Oliver is settling in nicely in New Jersey. The first rounds of introductions are through, but he’s still searching for a short term lease nearby. Until that time he’s doing time at the Holiday Inn. Thanks to Skype and my new laptop with built-in webcam, we were able to see each other today, in a fashion.
In Munich I was sitting in the kitchen having dinner and he was sitting at his desk having a sandwich for lunch. I asked him where he’d gotten the sandwich, Subway?
No, he told me, Whole Foods.
During one of his early visits to me in the Bay Area, I’d taken Oliver to buy some groceries at Whole Foods for dinner. He’d never been before, so I took him on a little tour through the aisles, pointing out the organic chocolates, the vegetable chips, the crazy patchouli girl at the all natural make-up counter.
Along with the goat cheese and bell peppers, he wanted tomatoes. I started filling a bag with locally grown Romas when he stopped me, pointing instead to some other ones, glowing red and round in the next bin. I said nothing as he filled a plastic bag with a six-pack on the vine and took our few purchases up to the cash register.
He was too busy staring at the diverse patchwork of people in line to notice the register as everything was rung up. Then, when I paid the bill, I saw him do a double take, brow furrowed, as he studied the money changing hands and the groceries being put in the paper bag in front of him. I saw him doing the math, trying to figure out what had turned a twenty into three dollars and some change. I managed to get him out of the store before he was able to fish the reciept out of the bag, put two and two together and realize that he’d managed to buy nine dollars worth of tomatoes.
He’d never even glanced at the price to check if tomatoes on the vine are the same price as they are in Germany, where they are often the cheapest option. The nasty sticker shock he’d suffered afterwards had him swearing he would never go back in to a place that institutionalizes highway robbery.
Nine dollars for tomatoes? For years this was an anecdote told at dinner to friends. You wanna know how nuts the Americans are? Tomatoes. How much? Nine Dollars. No kidding.
Well, once bitten twice shy, at least until inconvenient hunger strikes. How much were those grapes he was eating, I asked?
Seven dollars he said…
…seven dollars and fifty-eight cents to be exact.
Welcome to America baby.