I've been the chief grocery shopper in my family ever since it became a family. That's not for any political or gender-agenda reason. It's because I'm the only Levey tall enough to reach the black currant jam.
Actually, it's because I like to wheel the cart around corners when it's fully loaded. Fortunately, I haven't gored anyone coming in the opposite direction. Just as fortunately, I can usually finish my shopping quickly. Reason: Each item is in the same place this week as it was last week.
Except when it isn't.
To Wendy Arend, of Montgomery Village, changing the layout of groceries is a call to murder. She notes that William Shakespeare urged us to kill lawyers first. "Old Bill hadn't met the marketing guys yet," Wendy observes.
To underscore her passion about this issue, she hit the Caps Lock button on her computer and typed: "Please tell them to STOP REARRANGING MY STORE!"
Message duly sent, Wendy. But I'm afraid the marketing geniuses you want to kill are forever justifying their existence with new products. Whenever they introduce a new item onto a shelf, they have to reshuffle the deck.
Like Wendy, I nearly went insane last week at my favorite Giant Food store. I had Kellogg's Corn Flakes on my list. I have been buying them at the same store, and from the same shelf, since at least the mid-1980s.
As if by remote control, I rounded the bend into the cereal aisle and reached where Corn Flakes always sit. Egad! Some chocolate- covered monstrosity was there instead.
We will save for another day my feelings about chocolate-coated cereal. We will not save a description of Levey as he stalked the cereal aisle, a savage beast in search of his favorite morning nourishment.
Pace, pace, hunt, stare, grimace, glare. Stop. Breathe. Curse richly (but softly, so little old ladies couldn't hear me). Hunt. Peck. Fail.
To the women reading this: I'll bet you think I gave up and left without Corn Flakes because, like a typical male, I was too proud to ask directions. Wrong. In a blustery dither (had Giant really been dumb enough to discontinue Corn Flakes?), I found the manager.
"Where are the Corn Flakes?" I asked.
"Aisle Seven," he said, with forced pleasantness. (Clearly, he was wondering what kind of oaf was trying to ruin his day.)
"You want to bet?" I said.
"Come on, I'll show you," he said.
Off we marched to Aisle Seven. The manager did not reach onto the lowest shelf, where Corn Flakes have resided since Ronald Reagan was president (and probably since he made commercials for them). The manager reached onto the highest shelf, four feet west of where I had been looking. Presto! Corn Flakes.
"Why did you move them?" I asked.
He pointed at the chocolate-coated cereal, whose box was covered with pirates. I asked whether that brand was actually selling.
"Better than Corn Flakes," he said.
I suppose I should have bought a box of pirates-plus-chocolate to see what all the fuss was about. But I remain a Corn Flakes guy -- and a guy with a question.
Why can't groceries subtract a lousy-selling cereal every time they add a hot-selling new one? That way, Corn Flakes would remain where I've always known them to be, well into the administration of Ronald Reagan V.
And marketing guys would live to meet their grandchildren.
How bad is it? Incredibly bad, according to job applicants.
Dozens reacted to my recent column about job-seekers who never hear back from prospective employers. Here are some of the choicer Tales From the Front. All names are withheld to protect future employability.
One journalist said she always brings samples of her work when she's job-hunting. "They will pluck the paper clip from the corner and save it for their own use, thumb through photocopies of your bylined stories and drop them in the waste basket right in front of you," she said.
"Once, when this happened, I smiled and asked the gentleman if I could have the photocopied pages back so the next person could throw them away," she said. "He seemed taken aback, as if I were the rude one."
Don't even ask if she got the job -- or heard back from Mr. Wonderful.
A man who's retired from the Air Force says it's just as bad (and maybe worse) inside the Department of Defense.
This man applied for a job. He heard nothing. After a few weeks, he called the personnel office to ask about his application.
A personnel employee asked whether he had received a letter saying that he got the job.
"No," my guy replied.
"Then you didn't get it, did you?," said the personnel humanoid, just before hanging up.
The cake-taker: a personnel officer at a major K Street lobbying company. He was a he. The job-seeker was a she.
Having been interviewed and having heard nothing, she called on a Monday for a status report. She got voice-mailed. She called again on Tuesday and Wednesday. More voice mail.
When she called on Thursday, the personnel officer interrupted as the woman was leaving yet another voice-mail message.
He threatened to sue her for harassment if she kept calling.