On the day before New Year's Eve, we were hosting a dinner for some friends of mine. For any and all dinner parties I take a run over to the St. Lawrence Market, (a market so scrumptious it was voted one of the 25 best markets in the world). Conveniently, the market is just down the street from the Queen's Quay Loblaws (a grocery store so sexy it's rumoured to be one of Toronto's best pick-up spots), where I get all my non-market related sundries. Unfortunately, I also had to go shopping the day before New Year's Eve, a move only contemplated by utter maniacs.
I was in a wickedly bad mood; the fancy schmancy new Canadian Tire tree stand that we'd just bought had leaked while we were on our ski trip in Quebec and warped our recently refinished hardwood floors (more research on hardwood floors reveals that this type of damage is called cupping. Just thought you might want to know.) We had tried to staunch the flow, but I had just discovered some new damage before I left the house and I was officially pissed off.
I made the short trip downtown, muttering to myself while I steamed in my own juices in my little red car. As soon as I neared the market I realized that I was headed for disaster. My regular parking lot looked packed to the gills, the four-way stop was being overrun by SUVs bullying their way through the intersection, and people were *everywhere*. (I have a phobia about crowds. It's not pretty.) I managed to squeak into a parking spot, narrowly avoided getting squashed by a minivan, and escaped being flattened into the pavement by a family with a double-wide stroller, but by this point, I was almost purple with angst.
I managed to get through the throngs of people, sidestepped the crates of writhing lobster lining the walkways and ended up in front of a store where they were hawking - literally - yummy little Cornish Hens. The butcher was über friendly and quite funny and I felt a little warmed. I went over to the veggie store and picked up a bunch of green beans and shallots, but couldn't make it to the potatoes because of the wall of grumpy teens being dragged around by their mothers. I cut my losses, bought my handful of organics and headed out to the Queen's Quay Loblaws, but I was in for a surprise when I got there. It was the first time I've ever seen the massive main level parking lot look full, so instead of circling like some kind of parking lot predator I scooted up to the second level, thinking I was super smart. Nope, it was packed too. I knew I was in for a miserable time; I still wasn't feeling all that fantastic, the traffic was freaking me out, and I still had to clean the house.
I got my buggy and started to navigate the mess of yuppie/hippie/chichi/new-age couples and families with little less than a snarl on my face. It was almost impossible to navigate the store. Unfortunately, I'd been to the downstairs liquor store first, so I had three bottles of nice wine in my cart. Paranoid that someone was going to relieve me of $50 worth of spectacular booze, I didn't want to leave my buggy. I had been in the store for only about 5 minutes when the most interesting thing happened; I was trying to navigate the potato section when I came head to head to with an attractive older man in a nail-biting grocery cart standoff. I needed to get around him to make it to the all-important baguette section and he was in my way. And I wanted him to move.
And then...he did. He smiled at me, a smile that reached his eyes and transformed his face into a delightful maze of wrinkles. He backed up his cart, navigated around me, and said; "Happy New Year". It was a perfectly charming moment that rendered me so flustered I didn't move forward, thwarting the attempts of the person behind me, who pushed his cart ahead and ended up wedged against my ass. Instead of murdering him with a potato, I turned around and smiled. He backed up his cart, apologized, and smiled back.
My bad mood evaporated and I continued on my way, listening to snippets of family discord and strife; to husbands not giving a shit that their wives *had* to have organic beets for their side dishes instead of canned; to wives who didn't want to suffer through another torturous dinner with their mother-in-law; to mothers chastising their slouching Goth teens and screaming Gap-swaddled toddlers. The ever present, ubiquitous Christmas charols were playing in the background and they were...lovely. As I smiled at my cranky fellow shoppers and ceded right-of-way to their grocery carts, I thought about how lucky I was. I thought about how I was going to go home and make a yummy dinner for good friends and an unmarried/common-law/domestic partner who I adore. I thought about how thankful I am for what I have, thankful that we can all define who our family is in our own demented, quirky ways, and that living a happy life is sometimes all about perspective. So, thank you, strange guy in the Queen's Quay Loblaws, thank you for smiling at me instead of horribly mangling my foot by running over it with your buggy.
A very Happy New Year's to everyone. I wish you and yours all the best in 2007. And don't forget to smile at random strangers every once in a while. Just 'cause.