Tag Archives: Target

Why you don’t need a cook or a driver in America……..

When I first told people I was moving to India, they all wanted to know – “does that mean you will have people working for you?” And they said it with lust in their eyes. As if it was all rainbows and unicorn farts burps. If you don’t know why that could possible be NOT the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to you – please read here first and then maybe here and maybe even here. This blog post might actually be more interesting to my readers who have never been in the U.S. but, trust me, if you are all too familiar with the ways of the West, you might just be amazed at what we are all taking for granted. Trust me on this one – it’s not always the same, same every where.

I have always admitted that having staff made my life in India (much) easier – it was just a pain to have people always around you and sometimes stealing from you and blah blah blah. In fact, for the last five weeks of our lives in India, I did all the cooking and 90 percent of the shopping. People marveled at how I was going to manage it. Why would it be so tough to manage without a cook? Well, most of the shopping is done in markets and there are very few convenience foods. There is no “one-stop” shopping.

Today I went to a grocery store and Walmart and I marveled at just how many things we do not have to do in America.

First of all, some stores in the United States are open 24 hours a day. That is right – they never close. Can I get a hallelujah? In India, most markets don’t open until much later in the morning. And have I bored you to tears yet by telling you how many different places you have to go to get everything on your list? Shopping, cleaning the food, preparing the food, and cooking the food really can be an all-day event. And the foods don’t have a lot of preservatives – which is all sorts of loverly – but it also means you have to go to the market more often. See how tedious it all becomes? I know, I know, there are bigger problems in the world – but I am just sayin – shopping, cooking, and cleaning in India – harder than in the U.S.

So, I am in my car – driving myself – listening to the radio – windows down and I am reminded that the definition of traffic is not universal. Here is what I saw

Now this is not a side road – it is a well traveled thoroughfare and this is at 8:30am. Not necessarily the height of rush hour – but not in the middle of the night either. And, no, everyone is not simply running late today because no one was really behind me either. And I know I should not have been taking a picture – but give me a break – I used the rearview mirror – I had my eyes on the road the whole time! Pinky swear!

So, I pull into the road in front of the shopping plaza and see this sign.

Yes, you see that correctly – A) there is a sign telling you what’s here (what a marvel of modern technology) and B) all of these mega stores are within walking distance of each other.

There is a Target next to a Walmart (basically the same thing) and a BJs with everything that Walmart and Target sell, only in larger quantities. There is a shoe warehouse next to a Payless shoe store and a Toy Store right next to Target and Walmart (which both have enough toys in them for a large country). If you are from India and know about Spencers or Big Bazaar – think of that magnified 8,000 times. Bigger, bigger and better, better.

I know it reveals just how fancy I am not – but if I had to pick only one store to go to for the rest of my life – it would be Walmart – okay, a super Walmart – but a Walmart nonetheless. I heart this store! And, for my Indian readers – do you notice what is missing? Parking attendants and drivers waiting by the front? Oh yeah, and the occasional armed guard. That is because – everywhere in the U.S. there are parking lots. In India, mostly only the malls have parking lots. Hence the real benefit of having a driver. Here – no problemo – parking galore…

See all those empty spaces – you just pick the one you want and zip in – no one has to push a car out of the way for you or drive around the block while you shop. The down side of that is – guess what – you are carrying your own groceries. Just consider it exercise.

And inside these markets is a whole different shopping experience.

There are carrots that are already peeled and cleaned for you. Yummy.

Need a veggie tray? Done.

Need a fruit salad? Done.

Want lettuce? You can get it cleaned and shredded – ready to eat.

Oh, I am sorry – did you need dressing with that?

What’s that? You don’t like bottled dressings? Okay – make your own – here is a starter kit.

Would you like some cheese with that? Shredded perhaps? Remember how our parents used to tell us that they had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways? I now lament with my children the olden days gone by when I had to shred my own cheese. And slice it too. And there sure as heck wasn’t any colby/cheddar on those grocery store racks. Oh, the hardships of childhood.

Oh, your child has tactile issues and prefers sliced cheese? No worries, we’ve got that…

Your mother-in-law prefers cubes – it doesn’t matter if she says that just to make you crazy – it’s all good, we’ve got that too…

And just in case no one is happy with the above choices, let’s throw in some cheese sticks.

And yes, you saw the labels correctly – those are all some form of cheddar cheese – but some like it shredded some like it not.

The cereal aisle can quickly earn you a seasons pass straight to the looney bin. Frosted or not. Fiber or not. Crunchberries or not. Sugar free or high octane. It’s amazing we ever get out of the store.

And even when our carts are full of things we can cook, we still have the option of not preparing our own food. Close your eyes on this first one if you are vegetarian.

We don’t even have to put cheese and crackers together ourselves. They even add a drink.

And if opening a box just seems too daunting at the end of the day – there’s this – we don’t even have to make a sandwich. It’s been done.

Those were frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The first time I saw them, I was outraged that we have become so lazy that we can’t even make our own sandwiches. Now, I own stock in the company. They are frozen so you do have to plan ahead and let them thaw out for a whole 15 minutes. Patience Grasshopper. Either that or tell your kids they are a popsicle  and cross dessert off the list as well.

Need a drink? Which one? Beer?


I included this picture just to show you that Gallo wine really does not cost almost $30 a bottle. Remember that?

And to top it all off, you can even buy your apples already sliced.

You would think with us doing all of our own cooking, shopping, and driving that we would run out of time to do anything else. Not true. This woman still had time to decorate her car with silk flowers. Who says Americans don’t have their priorities in order?

To be very fair to this person, though, this car is a Honda and finding a Honda – your Honda – in the midst of a Walmart parking lot without the aid of a driver is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. She probably did this to make it easier to find her car and to ensure that other moms (or anyone else for that matter) wouldn’t go anywhere near it. She clearly does not have teenagers yet. They would never stand for this degree of lunacy.

So, that is why we don’t need drivers and cooks – we have parking lots and shredded cheese.

Housekeepers, on the other hand, are another story altogether. I cannot imagine a land or a time or a dream where they don’t make perfect sense. 😉

Just Like Target, only (way) different……….

I went to Spencers this week. The best way to explain it is that it is like shopping at a mini-mart at a large gas station – only with shopping carts and air conditioning and actual cash registers – and a bakery and a kitchen section. Oh yeah, and an electronics station and a book section. (But no digital alarm clocks.) Okay, a very large mini-mart at a very large gas station. But this store is not just around the corner – it’s about 30 minutes away – with the potential for a good bit of traffic. So you have to really “plan” a trip there.

We now have a place large enough to invite friends over – so I am doing just that. However, I don’t really have the dishes and silverware to do that. To move here, I packed a lot of my plastic plates because I knew that they would not break when they were mailed over here – but I want to invite actual adults over – not my imaginary friends from plastic plate land. And we will probably want to use silverware. Adults – remember? Okay, American adults. Indians will often eat with their hands as is their custom – but not many Americans have adopted that method just yet.

So, off to Spencers I go. My experience at Spencers explains what it is often like living in India. “Ask for what you want, be happy with what you get.”

First off, I went with one of my very favorite friends in India. So we laughed pretty much the whole time. Very nice.

However, when shopping in India, you really, truly never know just what you are going to find. You could have been at a lovely market last week where they had 10 varieties of goldfish crackers and hardly enough room to put them on the shelf. You go back this week and they say “goldfish crackers? no ma’am.” You might as well have said you wanted a real goldfish served on a golden cracker. So my motto has become “get it while the gettin’s good”.

My whole purpose in going to Spencers was to get plates and silverware.

Mission One – plates.

I walked down the plate aisle. Walk with me – here is what you will typically find. Several patterns of Correll dishes that would have been absolutely perfect if I was inviting Sanford and his son over 20 years ago (remember the tv sitcom junkyard owner) and a few patterns of pretty  china. That’s right, nothing in between. Rags to riches on aisle 7.

But not this time. This time, I spotted a lovely pottery pattern. The plates and bowls and cups all had the same colors but not the same design.  They coordinated beautifully but were not all the same, same – matchy, matchy. Tres cool.

Normally when shopping in Spencers, there are 4 salespeople on every aisle ready to bug the heck out of you help you find whatever it is you do and do not need. Today? Not so much. So I went on a Spencers safari and hunted down the lone clerk lurking behind the drinking glasses.

Me: Could you help me, please?
Him: Yes ma’am
Me: Over here, by the plates?
Him: Yes ma’am
Me: I would like to get this pattern.
Him: Yes ma’am
Me: Okay?
Him: Yes ma’am
Me: Ummmm, what do we do next?
Him: Oh, yes ma’am
Me: Okay. Seriously, I would like to get this set of dishes. And I would like another set – two sets. Of this pattern. Is there another set in the back?
Him to himself : oh-uh that was too many words – I don’t understand her – maybe if I don’t answer she will just go away
Me: Do you think there is another set in the back? This set is missing a bowl. Are there more sets?
Him: Yes ma’am
Me: Can you get them?
Him: saying Yes ma’am – but still standing right in front of me – not moving
Me: Now?
Him: leaving…….
Him: returning…..empty handed
Him: No more in back ma’am
Me: I would like to get this set.
Him: No ma’am
Me: Why not…. what happened to Yes ma’am?
Him: A bowl is missing
Me: Really, I happen to know that – remember just a minute ago – I told you that. It’s okay. I still want it
Him: No more in the back
Me: I understand that. I want this one
Him: No ma’am
(Are you banging your head against the keyboard yet?)
My Friend: Do you think another store might have it
Me and My Friend: instantly laughing – yeah – that isn’t exactly how it works here
My Friend: Can she get a discount for the missing bowl?
Me: I wish he would just agree to sell me the set – can I pluhlease get this set
Him: Yes ma’am. Then he packed it up in a box from a different set. (Apparently the box was missing too. Some mysteries are probably better left unsolved.)

Okay. In the U.S., I would have n.e.v.e.r. been happy with this set of dishes. As cute as it was, it had a missing bowl and actually a chipped saucer. No, I did not point that out to HIM. Sista please. In the US, I would have asked if they could call around to every other store in driving distance to find TWO complete sets of dishes. Heck I might have even stayed home and ordered online. I would not have wanted it without two complete sets in good condition. In fact, in the U.S., they would have walked over to the computer – entered the sku- and let me know who in Alaska had purchased the same set. I would know if Madonna and I had the same plates. Okay, not really, but you get the point.

But here, I know that if I go back later, it will be gone. I know not to drive all over town looking at other stores.  I know that I liked it well enough to not risk it. It was so cute and unique that I just decided to get it and I will just make sure the 6th person I invite does not care for soup or ice cream. Seriously, conducting a survey of my guests will be easier than finding two complete sets of matching dishes that are not broken or orphaned in anyway – at least two sets that don’t cost a fortune. These were just about the right price. And somehow I managed to get an extra serving tray in the deal for free. I mentioned it might be nice to throw in a serving tray to replace the bowl and he agreed. Wahlah. And the guy even walked up to the check out stand to ‘splain the situation to the check out clerk.

Mission Two – silverware

Oh, and I bet you forgot I wanted silverware too. And just how do I know that. Because I also forgot I wanted silverware. Damn.

I didn’t see that coming………..

Yesterday I went to Target – for those of you who have never been to a Target store, let me explain. Target is a huge building/store with everything from toilet paper to milk in gallon jugs to stereos to diamond earrings (okay, maybe it’s cubic zirconium). It is overstocked with items that most of us could absolutely live our entire lives without. It is clean, well-lit, and very organized. It is also inexpensive by American standards. There is a parking lot out front that can accommodate probably 200 cars at least. The cars are parked so that no other car is blocked in and they are parked/driven by their owners. I have missed Target very much.

So I went to my little happy place called Target and I found a lot of things I was hoping to find. Yeah for me.

I got in line to check out and I met Om. He was the cash register clerk.

(By the by, here is another thing that is different about the U.S. and India and I keep forgetting to mention it – when you check out in a store in India – they hand write the receipt and add it themselves – that’s right – they hand write every item and then add it up – often in their head. In America, the clerks use a scanner to tally every item and the computer adds it all up – you get a printout from the computer as your receipt. Very different. And, yes, some stores in India have computer registers – but seriously, not many.)

So anyOm. I meet Om. He has an accent that I think I recognize and I ask him where he is originally from. India. I knew it.

Where? Please say Delhi.

New Delhi. Yahoo.

I tell him we live there, that we are home visiting, blah blah blah.

And we exchange notes on Delhi and thoughts on living as an expat away from home. I don’t think he really believed me at first and asked me a couple of questions to find out what I knew. It was kind of funny. But I must have passed the test.

He moved to the U.S. with teenagers in 1988. When his job was finished he moved back to India but his children (then in college) said no thank you. We like it here. WTH?

He found a way back to the U.S. to be with his family and he is now a citizen. He said it was hard with green cards/immigration and he struggled quite a bit. But he feels that good fortune brought him to the U.S. and he is proud to call it home. Congratulations Om!

Seriously, now I am bonding with my Indian brethren at Target? This has come full circle.

And, not for nothing, I bought pants from Bangledesh, which is right beside India – actually India is on both sides of Bangledesh. So they exported pants to the U.S., so that I could buy them, and ship them to India. Hysterical, right?