A Fork in the Road Guide to Greenmarket Etiquette

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Robert Sietsema

Farmers' markets are a bit like inebriation: They have a way of amplifying the best and worst parts of one's personality, of shaving away pleasantries to reveal a certain hard nut of truth about human nature. And they're also like an open-air subway car, particularly on Saturdays around noon. As such, there are many, many opportunities for bad and/or clueless behavior among shoppers crowded together in the common pursuit of produce. And so we at Fork in the Road have compiled a guide to Greenmarket etiquette, one that we hope will go some ways toward preventing certain lapses in common sense and courtesy, not to mention physical altercations.

Please refrain from paying for your $3.85 worth of onions with a $50 or $100 bill.

Or anything over a $20, really. We were in line behind someone who did this last week, and watched the poor farmer dig through two different cash boxes for the necessary change while his customer stood by impassively, oblivious to both the distress she was causing and the utter hatred of everyone standing in line behind her. Go to Starbucks, or Barnes & Noble, or any of the big corporate stores bordering Union Square, and ask the cashier to break that $100 bill that's just been burning a hole in your wallet. You're buying onions that are priced at 75 cents per pound, not an embossed dog collar at the Vuitton flagship store.

Corn is meant to be shucked in the privacy of your own home, not in full view of everyone else trying to buy corn.

We get it. You're a corn connoisseur who just will not settle for those three or four missing kernels. But your habit of tossing your rejects back into the pile, naked and exposed, for everyone else to pick over, sucks. You wouldn't, we hope, go to a clothing store and throw all of the clothes you didn't like on the ground. You probably wouldn't even behave in this fashion with grocery-store corn. So why are you doing it here? Just feel the goddamn ear of corn, and if something seems to be missing, then move right along.

Peaches are not your lover's buttocks. Stop squeezing them.

Plenty of farmers have posted signs to this effect, and plenty of shoppers have ignored them. We get that the stakes are raised considerably if you're searching for a peach ripe enough to eat right this very minute, but you don't need to manhandle them for this purpose. Take a page from Otis Redding and try a little tenderness.

Stop cutting the goddamn line.

No, you're not fooling anybody when you go to the front of the line "just to ask a question." Because while your "question" is being answered, you're busy sliding your purchase onto the scale and digging through your wallet, probably for a $100 bill.

Many line-jumpers, of course, don't even bother with the pretense of a question. They just barge right ahead, secure in their sense of entitlement and general assholeness. Sometimes, of course, they're just clueless. Either way, it's OK to hate them.

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