Friday, February 3, 2012

Baltimorons, 3rd Edition

"The Baltimoron Store"

Almost two years ago, there was the grand opening of a Food Depot supermarket in my East Baltimore neighborhood. From a vantage point outside of the store, it looked like any other big store's grand opening. Aaah, but all you had to do was go inside to know that this was a Baltimoron store through and through!

Inside the entrance, customers were greeted by the Baltimore Orioles mascot. Instead of there being a lot a fun and good cheer, the poor bird spent much of the day being heckled, cursed at, and generally being on the wrong end of a dismissive, hostile crowd angry and derisive of the Orioles' longstanding ineptitude, as if owner Peter Angelos himself was inside of the oversized black and orange costume.

While the store was (and is) clean and (sort of) organized, there were random dudes dressed in the store's bright red t-shirts just buzzing about with shopping carts, weaving in and out of the customer traffics for reasons that didn't make much, since I rarely actually saw them doing anything with the merchandise they had inside the carts. But hey, they were getting to do this, apparently, so whatever.

And then there were the female employees. One thing I noticed almost right away at the grand (and confirmed in subsequent visits) was that damned near all these women working there - greeters and cashiers - had missing teeth. And I'm not just talking a tooth or two here and there, but whole sections of mouth with nothing but gums (The only cashier with a full set of teeth was the flamboyant gay guy, who smiled and cheesed at me so hard the first time he rang up  my food that I avoided his line for months afterwards). What was going on here, did the Food Depot do its hiring from some kind of program? Between the toothless women and the men zipping around with their carts, I was starting to wonder. I really couldn't complain though, because these ladies were universally very courteous and friendly when they waited on customers. And really, most of them didn't look too bad - with their mouths closed; when there was a bunch of them talking and smiling and laughing, though, it was like a Jack-o-Lantern festival up in there...

Over the two years since they opened up, the Food Depot has changed a little; the place seems a little more organized and less haphazard than at its opening. You don't see too many random guys pushing around carts aimlessly; when you do see one, they actually are doing some real stocking and not just milling about. There has been some turnover amongst the female staff; many of the toothless wonders are no longer there, replaced by prettier, curvier ladies with more teeth and more attitude (leading to my theory that -at least at this store- that quality and friendliness of customer service is inversely proportional to the number of teeth in the employee's mouth. The less teeth, the friendlier, the more teeth, the meaner. It's a theory that has held true to this point). The store has also let in all manner of booths, from guys selling everything from incense and perfumes to hats and tube socks to mix CDs There's also a check cashing service, although when I applied for a card, they told me I could pick it up in about two weeks, and I think I finally got it about three months later (whenever I asked what the hold up was, the answer was always some version of "oh I guess she-whoever she was- will get to processing it when she gets a chance). There are also now always at least one and usually two gargantuan security guard stationed right at the exit, in case of any funny business. And as is usually the case around Baltimoron establishments, there are a line of hacks waiting to give you and your groceries a ride home for a nominal fee. During the warmer seasons, you  might see a grill or a hot dog cart pop up in front of the store. And of course there is the ever-present staple of Baltimoron life, the seller of loose cigarettes.

Ahh, the Food Depot, gotta love it!