June 13, 2013 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Grocery store stalker made corn sweeter

By The Spokesman-Review
 

All I wanted was some corn to throw on the barbecue.

But my Saturday shopping took on a surreal turn when I was accosted by a stranger while perusing produce. As I slid an ear of corn into a bag, a woman said, “Stop! Don’t buy that! That’s genetically modified corn! Do you want to be sterile?”

Bemused, I put another ear of corn in the bag and met the stranger’s eye. “Ma’am,” I replied. “I have four sons; at this point in my life sterility would be a blessing.”

I thought that would put an end to her meddling, but I’d severely underestimated the tenacity of the PCGSP (Politically Correct Grocery Store Police).

Agitated, the woman poked the ear of corn in my hand. “Did you know if you plant that in the ground it WON’T grow?” The produce guy caught my eye and winced.

If only she knew that my Black Thumb is so legendary I’ve killed off every houseplant I’ve ever owned, and that the likelihood of my growing anything besides children is practically nil.

If only she knew where I really wanted to plant that corn.

But how could she know these things? However deeply invested she appeared to be in the contents of my shopping cart, she was in fact, a stranger.

And her lecture was not done. “You must ONLY buy corn labeled ‘heirloom,’ ” she asserted. Ignoring her, I tossed an extra ear of corn into the bag for good measure and headed for the deli.

As I ordered a pound of potato salad, I was stunned to see the stranger’s face looming next to me. I thought about retrieving my keychain with its handy can of pepper spray, but as usual it had sunk to the bottom of my purse. My husband had warned me about online stalkers, but he never mentioned grocery store stalkers.

What now? I wondered. Is she going to harangue me about genetically modified potato salad? I didn’t have to wonder long. Apparently, the carton of Newman’s Own organic lemonade in my cart failed to catch her eye. Neither did the bright orange Spokane Public Market shopping bag draped over my arm. Instead, with the zeal of the newly converted she remained riveted on my unrepentant corn purchase. “I asked him,” she said, pointing to the produce guy. “That corn is definitely genetically modified.”

Narrowing my eyes I said, “Did you ask him if he’s sterile?”

A slight smile tugged at her lips as she glanced back at the gray-haired grocer. “He’d probably be happy about that, too.” Then she warmed to her theme. “Seriously, you’re not going to feed that corn to your kids are you? Do you want them to become sterile?”

What had been a minor annoyance in my quick trip to the store was turning into a major pain.

She proceeded to tell me about cows that’d been fed genetically modified corn and become sterile, admitting, “Well, you’d have to eat an awful lot of it, but still, you need to look it up on the Internet.”

“Ma’am,” I said. “You can’t always believe everything you read on the Internet.”

Gasping, she replied, “But this is well-researched! A lady came to our garden club and told us about it!”

My patience had run out a few aisles back. “Ma’am,” I said. “I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion.” And with that I turned my cart sharply and walked away from her as quickly as I could.

I fought the urge to fill my cart with “zombie apocalypse” foods like Cheez Whiz, Twinkies and whipped cream in can. And I really wanted to go back to the deli and fill a 32-ounce cup with sugar-laden soda. Instead, I paid for my groceries and fumed my way to the car.

When did it get to be OK for strangers to comment on the contents of your grocery cart? Do smokers get lectured when they buy cigarettes? Do obese people get accosted when they purchase doughnuts?

Arriving home, I vented about my experience on Facebook and found I’m not alone. One friend wrote of her grandson carrying a bag of baby carrots to their cart when a stranger intervened and said, “Do you know they use FORMALDEHYDE to make those carrots small?”

Another friend wrote about buying milk and being told that puss is normally not filtered out by milk distributors before the milk is pasteurized.

I’m all for being passionate and informed about important issues, but harassing shoppers is no way to get out the anti-GMO message.

As I mulled over the experience I came up with a great solution. The zero-population folks should partner with the people making genetically modified produce. No more babies!

With that dilemma solved, I sat down with my family and bit into a sweet, juicy ear of corn liberally slathered with organic butter. Irony has never tasted more delicious.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.


There is one comment on this story. Click here to view comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email