Posted by: thezedword | October 14, 2008

Shopping at New World is terrifying

Not a New World in Wellington

Not a New World in Wellington

Even with a population of about 190,000, the grocery stores in Wellington are still overwhelmingly crowded on Sunday afternoons. There are two New Worlds near us. The closest, New World Metro, is crammed in what was probably once a retail store in a business-heavy part of town. The entry port is the bakery, which gives way to a not-much-larger section of aisles and shelves where things are overpriced and you can only buy roll-on deodorant. To leave the store, you must walk back through the bakery to stand in line the queue. Since one queue feeds all the registers, it gets backed up and frequently wraps around the bakery. If you have a sweet tooth, you are screwed.

We tend to go to the larger New World down by the harbor. Conveniently, they offer three different sizes of shopping carts and we always go with the smallest because filling anything larger would make for a painful walk home and trying to maneuver anything else through the aisles would be like trying to do a three-point turn in a Buick. Here, the port of entry is the produce section, so you instantly feel less like a fat ass. Things are civil in this section, probably because of all the green, the flowers towards the back and the strawberries. But after that, it’s every man and woman for themselves.

I think the danger sets in around the meat section. It’s a large wall where people line up in teams and scream at each other like they’re on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. You leave your cart behind, dive towards the wall, and try to grab the cheapest, largest chicken breast and hunk of ground beef you can find. But it gets confusing. They sell chicken claws, which kind of throws off your bearings when you see them for the first time. And people yell back and forth over each other. “Do you want a schnitzel?” “What is a schnitzel?” “I don’t know. It’s yellow.” “Sounds good.” “How many grams is a pound?” I think usually you’re supposed to shoot fingers up or hold signs or have earpieces and wrist radios like the Secret Service. Usually I leave Stacy to fend for herself and go test which bathroom tissue is the softest.

This is a small picture of one of the Wellington New Worlds

This is a small picture of one of the Wellington New Worlds

That should be a pleasant experience. Of course, it’s not. You have to keep moving while you’re in the aisles. Even though people drive on the left side of the road, no one knows which side of the aisle you’re supposed to walk on, though I think I have determined that the general rule is “DO NOT STOP MOVING”. If you do, someone walking towards you will collide with your front end, someone behind you will clip your ankles with their cart and you will be deported. Instead, you have to move quickly down the aisles and when you spot your desired item out of the corner of your eye, lift your arm quickly and no higher than John McCain would be able to and flick it into your basket. If you pick the wrong item, keep moving and forget about it; you’re having Wasa crackers for lunch for the next month.

If you survive to make it to the frozen food section, grab vegetables and skip the rest. Probably because of the widespread use of organic goods and out of solidarity for local farms, people cook more fresh meals here. There are a few Weight Watchers items; mostly it’s bad Chinese food. So hop over to the deli, where the people are kind enough to clarify that 500 grams is roughly one pound. Crap, back to the meat wall.

Thankfully, the bread and dairy section is more peaceful than the rest of the store. Things are calmer, probably because you have to pass through the cheese section first to get there. Apparently, Kiwis are very indecisive about cheese because people just stand around and stare at it. You have to sneak up, quietly, and grab Tasty cheese. When doing so, be sure to act like a zombie, it keeps everyone else from turning against you.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, is as bad as the checkout line. There are about 90 registers and each one has a line with at least five people pushing fully stocked carts. Occasionally, though, you see the rare nut who has only filled his cart with — true story — nine jugs of Nutella. (I noticed this because they were the last nine jugs that day.) It’s a bit like going into Wal-Mart in Florida, except there aren’t any Haitians and I’m the only Cuban there. Actually, this one of the things about New Zealand I didn’t except. I mean, I knew the population of Cubans probably would be about 1/5000th of what it is in Florida (there is a Cuban restaurant and coffee house and at least one Mexican who dresses up in a mariachi suit and sings for money) but not that the number of Blacks would be smaller as well.

Would you mess with this guy if he was the first thing you saw after sailing for three months?

Would you mess with this guy if he was the first thing you saw after sailing for three months?

I’m used to seeing Black individuals everywhere, be it African, African American or Caribbean. Here, they are few and far between, though there are many people of color. There is a large population of Indians, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Other that are accepted both culturally and politically. As our friend Phillip told me, New Zealand might be the most politically correct country in the world. Even the natives, the Maoris, who themselves were actually immigrants that inhabited New Zealand, or Aotearoa, a few hundred years earlier than Europeans, have representatives in Parliament and, as far as I can tell, are an accepted part of society just like everyone else. This could be because the rugby stars are mostly Maori or because, as travel luminary Mary Ellen O’Brien once theorized, they’re similar enough in look to Europeans that colonists didn’t immediately deem them inferior. I tend to think that when colonist first saw the Maoris, which are typically the size and shape of a Panzer, they said, “My God, those guys are huge. There is no way I will be able to make them slaves.”

Interestingly, I have read that in some parts Maoris are often associated with Black Americans because they embrace hip-hop and the lifestyle often connected to it. From just walking around Wellington, I can tell you that almost every white kid under 18 dresses like Rob Dyrdek, but with tight jeans, so hip-hop culture permeates pretty deeply and this theory is outdated.

Anyways, back at New World, everything follows NGP — Normal Grocery Procedures — after the cash register. Things cool down, especially if you have a Fly Buys card, which you swipe just before paying. It was free to sign up for and it gives us points every time we use it. I am unsure what these points are for or even where I redeem them, but my fingers are crossed that I will be able to use them to buy Park Place the next time I play Monopoly.

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