A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

I’m going to lay a bombshell on you.

I think Trader Joe’s is a more obnoxious place to shop than Fairway. Yeah, that’s right. I said it.

I never really go there, because I prefer to interact with no one but my computer screen and, eventually, a delivery man while food shopping. It’s really the best of all worlds. But the other night we were having people over last-minute, and I had no choice but to stop at the nearest and seemingly least-offensive grocery purveyor. So I dashed into Trader Joe’s.

I’ve always envied the TJ’s shoppers I see bopping around with their reusable, environmentally-friendly bags and their yoga pants and their organic-yet-not-necessarily-dietetic lifestyle which seems to work so well for them. They are representative of a lifestyle which has always seemed completely out of grasp for someone like me, but to which I’ve always aspired. Basically, that’s being a well-adjusted, grown-up human being who can keep her refrigerator stocked with a reasonable amount of food, cook for herself and eat normal meals made with normal food without getting fat or winding up racked with gut-twisting guilt or screwing it all and standing over the crisper eating an entire package of low fat cheese and a container of mango for dinner while the “rainbow swiss chard” she bought for non-specific use is liquifying in the back of the fridge.

It’s not like Fairway, where everyone is angry and disorganized and vainly searching for one product and grabbing whatever’s nearby instead just so they can get the hell out. No, nothing like that. So I strolled into TJ’s feeling all self-righteous and highly evolved and, you know, normal, and I realized that everyone in there is basically just the same as the Fairway shopper, only all the ill feelings have been tamped down one layer beneath a veneer of superimposed niceness. Everyone was still on top of each other, boring laser beams into the back of the heads of old ladies who spend 15 minutes comparing two identical packages of deli turkey. Everyone wants to shove one another very badly to get at the little sample cups of hummus, or to secretly race each other to get on line first, or to wedge themselves into the crowd to get a good spot in the frozen Asian foods section. Mmmmm potstickers.

At Whole Foods, the jig has long been up. People there act like they’re contestants on American Gladiators. But everyone still seems restrained by this pressure on TJ’s shoppers to be better than that, more wholesome and responsible citizens who care about organic food and yoga and the planet and being decent, which just puts everyone into an even worse mood which they cannot appropriately express our take out on one another. Plus, people move slower, and I’m convinced it’s not because they’re more relaxed, but because they feel like they ought to be.

More: The 14 Best Restaurants Serving Locally-Grown Food

I swept out of there with my purchases as fast as I could and come home ranting about how the shopping experience there is secretly less pleasant than that at Fairway due to everyone bowing to some bogus pressure to be a better person. Mr. Pajak walked out of the room while I was mid-thesis, but I feel like I’ve really stumbled on something here. Or perhaps I’m just terrible. But give me openly nasty people than the repressed kind any day of the week. At least with the former, you know what you’re getting. With the other variety, someone can pop at any moment without warning. Like if someone were to sneak a second sample while others are forcing themselves to act patient.

You’d better watch your back, sample hog.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions and follow me on Twitter.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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