away.

"He can wait," I told Trash. "It'll build character."

Unfortunately, the one who turned out to lack character was me, because when the shopping started to take longer than I expected, I peeled off from the group and filched a yellow balloon from one of the registers. He got a yellow balloon last time, too, but I didn't think he'd mind. And indeed, when I returned to my family, the mocking I received from Trash was more than made up for by M. Small's heartfelt and unprompted expressions of gratitude. "Thank you, Daddy!" he said warmly, with a huge smile. "Thank you!" Which didn't help my character much either.

So then on our way out, M. Small had somehow loosened the balloon from his wrist, and experienced the unparalleled toddler horror of watching it soar out of his reach. He even did the abject, arms-spread, "Oh, noooooo!" Except we were still in the store, and the ceiling was low enough that I could reach the dangling ribbon and hand it back to him. Disaster averted.

"I want a new one," he said, refusing.

I'd like to think that he considered the balloon's accidental touching of the ceiling to be some kind of sullying of its purity. Sadly, I'm cynical enough -- and so is he, sometimes -- that I suspect the whole balloon-losing scene was a ruse designed to score him that white balloon he had his eye on the whole time we were in line. "I want the white one," he reiterated, pointing at it vigorously so as to avoid getting his original balloon returned to him.

Do lots of kids do this, I wondered? "That's the first time anyone's ever done that," the cashier chuckled. I knew mine was special. And clever enough to hedge his bets by pulling his stunt inside, so that if the bid for an upgrade didn't work he wouldn't be completely out of luck.

He went home with the yellow balloon. I have a little character, okay?

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posted by M. Giant 6:56 PM 7 comments


I think one of the most hilarious things about children (myself included, when I was one) is that they're clever enough to think UP schemes like this, but not clever enough to realize some things that are implausible.

For example, in an attempt to get my brother in trouble, I once wrote his name all over his mattress in permanent marker. My mom informed me she knew I did it. I was mystified. HOW DID SHE KNOW?

Because he was two. He couldn't write.

Even better is when a kid is all, "A DINOSAUR. A DINOsaur came from the WOODS and ATE THE COOKIES," and is genuinely MYSTIFIED when dad knows they are lying.

By Blogger Unknown, at March 1, 2007 at 4:56 AM  

My inlaws live near a Trader Joe's (on Rosemeade in San Gabriel, CA). Like the one you describe, the parking lot is an exercise in aggravation. Do you suppose this is a Corporate objective of theirs?

By Blogger MailDeadDrop, at March 1, 2007 at 8:31 AM  

I think all Trader Joe's parking lots are like the one you described. I live in Southern California where there are Joe's a plenty. Yet, I have never seen one that has a parking lot one can manuver while keeping their sanity intact. I think you're right, Russell - its a corporate objective - to be cheap.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 1, 2007 at 10:41 AM  

That's why I'm glad my Trader Joe's is on the bus line. I have to go more frequently, but don't have to park.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 2, 2007 at 6:32 AM  

The lots for Trader Joe's in Chicago also frequently suck. Fortunately, they also have a pretty good-sized bike rack, so I never had to maneuver it.

I once baby-sat my cousin for a two-week stretch. She got her hands on a postcard for me from a friend of mine and wrote her name all over it. When I asked her why she did that she claimed it wasn't her. "My name ends in an 'n' - THAT is a 'p'." She'd written "Colleep" all over it.

By Blogger Cassie, at March 2, 2007 at 10:51 AM  

For the record, the parking lots of the TJ's in Goleta and Santa Cruz, CA are fine, but only because they are in strip malls. The one in Santa Barbara, however, sucks massively. (Which is why I'm pretty sure it's gone now?)

HOWEVER, I must take issue with the width of their aisles. Something about TJ's seems to strike customers dumb with wonder, and it's hard to navigate past them as they stare in awe at a box of miso soup mix.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 2, 2007 at 3:30 PM  

I can only think of two Trader Joe's with adequate parking in SoCal - the one on La Canada (strip mall) and the one on North Rosemead in Pasadena (waves at Russell).
Let's not even talk about the craziness over at the Arroyo Parkway store with its 14 lot spaces and NO street parking.

By Blogger Unknown, at March 3, 2007 at 11:28 AM  

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