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The effect of grocery store music

September 2nd, 2004 · No Comments

Last week I went shopping at the island Safeway for the first time in a month. Walking into the store, I noticed the background music playing. Often I am irritated by the older pop tunes: I’d rather forget some of the years of my youth and painful memories associated with certain songs.

But the voice coming down among the vegetables was a familiar one, a song Ted and I shared as a special one in our relationship. It was a song about smiling and hearing it, I started smiling myself, remembering those long ago carefree silly days I spent as Ted’s girlfriend.

I stopped smiling as I started shopping. I had heard the store was under construction but I didn’t know how difficult it would be to find items. The soup aisle had been replaced by cardboard displays of potato chips. Dried fruit had disappeared from the produce section.

Some of the changes seemed to make sense. The candy, formerly on the cereal aisle, was now located with pop and chips to create Junk Food Central. Convenient for me, now that I will be able to avoid seeing all of those foods. Tidy Cat moved next to Tidy Bowl.

But other changes seemed mysterious. Random. I wanted a package of dates but I couldn’t find where they had gone. Diapers and baby food were now mixed with school supplies and greeting cards.

Safeway had been the store where I shopped often, the one place I knew where items were located, my most efficient grocery stop. But now it aggravated me. I felt frustrated, hunting high and low on the aisles to try to find what had once been familiar purchases.

Then, in the midst of my frustration, I heard familiar music playing. The tones comforted me although I couldn’t remember the song. As the singer started, I recognized Bono

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Immediately I started laughing. Smiling huge smiles. The sentiment of the U2 song seemed to fit my shopping experience exactly. After nearly an hour of searching through the store, list in hand, I could sing along …but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

I had to try to explain to the girls why I was surpressing smiles, and trying not to laugh as I pushed the cart. I thought to myself that I should warn the store against playing that U2 song: it will only add to shopper’s sense of confusion and frustration.

But then I started to imagine what would happen if, instead of playing tunes from the eighties, the store broadcast a directory. Yes it’s that side of me who is enjoying the practicality of audio. Wouldn’t it be helpful to hear what aisle jalapeno jelly had found a home, and where paper towels were now stacked?

I began to imagine Bono himself, perhaps as an extended bridge to the song, reciting lists of comestibles and their location, with his excellent intonation

Marmalade Aisle 3
Chicken noodle soup Aisle 14
Fritos Aisle 19

The thought of U2 performing grocery store directories, Bono turning the words with the flourishes he has for his own lyrics, gave me a few laughs. On the way home, I bent over in the drivers seat, tears in my eyes, consumed by my own silliness. The girls had to warn me to stop laughing. Large lemons Aisle 2…Honey lips Aisle 29…

When I came home and told Ted what had happened in the store, I realized that it didn’t seem quite so funny to him.

Maybe you had to be there.

I might be there again tomorrow. I had to leave because it was getting close to lunch. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

Tags: culture