Supermarket Project

Supermarket Project

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Supermarket Project

After a quick stop by my place of work on Saturday afternoon, I ventured across the street to the local Albertson’s grocery store. This excursion was an oddity to say the least as I couldn’t recall a time before high school when I was ever in a grocery store before dark. This, I figured, made a very familiar environment seem very alien to my senses. The purpose this was, and I knew I was correct in my decision-making as I found it difficult to locate a parking space that was not already occupied near the store.
That was only the beginning of what I knew would be an interesting study of this diverse communal setting.

After finally parking about a football field’s length from the entrance of the market, I made my way, in the heat of the day, to the front doors. On my way, my back began to sweat, and by the time I got inside, I could feel a cold liquid running down my back as a result of the blasting cool, crisp air. The temperature contrast was astonishing on either side of the doorway. I continued to walk in the same direction in the store while cold impulses rose through my back. I made my way from front to back about four times when I decided to sit down in the coffee and breakfast lounge. That’s when I took out my notepad and recalled what I had witnessed during my stroll about the isles.

First, I recounted the obvious odor of the environment. It was a mix of fresh laundry, potpourri, and crisp fruit amid the gentle breeze of the air to create a manufactured, yet homely, feeling. I also noticed the brightness and contrast of my surroundings. The huge fluorescent lamps, which hung from the high ceiling, illuminated well the white shelves and heavily waxed white and green tile floors. The walls were a dark green and black having many contours that gave a great sense of depth to the entire store. In the area where I sat, the lighting was much more dim, giving a warm, cozy approach to it. I certainly was drawn to it unconsciously for that reason. After realizing the independent variables of this unique place, I took aim at the human role in the store.

In this afternoon setting, I found that there were four distinguishable groups of people.

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The first one I accounted for was, of course, the employee. They all wore the same colors – blue, black, and white. Blue aprons were the basic article that was worn by all staff members, along with black pants. This made them easily set apart from the customers. They were also set apart by their routine duties such as stocking the shelves and writing on clipboard pads while scurrying around in a rushed fashion. On the other hand, the customers were a much more laid back crowd. This was completely opposite to what customers at night were like. One group of these afternoon customers, and overwhelmingly the largest population was senior citizens. They walked slowly through the isles and looked over every item on the shelves as if grocery shopping were a fine art. Each of them had a long list of items to collect and they piled their carts high with everything that would last them two or three weeks. Another group of customers I caught sight of was, surprisingly enough, college students. Not once did I see one without a companion, though, whether it were married or dating couples, or just bi-gender friends. In every case of this group of customers the male steered the shopping cart while the female counterpart selected the items to buy. Quicker was the pace of this group than that of the senior crowd. The last group I caught only a few glimpses of was the mother and child. In one case, I observed a mother pushing an overflowing cart of groceries diagonally through the front of the store with crumb-faced toddler lagging ten feet behind repeating the words, “Momma, momma…” over and over and then letting out a mumbling sound which dissipated into the mother’s voice replying, “No, this way”, mixed with a sigh. There were only a few situations as this, but they were the most memorable, in fact. After I decided that these three groups of people were the most prevalent, I turned my attention to the area in which I was sitting.

There were no other people in the vicinity of the lounge area, even though it was the most comforting place to be in the store. I suppose that if I had been there a few hours earlier, I would have seen a bit more activity in this area. Most of the action was going on in the checkout lines. There were about 30 people in that open area and most of them were carrying on conversations. As laughter came from that area, so did the sound of constant beeping and banging of grocery carts into each other. It was a completely different environment than my domain, which was located on the complete opposite end of the building, separated by a large display of living plants and bouquets. I couldn’t help but to switch my attention to the people coming through the entrance of the store from the outside heat just as I did twenty or thirty minutes ago.

The look on each person’s face was one of the most humorous sites I had ever seen in a grocery store, and almost all expressions were similar. As they plunged their way through the heavy doors and through the boundary between what seemed to be hell and heaven, there were looks of bewilderment and exhaustion. One man who came in looked as though he had a car accident and then ran ten miles in the extreme heat before stumbling through the doors. It was a common sight to see people change directions three or more times in just as many paces after they entered. I must note that the older men were the most comical sights to see. On that note, I reluctantly exited my quite, gentle surroundings and headed through the doorway to hell again only to realize that I had actually been missing out on a lot of things that I discovered that afternoon.

Though it was a great field learning experience, I accomplished more emotionally for myself than I did for the field itself. Being my first fieldwork, I left the store with no regrets and an overall sense of good spirit. This, I did not expect. I assumed that I would stumble around in my own mind what I was trying to analyze and not get much accomplished, but I found that the relaxed setting and state of mind I was in made my mind at ease and differed extremely from the fashion in which I am accustomed to doing research. As of now, I am not sure what it means that I accomplished more for my mental self than the field, but I feel that in later work I will come to understand the idea and be able to discern between those relationships. Maybe my new emotional outlook will help me to better convey my ideas and thoughts to others through text such as this.
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