Sunday, March 29, 2020

stand and deliver

Mrs. Pincus and I have been eating the same thing for dinner — nearly every night — for over a year... and we love it! We actually look forward to it. No, it isn't anything exotic or that can be considered "gourmet." In fact, it's fairly simple with minimal preparation. We eat salad. A big salad... with all kinds of stuff on it. Although I have been a vegetarian for almost fifteen years, I eat a surprisingly limited amount of vegetables, the majority of which are commonly classified as "salad" ingredients. I pass on tomatoes, cucumbers and celery. I will, however, include generous amounts of green peppers, radishes, artichokes and pickles. Yes, pickles! I love pickles on salad. Curiously, my wife likes the vegetables that I don't like, so our refrigerator is still stocked with celery stalks and a container or two of little grape tomatoes. Our salads are usually topped with a five ounce can each of salmon. Then we garnish our big salads with a sprinkling of crispy French fried onions and a smattering of "bacon bits," those tiny morsels of unknown origin that have never been anywhere near actual bacon. The kosher certification emblazoned on the label — to this day — cracks me up.

We try to keep all of these ingredients on hand at all times. Since most of these items are straight from the fresh produce section of our local supermarket, we find ourselves having to restock and replenish the vegetable drawer of our refrigerator a few times a week. And now that we are forced to stay in our homes due to the threat of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, even sporadic visits to the supermarket can be somewhat dicey. Not to mention the fact that some supermarkets are having a difficult time keeping some items on their shelves. Mrs. P has still been venturing out to a nearby produce store, in an effort to stop her 80+ year-old parents from going out into the risky world. For other, shelf-stable items, we have taken (like most people) to having groceries delivered. During Week 1 of our government-mandated quarantine, we placed an order with mighty retailer Walmart. I love and hate Walmart. Their prices are ridiculously cheap, but as an entity, they are the bane of my existence.... but their prices are so low! Through their website, Mrs. Pincus placed an order for the following items: nine 6 ounce foil packages of French fried onions (we had been out of these for at least a week and our salads lacked that familiar "crunch"); a 13 ounce container of imitation bacon bits (again, the last of our fake bacon bits were shaken out weeks ago); and two 21 ounce bottles of teriyaki sauce (I love steamed broccoli dipped in teriyaki sauce. Maybe I like the taste or maybe this is the only way you can get me to eat broccoli. Who really knows?). That's it. That was the order. Within a day or so, allowing for the sudden rush of online orders, Mrs. Pincus received an email stating that our order would arrive on Saturday.

Well, Saturday rolled around. Another email arrives informing us that our delivery had arrived. I looked out the window of our front door and, except for the things that are usually on our front porch, it was empty. No box from Walmart... no matter what Federal Express claimed. I went outside and surveyed the area around our porch, expanding my search to include our front lawn, the front walkway and even the shrubs and flower beds that surround our porch. You never know the thought pattern and camouflage methods employed by a Fed Ex driver. I checked everywhere and concluded there was no delivery. My mind began to wander. In the current climate of panic and uncertainty, did some desperate scavenger sneak out of his claustrophobic self-quarantine, take a box from our front porch and spirit it away to a make-shift shelter to revel in his spoils. Did he think they had absconded with untold riches (from Walmart, no less!)? Was he hoping for something he could use as bartering leverage on the Black Market? I would love to been a fly on the wall when this motherfucker split the security tape on the box to reveal fried onions, fake bacon bits and teriyaki sauce! Serves 'im right! Bastard!

I posted an account of our Saturday morning "possible" burglary episode on Twitter (as I am want to do) while the more reasonable Mrs. P contacted some of our neighbors to see if our delivery was accidentally waylayed to one of their homes at the hands of a dyslexic Fed Ex driver. After getting negative replies for our contacted neighbors (my wife actually talks to our neighbors), she called Walmart customer service. The service rep said that we would be refunded for the order and, if we still wanted the items, we would have to reorder them. Well, of course we wanted the items, so Mrs. P recreated the order.

Three days later, on Tuesday, a plain brown box arrived on our front porch. Aside from the reordered Walmart items, we were not expecting anything. I brought the box in, examining the unusual way the address label was affixed. I realized that it had been cut from another box and carelessly taped to this new box. The blue remnants of a Walmart box were still attached to the label, clearly visible through the transparent packing tape. I opened the box. It contained a translucent plastic bag, its contents obscured. I undid the knot at the top of the bag with Mrs. P witnessing my untying ability. To our surprise, the bag contained nine bags of French fried onions and a large plastic container of imitation bacon bits. Conspicuously missing were the two bottles of teriyaki sauce. Or were they.....? Upon closer tactile examination, each foil bag of fried onions was coated with a thin layer of teriyaki sauce, as was the container of bacon bits. Actually, in some spots, the dried sauce was clumpier, a light brown in color with visible congregations of sesame seeds. And each bag smelled like a Benihana's.

I tossed the bags — one by one — into the kitchen sink, where Mrs. Pincus gingerly wiped them down with a wet paper towel. Then, we further inspected each bag, checking for a complete state of unstickiness. Several bags required additional wiping, especially in the folds and creases of their undersides. Mrs. P cleaned the bacon bits container. We placed everything on a dish towel to dry. A little later, we found room for everything in our cabinets along the stockpiles of our favorite salad dressings. (When did we become food hoarders?) We are still short the two bottles of teriyaki sauce.

So, now we wait for the replacement order. After it arrives (if it arrives), we will have eighteen bags of friend onions, another giant container of imitation bacon bits and — hopefully — those two bottles of teriyaki sauce.

Then, we'll be all set for the next pandemic.

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