Thursday, June 21, 2012

Birds of a Feather

First , you should know that I’m not a big bird person.  Besides the actual Big Bird, I don’t particularly like avian creatures, especially if they’re talking, angry, or Angry.   

Second, I don’t consider myself a particularly nurturing person.      
That’s why the events of this past Saturday were a bit shocking.  Well, at least, they were to me. 

See, I was heading over to my friends’ house for dinner and as I was leaving my development, I saw a bird in the middle of the road, clearly injured or in some other sort of bird distress.  As I passed it and drove on by – because it was just a bird after all – I glanced into my rear-view mirror and saw a hawk swoop down to try to pick off that little bird.  Hawk’s gotta eat, yo. 
What I saw next made me do something that was atypical of my bird-hating, un-nuturing self.   See, as that hawk went in for the kill, the little hurt bird’s birdie friends flew down and tried to protect it.  They flew in and chirped and batted their wings and that hawk flew away.  And the little hurt bird continued to struggle in the middle of the road. 

That’s when I flew into action (first use of a pun in 20 days!)
Commence Operation Save Wounded Birdie. 

I made a quick left and turned around to come back up the street.  As I was driving back up, the Death Hawk swooped down again.  And once again, the birdie friends scared him off. 
I turned onto a side street trying to figure out what to do because I didn’t have any sort of plan. Honestly, these types of situations are a little beyond me.  I mean, I have friends whom, I’m pretty sure, have the emergency animal clinic on speed-dial but me, what do I know about saving animals?  Cats are one thing.  Birds are a completely different animal.  Literally!  But in the moment, I didn’t care because I was going to Save. That. Bird. 

As I was on the second point of my three-point U-turn to get back to the scene of the bird drama, I saw the battle between predator and prey replay for a third time.  But then a passing car forced the protector birds to take flight.  That gave Death Hawk its opening and it swooped down and, well…Bye Bye Birdie.  I guess you could say Death Hawk got carry-out that night. 
I know it’s all survival of the fittest and all that but I found the whole situation to be very powerful.  Realistically, even if I had been able to save that little bird – or at least move it to the side of the road – it probably wouldn’t have survived.  But yet that little bird – hurt and broken – valiantly tried to hang on as it struggled to survive in the middle of a big, scary mess that it found itself in.  And in those last few moments before it became hawk food, that little bird’s friends were doing all they could to protect it.  It made me think...well, yes, birds of a feather do flock together.

And hawks are just mean.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


On Sunday morning, I rose with the morning sun and headed to the grand opening of the Wegmans in the next town over from mine.  Wegmans is kinda like the Disneyland of supermarkets – it’s an experience to shop there.  Who wouldn’t want to have an experience when they’re grocery shopping?!   I was one of many in a line that eventually snaked around the building and down the street waiting for the doors to open.   Unfortunately, my #Wegmania hash tag didn’t catch on in the Twitterverse but that didn’t quell my excitement. 

One of my friends tweeted me and said she was guessing that I was one of Wegmans’ biggest fans. I responded with the truth – not really, I’m just into supermarket grand openings.  I wasn’t really there to shop.  I was just there to be there.  To say – “Yep, I was at the grand opening of the Wegmans.  I came.  I saw.   I was there.“
See, on a summer morning 14 years ago, I was on the other side of a similar set of doors looking out at a similar line snaking around a brand-spanking new supermarket.  It wasn’t a Wegmans.  Nope, my supermarket was Genuardi’s.  If you’re from the Philadelphia suburbs, you’ve heard of Genuardi’s.  Maybe you even shopped at one.  Customer service and quality goods were hallmarks of the Genuardi’s chain and for a long time they set the gold standard for grocery stores in Southeastern Pennsylvania – kinda like the Disneyland of supermarkets (ahem).       
On July 2, 1998, as the Genuardi family opened the doors to Roslyn Store #35 – after the family priest blessed the produce – I was at Register 3, at the ready to scan with gusto, punch in produce look-ups with abandon (4011, 4080,…), and ask the imperative question – “Paper or plastic?”   

It wasn’t my first job but it was the first job that pushed me out into the world.  The seeds of the person I am today were planted and nurtured at Genuardi’s…probably in the floral department where I spent many summer days watering and deadheading flowers.  We were a tight-knit staff – high school and college kids and actual grown-ups – who had fun while we were cashiering, baking, deli slicing, pizza tossing, meat grinding, and melon handling!  There were Halloween parties, Genuardi brothers sightings, picnics, Midnight Madness sales, and, once, we even had the Mummers strut their stuff in the center of our produce department!  For a girl who commuted to college, it was the closest thing I came to a collegiate experience.  And our school colors were black (pants), white (shirt), and green (apron).      
While I didn’t receive a degree from Genuardi’s, I did receive a much-needed education.  I learned that when people hear the word “snow” in the forecast, they will suddenly need more milk, bread, and toilet paper than they know what to do with; I learned how to use a helium tank (and you better believe that comes in handy!); I learned the difference between a geranium and a hydrangea; I learned the joys of the life known as “third shift;” I learned that for every nasty person in the world, there are ten more who are kind and generous; I learned that a manager who believes in you has the potential to change your life.  And I learned that all good things come to an end eventually.

A couple years into my employment, the Genuardi family sold their stores to a larger grocery chain.  That was the beginning of the end – or “21st Century and decline” as it is referenced in the Genuardi’s Wikipedia article.  Eventually work wasn’t fun anymore.  Work became work.  And that's never a good thing.  Genuardi’s was never the same after that sale, even though it stayed on the supermarket scene.  But late last year, that grocery chain decided to close or sell off the Genuardi’s stores.  By the end of this summer, Genuardi’s will “cease to exist,” leaving behind a legacy of customer service, quality products, and, I imagine, quite a few aprons, and name tags.    
I thought about Genuardi’s a lot while I waited in line for the Wegmans grand opening.  I thought about how lucky I was to experience a grand opening on the other side of the doors.  To be able to say that I had been there.  When they finally take the Genuardi’s sign down at Roslyn Store #35, I hope to be there so I can say “I came.  I saw.  I’m so glad that I worked there.”