A Reader Question
Yesterday I was posited a provocative question by one of my readers. Greg writes:
I was at the Key Food in Greenpoint on Saturday buying some supplies for a BBQ, when I encountered some perplexing behavior. The gentleman in front of me in the express checkout line (who appeared to be at least 70 years old) was purchasing 8 half-gallons of 1% milk. And nothing else. Upon checking out, he asked the cashier to put all of the cartons in one bag–clearly a physical impossibility. Perhaps you could explain what the hell he was going to do with all of that milk??
As it happens a good friend of mine, we’ll call her “Sarah”, used to work at this very Key Food. She quit two months ago because she couldn’t take it anymore. This morning I called Sarah, relayed Greg’s question and asked her to give her two cents. Here it is:
- Eight one-half gallon containers versus four one gallon containers: If this gentleman was on public assistance, it might explain why he was buying eight one-half gallon cartons of milk versus four one gallon containers of milk. Apparently WIC (or whatever they call it here) will permit you to buy a truckload of Cheerios if you so desire, but you are required to purchase it (for example) 12 oz. increments. Therefore, if this gentleman wanted four gallons of milk (for what, who knows) and happened to be on public assistance, he was probably forced to purchase eight one-half gallon containers to get it.
- Metric System versus English Standard System: Assuming for a moment that this chap was Polish, it is very likely that he has no understanding of the English Standard System of measurements. This is because Poland uses the Metric System. Given the previous, it is possible that it simply did not cross this man’s mind to buy four larger containers rather than eight smaller ones. Even a number of Sarah’s coworkers (younger, recent Polish immigrants all) had problems parsing our system of measurements. This is why she created a chart to help them.
- Poor spatial reasoning (volume versus weight): The fact of the matter is some people are just rock-ass stupid. Sarah saw this on a daily basis working the deli counter. For reasons known only to them, her clientele liked their meat sliced very thinly. Of course, this was not made known to Sarah until after she had cut a pound of meat they deemed too coarse for consumption. Now let me tell you something: my buddy is a very patient woman. Did she grouse or cop an attitude? No. She would place the cut meat back in the refrigerator and slice another pound of meat in thinner slices.What did she get in return? Angry customers claiming that she was trying to sell them more than one pound of meat. Let’s think about this. What happens when you take something (in this case, one pound of deli meat) and slice it very thinly and then compare it to a comparable amount (of meat) sliced more coursely? It looks like more meat, that’s what! But is it actually more than one pound of meat? No, it isn’t. Most of what you are looking at is air. Is this comprehensible to your average Key Food deli patron? Apparently not. I mention the previous anecdote for one simple reason: the kind of person who cannot comprehend the difference between volume and weight is probably not going to understand that two (or in this case EIGHT) objects cannot occupy the same place at the same time. This dude seems to think otherwise, but I doubt his argument is relevant to a check-out line at a Key Food in Greenpoint. On the other hand, maybe it is; perhaps there is a worm hole (or “vacuum”) in the “8 Items or Less” line only the milk man knows about? Finally…
- Why so much milk? Maybe he simply likes milk? A LOT. Or— maybe he bathes in it. The latter is (was) a pretty common beauty ritual. Perhaps this chap isn’t crazy at all; he simply craves clean pores?
I hope this has been helpful, Greg. Thanks for asking!