It's 5 p.m. at Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco's premier co-op supermarket, and the place is packed. I had entered the store with the intention of grabbing a few Kombuchas for the week (they're a FULL DOLLAR CHEAPER here than at Whole Foods), and nearly two hours later, I find myself pondering a vat of almond butter in the bulk section, my cart overflowing with soba noodles, fish oil, and passionflower tinctures. An aging hippie next to me nibbles on the corner of a fig newton he lifted from a bulk jar. He sees that I've noticed and shuffles away, humiliated. Two dreadlocked boys to my left are loading up on granola for their upcoming drive to Burning Man. I tell them to try the pumpkin granola (full of omega-3s!). The taller of the two puts his hands together, bows slightly in my direction, and murmurs "Namaste". I detect no sarcasm. They fade away toward the beer coolers.
Usually I prefer nectarines to peaches (no fuzz), but today a handwritten sign above a crate of big, ripe peaches in the produce section catches my eye. Apparently, these peaches were transported here from a small, organic farm in Shasta County in the back of a truck running on biodiesel fuel. Seems worth it. I pick up three.
In the housewares aisle, a customer asks a Rainbow employee why they don't have a better incense selection. She recommends a great incense place on Telegraph and 33rd in Berkeley. He writes the address down, thanks her and their conversation shifts to beeswax varieties.
Along the back wall of the store, I open a glass door to grab a carton of free-range eggs, and get blasted with Cat Power – He War from some hidden stereo behind the wall of dairy (no doubt to help motivate the guy stocking Kefir). I close the door and the music abruptly switches back to Neil Diamond on the store's main speaker system. I decide I prefer Cat Power, but stop myself from opening the glass door again and wasting valuable cold air.
At the checkout stand, I bag my own groceries. They don't do this for you at Rainbow. I could feel put out if I wanted to, but I'm already on their shit list for forgetting my cloth bags. Again. And truth be told, I kind of enjoy the task. I make it a game to finish bagging as quickly as possible, so as not to hold up the next guy in line (it's the aging hippie!). I also used to bag groceries for money as a teenager and like to think of myself as a shape/weight/temperature/ingredient grouping aficionado. The kids at Whole Foods don't know what they're doing these days. Seriously, who puts milk on top of bananas? But I digress.
On the way back to my car, a twitchy guy in a parka approaches me with a spray bottle full of something blue, begging me to let him clean my windshield. I politely decline, explaining that I just washed my car (true). He persists, gesturing off toward Mission Street, something about a burrito truck. His desperation pulls at my heart strings, so I reach into the grocery bag I packed full of things containing wheat flour and offer him a sprouted bagel. He scoffs at it and pedals away on his bike.
I've missed you, San Francisco.