Whether itâ€™s CNN or the admissions blog, summer can be a time of limited news. Around the office, summer is when we can have conversations that arenâ€™t all dominated by admissions talk. Unfortunately, not all our conversations are harmonious. Here, Kristen and I defend our favorite supermarkets.
Jessica: My supermarket choice is based on one firm standard: I want to be able to be back in my kitchen, with a weekâ€™s food for a family of four, an hour after I first left for the store. That pretty much limits me to two choices, both in the Star Market/Shawâ€™s chain. I generally choose the smaller of the two markets, a place I call â€śThe Oasis.â€ť I know where everything is, and the staff is so nice! Thereâ€™s Marty, the manager, who seems to pop up whenever Iâ€™m looking for something. And Hout, the produce manager, who tells me about his extended Cambodian family, which is spread throughout Massachusetts and the Montreal area. And Marie, the cashier from Haiti, whoâ€™s working toward her nursing degree. I can always count on at least one friendly interaction whenever Iâ€™m at The Oasis.
But Kristen makes fun of my choice. She calls it the â€śSoviet Safeway,â€ť a label that dates both her (for using it) and me (for knowing exactly what she means). So what if The Oasis doesnâ€™t have as broad a range as other stores! Thatâ€™s a price Iâ€™m willing to pay to shop in a store on a human scale. Kristen tells me I should try her supermarket of choice, Market Basket, but I would miss my friends at The Oasis too much.
Kristen: Jessica is trying to sway her fair readers with compelling tales of kind managers and boot-strapping employees. Donâ€™t be taken in by her charade! Letâ€™s be clear here: Jessica started this conversation with the criterion that a good grocery store trip is a short trip, and her attempt to soften this militant attitude with the friendly faces of Soviet Safeway is just a ploy.
On the other hand, I wonâ€™t manipulate you with tear-jerking stories about Market Basket.. No, Market Basket is not for the faint-hearted. Especially if you go on the weekend, Market Basket is all about the battle, but the victory is oh-so-sweet.
From the time you first pull into the parking lot, you know thereâ€™s a struggle waiting for you. Though the lot is large, crowds clog it most hours of the day. The sawdust on the floor makes for slick footing. Youâ€™re likely to become mired in a traffic jam in the narrow aisles behind a store worker restocking shelves.
And yet â€¦ thereâ€™s a camaraderie there. You might say that itâ€™s because misery loves company, but itâ€™s more than that. Itâ€™s the wide selection of ethnic goods (particularly Latin, Brazilian, and Haitian, echoing the nearby communities), the very fresh produce, and most of all, the fact that itâ€™s cheap, cheap, cheap. When you walk out spending 25% less than you would in Jessicaâ€™s so-called oasis, you know that youâ€™ve emerged the victor.
Bottom line: Jessica is a wimpy grocery shopper. See the light. Come to Market Basket.
Jessica: Wimpy, perhaps. But in trying to lure me to Market Basket, Kristen forgets criterion number one: I want to be able to complete the trip in an hour. Going to Market Basket from my house would require extra time, and the additional $4/gallon gas and carbon offsets to justify my driving would far exceed the savings. The friendly encounters, on top of the fact that The Oasis ensures accomplishment of the one-hour goal, are just icing on the cake, Kristen. Besides, I go every now and then to the Haymarket. Nothing wimpy about that!
But what about you, prospective applicant? I can hear you thinking: â€śWoe be to me if that crazy Market Basket shopping Kristen reads my application.â€ť Please donâ€™t worry. Though Kristen may like to combine blood sport and grocery shopping, sheâ€™s otherwise very nice! (Just donâ€™t get in her way at Market Basket or its overcrowded parking lot!)
Kristen: Jessica suggests that I am a lone wolf in my Market Basket allegiance, but let me assure you that she is the true outsider. Market Basket devotees abound in our office. Justin and Roxana both became very animated in their support when the topic arose. Peter and Laurie, quite wisely, shrunk back into their offices, likely thinking â€śTheyâ€™re ALL crazy.â€ť They could be right.
Jessica: For the record, Peter is an Oasis shopper! But at least thereâ€™s one thing Kristen and I completely agree on: The Boston area is lucky to have great farmerâ€™s markets! I usually go to the Davis Square Market on Wednesdays. Itâ€™s another shopping locale at which I can count on plenty of friendly encounters, along with fantastic produce. And Massachusetts has been very forward looking in making the markets an option for families receiving government support for food. Itâ€™s an all around feel-good place!
Kristen: This is true! Iâ€™m glad we can call a truce, and we didnâ€™t even need the sharp negotiating skills of our own Professor Babbitt to make it happen.
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