Tuesday evening I stopped at a local grocer, “Farmers’ Freshest Produce Market” or some such thing. I like to shop there because they are cheap and the food is fresh. Well, most of the time. Tuesday I needed milk. I purchased 2 gallons, one for drinkin’ and one for makin’ yogurt. When I got home, I noted with a bit of apprehension that one of the milk jug handles felt considerably warmer than the other. I decided to open that gallon first, just in case. As I poured the chunks of curdled milk into the pan, I sighed the “I really don’t want to drive all the way back to the store tonight; I’ll do it in the morning on my way to work” sigh, capped the jug and put it back in the bag with the receipt.
Wouldn’t you know it, but when morning came I realized that I had forgotten to put the gallon of curdled milk in the refrigerator. It had begun to look like a lump of latex floating in lemonade. Well, I thought, it was bad anyway, now it’s just more easily identified as such, and I promptly forgot about it again… until I was driving past the “Best Fresh Produce Market” again, at which time I cursed my memory, and vowed that I would remember to bring it back to the store that evening.
As luck would have it I was very busy that evening and in my haste I figured the best place to put a gallon of latex floating in lemonade was outside, where I did not have to look at it. “Out of sight, out of mind” they say, which was true right up until I passed “Farm Fresh Market Produce” the next morning. Cursing my memory again, which in hindsight may not be the best thing to do when the problem involves forgetting things, I promised that after work I would return the latex, I mean milk.
So Thursday evening I finally had time to run back to the market with my gallon of what used to be milk. I walked up to the checkout lady and politely explained that I had purchased this gallon of what used to be milk two days ago, and that it was bad when I opened it. She gave me a blank stare and banged on the window to the manager’s office. Through the one way mirror, I could make out his silhouette waving her off, but she persisted and banged again, harder, and pointed at me.
A moment later he appeared, a stout Eastern European man in his early 50’s. I began to explain to him the situation, but trailed off as I noticed how he was looking at the jug. “This milk was either frozen” He said, “or it was left out to get warm, so I will not replace it.” He spoke with a mild accent, looking down at me over his glasses. I said that the original issue was the chunkiness of the milk, and that it’s present state was not important. “Milk will never separate like this if it is kept cold.” He said, focusing on what he considered to be the facts. I needed to raise my game, so I asked him pointedly if he was calling me a liar. I wish I could have thought of something more clever, but there it was. He remained firm, and repeated his accusation, adding that he was not calling me anything. “So you’re not going to replace it.” I said, hoping that some shoppers would begin to notice. He then informed me that he has been in the business for 30 years and that he knows what he is talking about. I said that maybe the milk got warm on the truck or because it was in the front row on the shelf. I asked him how I would benefit by doing this purposely; I gain nothing, and instead have to drive back to the store again. Finally he took the gallon from me. “I am wasting my money” he said as he put the jug by his office door and gave me a replacement. I said in all sincerity that I truly appreciate what he had done. “Well I don’t” he said sourly and walked back to his office.