Menlo Park Safeway

Caitlin Crisan (Davis)

Walking through the aisles of Safeway as a hungry, slightly overweight 5 year old can be exciting, intimidating and overwhelming in any circumstance. My mother, begrudgingly dragging me along on her weekly grocery trip was shopping with a mission – keep squeeze-its and fruit-by-the-foot away from daughter’s mouth, get in and out as quickly as possible. Finally reaching the front of the seemingly never ending checkout line, the building began to rumble. A store filled with tall shelves of jars, boxes, cans and fruit is not an ideal place to be when the big one hits. Items fell in heaps around shoppers while carts rolled on their own through frozen food sections and into the deli counter. I, of course, immediately looked to the candy displays tempting me as bars fell to the floor. Surely no one would notice a missing pack of Big League Chew or a Caramello bar amid this chaos.

As the power shut off and the checkout computers died, shoppers abandoned their carts and ran outside to the open parking lot to safety. However, my mother, always the rational, time-manager, could not fathom leaving behind all the hard work she had done. Finally, she successfully made it through the grocery store with her chunky toddler and now she has to leave a full basket behind? The thought of going through this grocery charade again made her head spin. She wagered with the checker – can I pay in cash? How about Traveler’s Check? TWA Credit Card? Diner’s Club?

The true challenge came after being ushered out of the store. Her chic 1987 Mazda 626 with red cloth interior was in the now-unlit basement parking garage. With a slow-moving daughter in tow and the shopping bags she managed to talk her way into taking with her, navigating the garage was a seemingly impossible proposition. Before the true Silicon Valley boom, Menlo Park was a charming white-picket-fence neighborhood of warm, successful middle class families driving Volvo station wagons with kids facing the car behind them in what was always referred to as “the way, way back”. There were no tech bros busy checking Tinder or executives flying down El Camino in their Teslas. An equally frantic mother of two found herself in the same pickle as my mother and they concocted a plan to free their autos. I was placated for the moment with a push pop, while my mother’s new friend watched over the children and my mom rescued the cars from below with the help of a keychain flashlight.

Years later, my mother still bumps into her at that very same Safeway, now renovated with an organic nut bar and olive cart, and plenty of Teslas in the parking lot and tech bros on Tinder.

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