There have been very few occasions that have made me rethink my decision to move into Washington, DC. Actually, there may have only been one: trying to figure out dual-state* taxes that first April. Oh, and okay, the tourists, but that just makes me wish I’d looked a bit harder for an apartment. (Speaking of: anyone got a recommendation for a place? Studio, balcony, dishwasher, relatively inexpensive but without a side of “You’ll want to carry a weapon to do laundry”?)
Interestingly, one of the things I thought would be hardest about city living has turned out to be the easiest: grocery shopping. Before I really learned the neighborhood I was going to be moving into, I thought I might just grab a cab to the nearest Giant (which I thought was the one on Wisconsin Avenue), and then cab back with my groceries. My dad even suggested Giant’s Peapod as an option.
But then a friend said, “Hey, there’s a Giant up on Van Ness.” And that, in addition to the Target out in Columbia Heights, is where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping. But every now and then I need some small item, and I don’t feel like walking one to two and a half miles for it, so I just stop past the little corner market closest to my apartment: Manhattan Market.
Okay, okay, and that “small item” I need is, yes, usually milk.
Here’s the thing: I drink a lot of milk. I love milk. It’s my favorite non-alcoholic beverage. It’s better than soda, lemonade, and even water (although I also drink a copious amount of aitch-two-oh). I can take being snowed into my apartment for a week — provided I’ve got several jugs of milk in the fridge. Even with no food? Well, truth be told, that’s how I spent the snowstorm of March 2003.
Last Thursday was a long day. It was the day I and my fellow jurors had all shown up at the courthouse at 9:30, and we’d hotly deliberated the merits of the case for several hours before the infamous Juror No. 7 admitted to having had a prejudicial run-in with one of the police officers. We’d sat around the jury room for two or three hours before the judge was able to dismiss that juror, call in the alternate, and advise us to continue deliberations on Friday. I’d gone to my part-time job, got there late, and had to shovel dinner into my mouth as our General Manager kept asking why I wasn’t on the clock. So when I stumbled off the L2, aware that I had virtually no milk at home, I had my fingers crossed that the night manager of Manhattan Market would let me in … even if they had already closed.
See, a month or two ago, I tried to stop into Manhattan Market on my way home from work on a Friday night. I didn’t actually need milk, but I knew I was running low, and it would be one less thing I’d have to buy the next morning (I usually do my grocery shopping Saturday morning — and as early as possible, since very few people are actually grocery shopping at 6:30am). I pulled on the doors, but they were locked. I saw mops out, and I walked away.
Well, I stopped in the next morning, and bought the milk, and this guy — first, this is a family run business, I assume everyone who works there is a relation to one another, and second, this guy in particular is great: older guy, maybe mid to late 50s, very friendly, knows everyone by face if not name (I don’t know his, he doesn’t know mine), he’s usually there Saturday mornings and weekday evenings, I only don’t see him there Sundays) — said, “I was going to let you in last night, but you’d already left.” I told him that my need wasn’t great, and I didn’t want him to have to go out of his way. He told me that, for regulars, he was happy to do what he could.
So Thursday night, as I exited the L2 and walked north the half block or so to the market, I had my fingers crossed he’d let me in. When I got there, a few minutes after ten, the store was dark. There were no customers, and the two young men who are usually in the evening were gone. The night manager was behind the registers counting some money. I knocked, and he secured what he was working on, and opened the door. After I explained what I needed, he let me in, but almost immediately clarified that I wouldn’t be able to pay tonight, I’d have to come back the next day.
At this point, I was like, “Woah there, back up! Not an emergency, I’ll come back tomorrow!”
But he would hear none of it, saying something about how he could get in trouble with the other businesses if they saw customers coming out of the shop after he was supposed to be closed. I don’t quite know what that meant, but maybe he just doesn’t want it advertised that he occasionally allows regulars into the shop after hours (um, maybe I should rethink this post?). In any case, I got my milk, and he showed me out a side door which led to a store room, which in turn led to stairs to the alley behind the shop. I thanked him for the umpteenth time and headed home with my milk.
And of course I went back Friday afternoon, after my jury service was complete, to pay him what I owed.
And I realized another reason why I love living here so much.
(I also realized – just now – that I could’ve just written, “Because I’m a regular customer, Manhattan Market let me in last week after they closed and trusted me to pay them back the next day and I love them!”, but why say in twenty-nine words what you can say in one thousand and five, am I right? Word count five!)
*You know what I mean.