Column

The Whiteboard Jungle: The road to buying pies proves bumpy

Have you ever had one of those days that doesn’t go as planned?

That happened to me the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

My sister hosts our family’s get-together and does most of the cooking. My contribution is to bring pies (no, not made by me).

There used to be Marie Callender restaurants all over the place. Glendale, Burbank and Toluca Lake all had one. Now, the closest one is in Sherman Oaks.

When I called to buy my pies, I was told that there were two ways of ordering: online or in person — not over the phone.

So, I filled out the online form, paid with a credit card, selected the time, 7 a.m., and waited until Nov. 22.

It was a wonderful cruise on the Ventura (134) Freeway, heading west, that early in the morning since traffic was light. I got there under 15 minutes.

When I walked up to the door, I was surprised to notice that it was locked. Then I noticed the hours — it opened at 8:30 a.m. Yet, I was given a 7 a.m. option for pick-up. Oh, well.

I tried making the best of an hour and a half in Sherman Oaks by walking the neighborhood. I was amazed at how many homeless people were sleeping on the sidewalk on Ventura Boulevard.

I headed over to Gelson’s to have a cup of coffee. Even though the day hadn’t gone as planned, I was trying to enjoy the adventure of it all.

In this market, tables and chairs are located immediately near the front entrance on the right, adjacent to the salad bar.

No one was around. Soon, an older couple in their late 60s sat down. The wife told the husband that she would set up the table with napkins while he went to get coffee and Danish.

I thought it pleasant the interplay between the two. Maybe that could be my wife and me in a few years.

All of a sudden, the woman went over to the salad bar and deposited a scoopful of bacon bits into her hand and ate them.

I could not believe what I had just witnessed. While I was the only person in the sitting area, there were Gelson’s employees around. Surely, one of them must have seen her do it.

The man came back with their food and beverages. Then the woman returned to the salad bar and helped herself to another scoopful of bacon bits — free of charge.

Now my morning peacefulness was shattered with inner turmoil over what I should do about this woman’s thievery. Locate the manager and tell him about it? Confront the woman myself with something along the lines of “you shouldn’t do that?”

What amazed me was the brazenness of her actions more than the theft itself. Even though I was two tables away and workers were close by, she still stole the food.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen people “graze” through the market. You know those plastic containers that contain nuts and raisins with scoops inside? There are people who put their naked hands in those areas and steal food, contaminating the rest of the contents.

Twice I have notified the managers about these incidents. But this morning, a morning which already felt a little off the axis for me, I remained silent.

If only the strangeness of the day ended there, for when I returned at 8:30 a.m. to pick up my pies, the employee told me that since I had pre-paid, I would have to return at 11:00 a.m.

Meanwhile, there was another line at the counter with people who had not pre-paid for pies who were buying pies right off the shelf.

This time, I was not mute. I asked for my money back unless I was able to get the pies. After talking with her manager, the pies were no longer held hostage, and I was able to leave Sherman Oaks by 8:40 a.m.

Next year, I plan on baking the pies.

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,000 Teacher.” He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.

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