The local grocery store in Washington DC is like a modern museum – not because it is full of old stuff but because it is full of wonders. I meander the aisles, cutting from side to side looking at the variety of goods and am amazed and a little confounded at, inter alia the variety of breakfast cereals. They say Americans eat a lot of sugar. After perusing the cartons in front of me I am inclined to agree. Fortunately the store has a great variety of fruit and vegetables, all sourced from places up and down the Potomac – and Florida it seems. I am not sure about the deli cornucopia and leave that to another trip to try and decipher. It’s way too confusing.I fill up a basket of essentials to help me survive apartment living in downtown DC. Most of my dining is “out” but sometimes those back to back History Channel programs demand I eat in. The “checkout chick” has a cheeky smile and we chat as she unloads the basket. The accent gives me away and she wants to know where I am from. But she is not distracted and quickly the groceries are pushed past the scanner into a pile. She drops a couple of large brown paper bags on top of the boxes of bananas and boxes of muesli and says hello to the customer behind me.As I reach for the bags to pack up, out of nowhere an elderly African American chap appears and reaches for the groceries. He has tanned leathery skin, the regulation peppery grey steel wool hair and has a homeless, frail air about him. I am suspicious of his intent and brusquely wave him off my groceries. He steps back looking puzzled, I pack the bags and head home. Three days later I need to top up with bread but when I arrive at the store I am greeted by three old men who have watched me run in from the rain. I am told I am not welcome here. Go shop somewhere else. It turns out I had rebuffed a gentleman who was critical to the shopping process – he would pack my groceries and take them to my car, for which I would give a tip. On which he would live. The ‘black ban’ lasted three more weeks before the old boys figured I had learned their lesson (the next closest store was a long drive across the Potomac). I would let them load my groceries but they never spoke to me or smiled for the remaining months I shopped there. Apparently there is an unforgivable sin!
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