Thursday, March 10, 2011

Talking To The Tomatoes At Vons

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published March 10, 2011]  © 2011

It’s a phenomenon I call “Talking to the Tomatoes at Vons”. 

You’ve seen it yourself:  A well-dressed La Jolla matron is poised over the tomato station in rapt conversation with the produce.

Several possibilities immediately come to mind, none of which are mutually exclusive:
(1) She is certifiably nuts.
(2) Her conversational companion has fallen into the tomato display and is awaiting assistance by the next available associate.
 (3) There is a Bluetooth ear piece hidden by a perfectly coiffed blond head.

The social dilemma of determining whether people are off their meds or just oblivious cell phone users has been widely documented.  But People Who Talk to Produce is a newer phenomenon. 

Of course, People Who Talk To Produce often talk to canned goods, hard cheeses, and pasta sauces as well. Once you get going talking to food, it’s pretty hard to stop.  I’m finding this an alarming development.

Pretty soon it will need a DSM-IV classification.  Drugs will be used to treat it, including Paxil used off-label.

Since Vons is pretty much the cradle of civilization in La Jolla, it’s pretty hard to go there and not encounter someone you know.  More problematical is encountering someone you know who is not carrying on a conversation with an invisible someone else. 

There is a woman I see there frequently whose son grew up with mine.  She walks toward me smiling brightly, gesturing with her hands.  She appears to be waving.  I push my cart in her direction, smiling and waving back.   “Hi!” I exclaim as she approaches.  She points at her ear, and keeps on walking. 

Minutes later I see her Communing with the Cauliflower.   

Obviously, Customers Who Commune with Cauliflower and Chat With Cantaloupes are a direct result of hands-free phones.  Pushing a cart and holding a phone to your ear just didn’t allow you to adequately squeeze the squashes, handle the honeydews, palpate the papayas, or even fondle the foccaccia. 

But freeing the hands seems to have had a curious effect on the mind as well.  There seems to be some mechanism in those ear pieces that transports people to another dimension where they become the Anointed One in a private universe of dispensable deaf mutes.

If I knew how to set up a web site, I’d create one called  Not just Vons, but in bank lines, restaurants, sidewalks.  OK, so 95% of cell phone conversations border on the criminally inane.  But mixed in to all that oral vomitus are Social Security numbers, nasty gossip, addresses, alarm codes, more nasty gossip,  intimately personal medical information, financial details,  really really vicious gossip, and travel plans including dates people WILL NOT BE HOME.  The kumquats are pretty good about keeping secrets, but can the rest of the world be trusted?

If I could figure out how to use the camera part of my phone, I could even include a photo of the speaker.  Or a video clip.  But I would probably have to worry about hearing from someone’s lawyer.  Because even though the person said something in full earshot of a bin of Idahos, there is probably a law on the books protecting privileged communication between a person and a potato.

None of this really helps to answer my original questions, however.  I confess that what I really want to do when I see people talking to the tomatoes at Vons is tap them on the shoulder and ask:  are the tomatoes answering back?

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