July 4th Epiphany: Identifying World’s Problem-maker!

One of those pieces I forgot I wrote and now repost almost every year, by request (from July 3, 2006)

“Anchoress identifies source of world’s problems”

Against all sense, and my own better judgment, I today took a trip to the local Costco in order to buy hamburgers, chicken legs and marinade in the mass quantities needed in order to entertain guests on the Fourth of July.

It was there, in the teeming, steaming rotisserie chicken section of the store that my senses became heightened and my consciousness got raised. I had an epiphany.

The problem with the whole world, and everything in it, is fruit. Specifically strawberries and pineapples. And melons of all variation. But mostly, it’s the strawberries.

This understanding came upon me not in the light breath of an angel’s song, but in the crash of one shopping cart head-on into mine, the spilling of a recently taken-from-the-spit chicken (and its bubbling hot juices) onto my sandal-clad foot and the unmistakable sound of a Long Island woman out of control. “Oh, my Gawwwwd, I’m so sooooooaaaawry! Ah you awriiiiiiht? I was just tryin’ ta get ta them strawberries! Oh, my Gawwwd, I feel so baaaiiihhhd!”

Let me try to do justice to the way this singular creature (she exists nowhere but on Long Island and in 4 of New York City’s 5 boroughs) pronounced the word “strawberries,” because – as Captain Queeg will tell you – the strawberries are key to the revelation.

For the purposes of this narrative, anytime you encounter the word “strawberry(ies)” do not imagine “straw” to be pronounced, as it is west of the Rockies, “strahh.” Nor may you take it to sound like a Kate Hepburn mid-lanticish “strahw.” No, in order to find enlightenment – in order to understand what I came to understand as I clutched at my greasy, burning foot, assured the woman that all was quite alright and bade her to please hurry along – you must in this case imagine “strawberry” to be heard thusly: “Stru-auorwwwberries.”

Elongate the “au” sound until it resembles the sound you made in college after too many boilermakers and add an “oar-w” to it, and you begin to do it justice.

This lady was not the only person behaving badly over summer fruit.

Now, I generally avoid fruit. Aside from Fuji Apples, Bing Cherries, grapes and watermelon and an occasional naval orange, fruit and I do not hang together. I find most fruits (and fruit juices) to be indigestible company and they burn my tongue, besides. When I encounter fruit, my practice is to make a detour toward the breads. This is probably why I did not understand until today the enormous impact fruit has on the world and the people in it. Corralled fruit-side by the pre-holiday crowd of shoppers, I found myself surrounded by peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes, mangoes, bananas, troubling red seedy things I could not comprehend, and pineapples and strawberries.

Most of the fruit seemed perfectly respectable,
laying there in all innocence, not really impacting the world. The troublemakers were the strawberries and pineapples who were – quite tellingly – isolated together in one aisle, a snobbish little clique, and they were inciting a riot.

“Ohmigawwwwd,” a man cried to his wife. “Stru-auorwwwberries! Hon, we gotta get struauorwwwberries!”

He sounded, my hand to Gawd, like he’d been clued in to the mysterious and mystical powers of the berries all his life, and had thus far been denied access to them.

His wife was equally starry-eyed, but her prostrations were meant for another. “Lookit the poineapple! Oh my Gawd, LOOKIT the POINAPPLE! I gotta get dose!”

Lowly grapes were cast thoughtlessly cast aside. Plums, proudly showing off their darkened summer curves, lay unmolested by the most determined fruit-squeezers. People were falling all over themselves for da stuauorberries and da poinapples. Even the lovely, quiet Indian lady in the sari, with whom I’d co-incidentally been traveling through much of the store, lost her reserve upon sight of the berry. “Gopal!” she hollered to her son in a voice surprisingly like a claxon horn. “Strawbeddies! You get the strawbeddies! I’ll get the (insert Hindu word for foul, scratchy, acidic, tongue-burning fruit, aka pineapple)” She then motored over to the pineapple like a small, decorative Sherman Tank and began elbowing (gently, but firmly) people away from her chosen pineapple – the one pineapple to rule them all – and she clutched it to herself and made off like Gollum with his Precious.

Fruit, I decided, makes people lose their minds. That can’t be good.

I checked out and made my way to my car, mulling over the problem of fruit and its impact on the world. I watched a boundary-challenged father allow his insistent five-year old daughter to haul a watermelon from their wagon and into their SUV. She nearly dropped the thing; and her knees buckled and her back bent under the weight as she doggedly clutched the enormous, seed-filled seducer to her chest before launching it haphazardly onto a pile of hamburger rolls. “Aw, look what you did,” the stupid father moaned, “you crushed the bread with the melon.”

“That’s because she should not have been allowed to carry a giant piece of fruit, you melonhead,” the crabby mother opined, and family fun-time began in that car.

Having hastily packed my own purchases, I pulled out from my parking spot and spied an attractive blonde woman in my rear view mirror. She carried a pineapple and a pack of socks, and when I tell you that she was gazing upon her pineapple with a look of fascinated awe, I do not exaggerate. Entranced by its thorny lure, the woman seemed completely unaware of her surroundings, and I hastily jammed on my brakes.

She walked into my car. Yes. Carrying a pineapple, the woman walked. Into. My car. Head-on. Her abdomen and boobs went boinnnnng!

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said, laughing at herself, “I didn’t even see you! I was looking at my pineapple.”

“Yes,” I smiled, cringing inwardly and begging God and all of the angels in heaven that this woman would not now find it necessary to file a police report and sue my ass for having the temerity to be in her way while she was walking amid moving cars and admiring her tropical fruit. “I saw you looking at your pineapple.”

“Isn’t it huge?” she asked proudly, reminding me of a former sister-in-law showing off her engagement diamond.

“It’s just lovely,” I offered as she happily walked away. She was beaming. Simply beaming. A big pineapple had completely stolen her brains and replaced them with some sort of happy-soma thing. You could have fed her soylent green, and she would be beaming, still. She had a pineapple. All was right with her world.

The frenzy of the fruitlovers disturbed me greatly. In the space of one hour, I had seen fruit inspire two accidents that could have resulted in injury or – were I or others the litigious types – lawsuits. I had seen fruit cause people to knock other people aside. I had seen it rattle their priorities. Fruit had caused people’s eyes to glaze over, their jaws to go slack, their reason to flee. My experience at Costco has given me a glimpse into the core of universal behavior, and the core is rotten and has far too many seeds.

Fruit, I now understand, causes within people a diabolical disorientation, and that disorientation spreads into every aspect of humanity. Fruit captivates the attention and leads to painful mishaps.

Fruit causes aggression, which leads to war.

It inspires prostration and adoration, which leads to idolatry and misplaced allegiances.

Fruit flummoxes a man’s ability to reason, impacting his marriage and his daughter’s self-esteem and future lumbar health.

Fruit maketh a woman into a blithe-and-brainless spirit, content to bounce from car-to-car like a well-flicked pinball.

These people go out into the world! They write books. They teach. They govern nations. They program network television. They make editorial decisions in news departments – all while distracted and disoriented by a small red berry that is, in my opinion, useful only as a delivery system for dark chocolate, and a scratchy yellow thing that is neither a pine nor an apple.

No wonder the world is in the shape its in.

But I make you this promise. I will never succumb to the lure of the fruit. I will never allow myself to become disoriented and possessed by this diabolical controller. When you come here, you are safe. Me and my Cheez-its, we swear it.

Aside: I have had an email or two accusing me of antisemitism in this post, apparently because the reader attached a Jewish persona to the typical Long Island accents I’ve tried to draw here. Since my impression of the woman with the chicken was that she was as Irish-American and freckled as I am, and the rest were largely “generic” impressions I got, I can only assume that if someone wants to think of any of these folks as specifically Jewish, then that’s what they’ll do. Before accusing me of antisemitism ask yourself, perhaps, why you assigned a Jewish persona to the accents. Meanwhile, clearly, conveying accents is not something I write well. I’ll have to work on it!

Happy Fourth! Be Safe!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • SMC

    I couldn’t stop laughing!
    I would also say “Don’t eat STORE strawberries”! Ugh! Get thee to the nearest strawberry farm and you will understand that the STORE things are FAKE!

    Most store fruit is quite tasteless and we’ve gotten used to it!

    Where is the bread aisle?

    Oh, wait, CHEESE! Now that is another story! :-)

  • Kathleen

    I can’t stop laughing! You nailed it! by the way we do have a Costco in the “fifth” boro and many of the shoppers there are of Russian extraction. “One pineapple to rule them all”. You are a comic genius. enjoy the holiday.

  • Kathleen

    and Irish, Italian, Jewish…there is a certain generic “NYawkerish” accent that they all have. Or can have. Only those who have fled the metropolitan area can escape it, even then it comes back under stress.

  • John Zmirak

    Fun piece!

    It took me a year or so of practice in college, doing a Henry Higgins-style “Rain in Spain” practice every day (emulating a WASPY roommate from Connecticut) but I eventually smoothed out that accent. Now it only comes out when I get in a screaming match with obnoxious strangers. (Some parts of being a native New Yorker are NEVER smoothed out.)

  • Chris-2-4

    Truly all our problems are do to fruit, an apple that some woman long ago just had to get for her husband.

  • NBW

    Anchoress, thank you for the repost. I am so glad to read it again; it is hilarious and my daughter and I can’t look at strawberries without thinking of your post!

    As for the complainers; get a life!!!! Most new yawkers tawk like that.

  • kmk

    Ahhh–we just spent time in the muddahland last weekend! A cultural experience–but after the beach traffic Sunday afternoon I am still glad that mom and dad left the Island decades ago. I wish I could imitate the accent bettah, there’s nothing like it on earth!! Thanks for the re-posting, Anchoress!
    PS The Turnpike and Belt Parkway is absolutely no problem at midnight/1 am timeframe. Who knew??!!

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    And then there is the way New Yorkers treated Glenn Beck and his wife and daughter at an outdoor showing of “39 Steps” in New York.

    With very few exceptions, I cannot find much to praise about native New Yorkers, you and your family are the exceptions! And I detest Costco. I much prefer BJs – more civilized.

    Costco often reminds me of roller derby wannabes auditioning!

  • Katherine

    My Dear Anchoress!

    I love this post. It was the first thing I looked for when you moved your site. I pull it up time to time just to make me smile.

    Thank you for your writing.

  • Ken in Kansas

    As a recovering easterner now almost two decades in the heart of America I gently suggest that our Costcos here aren’t quite so crazy though I will confess there does seem to be more congestion in the fruit department than anywhere else in the store.

  • Lenore

    Did not cross my mind re Jewish. But making fun of anyone is not a virtue.

  • Luna Raven

    I’m from Long Island, though I left over two decades ago. They all talk like that, no matter what the ethnicity. Anyone who thinks it’s a Jewish thing was never there.

  • Luna Raven

    And making fun of some behaviors is a HUGE virtue.

  • Flavius Aetius

    Ah don’t know ’bout Long Eyeland, but Ah do know all you durn Yankees sound funny ya me.

    Happy Independence Day!

  • NYa

    You got it, although I’d even add that there are pockets of regional accents that change even within one borough. Kinda like a garden can have micro-climates?

    And so in Brooklyn, you’d have to add the “h” after the “s”; “strawberries” starts with “shtr…” sound. Like, “get outtada shtreet!”

  • http://concordpastor.blogspot.com Austin Fleming

    Not the most important topic you’ve ever posted on but so deliciously delightful: perfect for the season and this weekend. Thanks for sharing this again, it was my first read and I’m grateful in shades of red, white and blue!

  • Susan in Seattle

    Your post on strawberries was one of the first I read. I have come back time and again, never disappointed, always sated. Thank you!

  • Chris K

    My kids are still laughing about this from when it was originally posted. They just can’t keep straight who wrote it, and ask which commedian posted. Happy 4th!

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    LOL! It’s a New York thing. I know the accent exactly. But heck, life without fruit would be boring. I love fruit. Happy 4th of July.

  • http://aconcordpastor Susan

    This is just wonderful – first time I’ve seen it but I know I’ll be re-visiting. Such a study in human behavior!!! Just remember, it wasn’t the apple on the tree that started it all, it was the pair on the ground (an aural, not visual joke.) Happy 4th.

  • Regina

    Thanks for this hilarious repost, Anchoress. Since you first posted this every time I walk by the rotisserie chicken display in my local supermarket, I think of you. It happens to be right near the fruit section.
    We have many transplanted New Yorkers around these parts and so I hear the accents frequently.

    One of my college friends from Lawn Guyland told me (a native Pittsburgher) that “you don’t pronounce Neeyou Yawk with an AHHH.” I replied, “I’ll remember that next time I talk to yinz New Yorkers. Now I have to go redd up my room.”

  • Neil G

    From a former non-native resident, a correction and a riddle:

    CORRECTION: it’s not “Long Island,” it’s “Lawn GUY-lund”.

    RIDDLE: a friend of mine spent her youth in Peoria, Illinois [yes, people really do live there, it's not just an expression] and came to Lawn GUY-lund to work. She began to wonder about certain eggs people kept mentioning: nominal eggs. Whatever these eggs were, they must be expensive, since the context was always something like “Those struauorwwwberries cost a nominal egg!” She understood white eggs, brown eggs, large eggs, jumbo eggs, but what made an egg nominal? And how did it get to be a measure of priciness? Can you or any of your readers translate the phrase into “standard” English?

  • Dan.

    I worked in Savannah, GA back in 94-97 as an IT guy. One of the fun things we did was playing with Mosaic, one of the first web browsers generally available.
    One of the sites we visited had New York City police and fire department broadcasts.
    After listening to the NYC accents for a few minutes, one of the native Georgians with whom I worked remarked “and they think WE sound funny.”

  • http://www.ramblingfollower.blogspot.com Allison S

    I laughed so hard I woke the dog up. She is frightened…Thanks for this. (for real!)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Maybe the problem isn’t fruit itself, but-shopping-for-fruit-at-Costco!

    (Okay, I confess, I don’t really like Costco; it always seems crazy in there, whether people are buying fruit, lightbulbs, diapers or wagonloads of barbecue/mayonnaise/ketchup/mustard whatever condiment is on sale this week. But, then, I don’t handle big box stores real well.)

    [Sigh. I feel like the whole world has lost its sense of humor. -admin]

  • SKay

    Happy Fourth, Anchoress. We certainly need something to make us smile at this point.

  • http://theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com J.E. Dyer

    Funny, this really couldn’t happen in southern California. Strawberries (pronounced “strawberries”) are available 365-66 days a year here. They show up not quite so ripe about 6 months out of the year, but otherwise are kind of boringly perfect and delicious the other 6. The riff itself is hilarious, but equally so is trying to imagine shoppers playing bumper carts to get to the strawberries in these parts. By the time the 4th rolls around each year, it’s kind of like, “Gee, strawberries again?”

    I’m not sure what implications this has for the baseline theory.

  • http://martinseke.blogspot.com Gypsy

    Ha! Lookit the poineapple! The Indian woman hollering “Gopal!” The woman bouncing off your car. It’s all so good. I wish you’d shop at Costco all the time. Thanks for re-posting this!

  • Sharon

    Never been to New York, but I visited Boston once. Little Midwestern me had a hard time understanding what people said. Ya’ll talk so fast! I haven’t laughed much lately, but I laughed quite a bit reading this post! Glad I stopped by for a visit.

  • kmk

    I was waiting for this! Laughed again. Thanks, blessed 4th


  • Katherine

    A gift, I didn’t even have to search for it. This deserves an Instlanch. Thank you again for this.

  • Victor

    Oh, my Gawwwwd, what have you got against fruitssss Anchoress? :(

    I hear ya! Nothing against The Fruit of Thy Womb Jesus, Victor!

    Really? :)


  • pink lady

    Thanks Elizabeth!!!! I am kookoo for New Jersey Blueberries!!! I cannot stop buying them down here in South Florida until they start putting Michigan blueberries out! You cannot take the Joisey out of the girl!!!!!!!! Love your new photo!

  • jedesto

    It’s been hinted at a cople of times: Yes, the first pair ate an apple, or was it a pineberry?

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com EBL

    Strawberries at Costco are never great. Just okay.

    Now I love field ripened strawberries. Especially u-picks. They can be like candy off the plant.

    But the only fruit for the 4th is cherries. In a pie. Blueberries are unnatural this time of year (give them a few weeks more). Strawberry Rubard pie is fine, but does not carry the holiday. Only cherry pie does and preferably Door County cherries.

  • http://nicholashagginphoto.wordpress.com/ Nicholas

    All my wife had to do was say “struauorwwwberries” and I knew what had been reposted. Thank you and a blessed 4th to you and yours.

  • John Murray

    Wan-da-fal! I love the Lon Guyland accent–when I was a kid we visited every summer to see an aunt and an uncle there, so I associate it with Jones Beach, Carvel Ice Cream, and feeding ducks at Argyle Lake in Babylon. Good times!