Name a grocery store that is even vaguely accessible from Boston College’s campus—either the Newton Campus or Main—and the chances are that I’ve been there.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve taken T’s, buses, shuttles, and (as I got more comfortable in the area) walked using my own two feet and the valuable assistance of Google Maps to get to these havens of food. For long stretches of the academic year, I will make my way toward a grocery store at least once a weekend, although twice (sometimes even to the same grocery store) is not unheard of.
I think that the obsession started with Wegmans. Early on, freshman year, when I found myself surrounded by unfamiliar names like Star Market (where was Giant, or even Safeway?), I looked around in confusion, certain I needed to buy lots of snacks, but unsure of where to go. With so much change already taking place, the thought of attempting to navigate a new grocery store just seemed too daunting.
Much to my delight, I quickly discovered that there was a Wegmans in Chestnut Hill. Although it wasn’t my everyday grocery store, Wegmans was more than a familiar name. It was the place that my family stopped in to get lunch on long road trips. It was the grocery store for special occasions, the first step toward a weekend vacation.
And here it was! There even was a little shuttle that took you right there, depositing you in a wide parking lot surrounded by a conglomeration of shops and restaurants that all seemed to center around this magnificent Wegmans.
Entering through the sliding glass doors was a soothing process in and of itself, and I made a beeline for the sub station, where I placed an order for a wonderfully familiar lunch. Then I wandered through the aisles, carefully choosing pieces of fresh fruit (something that suddenly seemed like an incredibly valuable commodity) and considering impractical items—with no kitchen, I probably don’t need a block of cheese. But somehow, it was comforting to hold onto them all the same.
By the end of my first visit, I was hooked. I went back the next weekend, and the weekend after that, oftentimes not buying much more than a sub sandwich for lunch, but still wandering through the aisles. Just wandering among the brightly colored items neatly stacked and organized on shelves, and navigating around the people rushing by—although they seemed oddly determined to leave Wegmans and get on with their day—made the tense muscles in my back relax.
As the year went on, I branched out a little bit. I made my way down the C Line and perused the extensive frozen food options and adorable snacks. On Saturday mornings, I began walking to Whole Foods, where I discovered the unexpected beauty of Squishy Fishies and Icelandic yogurt. One day I even treated myself to a block of cheese.
This semester, I finally made my way to Star Market, determined to see the inside of this mysterious place once and for all. And it was actually pretty nice, but it wasn’t Wegmans.
While this habit of essentially loitering in grocery stores might be normal for some with a kitchen in any capacity, for a student whose main access to a kitchen is through her low-power microwave, the habit is decidedly eccentric.
Beyond snack food—which is expendable by nature—I never really need anything from these grocery stores. Sometimes, like when I’m sitting there making my way through a giant bag of dried mangoes, I’ll wish that I hadn’t even bought the food in the first place. And then I’ll ask myself why I even went to the grocery store.
The answer might seem odd, but for me, this pseudo-grocery shopping imposes a sense of structure on my life. Once classes are over, my life can devolve all too easily into laziness and aimless ambling, and being somewhere where everyone around me has a sense of purpose helps a little. Even if I don’t put much into it, just pushing a shopping cart through the aisles alongside all the other shoppers helps remind me where I should be heading.
Featured Image by AP Photo / Julie Jacobson