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Friday, August 13, 2004

Supermarket Makeover

Our local Safeway - and hence the chain nationwide - is embroiled in major remodeling involving switching everything round.

I heard once that the theory is that you should be able to walk into any Safeway, from Newton to Nacogdoches, Winslow to Wenatchee, and be able to walk straight to the requisite aisle.

The current switch-around is fun: customers are lost and grumpy, staff at a bit of a loss to direct them.

I went in this evening for eggs, veges, the local rag, nibbles and accompanying firewater.

Where the chips should have been (potato crisps in my lingo) were the greetings card shelves, dairy products were now Pampers and assorted feminine products - and the hooch was nowhere to be seen.

I finally traced the booze to a double-sided rack running the length of the meat counter on one side and the ends of the cereal, soups, kitchen utensils aisles on the other, now requiring indecisive connoisseurs to walk round to the other side before deciding on a final purchase.

The joy of the old system was that the booze used to occupy its own aisle down which drinkers could mooch in relative privacy.

Advantage: I kept forgetting to buy a new oven glove until - lo! - homing in on the yoghurt counter, I'm confronted by a darling display of paisley patterned examples; seeking out dental floss, I'm presented with the opportunity to stock up on CDs on which to burn Amanda Perez for Anna; ice cream for dessert? Ma foi! I *am* low on loo paper.

The Furama Hotel in Hong Kong boasted a revolving restaurant as its top floor. You'd sit there enjoying a slowly changin view of Hong Kong: the specatacular harbor, Wanchai, Chai Wan, the Peak, Western, back to the harbor.

Since the *view* didn't change, you could go to the loo from one view and return to the same view but tabled with total strangers. In view of the Furama's fine weine cellar, as the evening went on, it became more difficult to findones way back ("Yes, sir?" "I'm looking for a table ... er .. unoccupied steak dish, bottle of Chinon - oh, and a blonde lady in a green dress ....".

Back in '65, when we were lean and infinitely rubbery of joint, the joke would be to slide down onto the immobile edge 'gutter' and let the rest of the room revolve until you had arrived at some riva's table whereupon you grabbed the calf of the lady and accused the bloke of trhing to steal yr bird. The amazing thing in those days was how many tables passed by without the occupants realising you were there. Fodder, I always thought, for a novelist's eavesdrop or assassination à l;a my author mate, Georgi Markov who bought it at an Aldwych bus stop with a jab from a poison-tipped brolly.

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