I went to the supermarket tonight near midnight as I often do. The only reason I ever go to Ralphs is that it’s open late; otherwise I’m at the produce market, Trader Joe’s, etc.

The Ralphs on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, CA is very bright, painfully so. I feel like Lou Reed coming down off heroin when I walk in there out of the dark into the fluorescence. The produce is horrible except for one or two items, so it’s strictly a packaged goods and dairy kind of place for me most of the time. I really like the people who work there, though.

Lately I’ve been going to another Ralphs less than a mile away if I can; it’s only open until midnight, but the Westcliff Plaza one’s staff has revolted and replaced the corporate Slow Jam/Office Rock muzak with their own mix CDs, so that my 20 minutes of grocering are smoothed by a few tracks of 70s funk or 1940s jazz etc.

Tonight I made the mistake of going back to 17th Street and experienced the worst innovation yet. They’ve put a door buzzer in because of all the beer runs etc. and every time anyone enters or leaves it makes a piercing, cringe-inducing 70 db BEEEEP. No, not BEEEEP. More like BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. It’s the sort of sound I associate with fire alarms at hospitals. Can’t be ignored, makes you stop in your tracks and flinch. I could see people making involuntary attempts to cover their ears each time it went off, which was about every three or four minutes. We were all on a broken starship from a shitty science fiction movie.

I grabbed the stuff I absolutely needed and checked the fuck out. At first I thought the noise was a broken alarm, but the checker confirmed the worst; it was permanent and would go off on every use of the door. I expressed disbelief. “I feel like writing a letter!” She handed me a comment form to send to them. “I’d really appreciate it”. I told her I probably wouldn’t be back for a while but I’d send in the comment letter.

Another customer came up and we bonded over the hell-noise. What the hell were they thinking? As I left, I told the checker “The mental health costs they’ll pay out to you guys are going to be way worse than a few beer runs.” She high-fived me.