My Third Place

I’ve always been envious of people who saunter into a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar and are greeted by name by the staff. They have a special place where they sit. They know the menu backwards and forwards, even though they almost always order the same thing. They’re regulars.

That’s not me.

I do not crave routine, and while I have my favorite places, I don’t go there on any kind of regular basis. So when my friend Laura asked me to write about my third place, I was somewhat at a loss.

A third place is somewhere other than home or work where you go to foster a more creative and connected life. It wasn’t until I read a blog post about my friend Harmony’s quest to find her third place that I realized what mine is.

It’s the grocery store.

I know plenty of people who despise grocery shopping, but I honestly love it. When I was a kid, I would make shopping lists for my mom and clip coupons. I liked peeking into other people’s carts to see what they were buying. Sometimes my mom would run into her friends while we were shopping, and I would roam the aisles to see what was on sale that week while they chatted.

Even if I have no shopping to do, I like to hang out at specialty grocery stores, and I’ve been known to make special trips to check out grocery bargains. When I travel, I always try to check out a local grocery store because it shows me how people really live and eat.

Pop and tuna

Interesting promotion in a Costa Rican grocery store: Buy two bottles of pop, get a free can of tuna.

You can often get excellent food at much lower prices. For example, when my husband and I were in Maui, we got great sashimi from the local supermarket, at a fraction of the price what it would have been in a restaurant. A grocery store—especially those in other countries—can also be a great place to get unique and inexpensive gifts.

For me, the grocery store easily fits the criteria of a third place.

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Highly accessible
  • Food and drink, while not essential are important
  • Involves regulars—those who habitually congregate there
  • Welcoming and comfortable
  • Both new friends and old should be found there

It’s a place of discoveries and ideas and helps me fulfill my cooking ambitions.

I shopped at the same Safeway for 7 years. I was a regular customer because it was close to our house, had a decent produce department, and good deals, and also because of the people that I encountered there.

My favorite cashiers were twin sisters who worked the evening shift. They are two of the most patient people I have met and were unfailingly kind to even the most difficult customers.

The same young girl would stand at the store entrance every year to sell Campfire candy. Once she wore a fake mustache to catch people’s attention. (Of course I bought candy from her.)

I still remember the guy working in the deli who prouldy told me about the birth of his baby girl as he packed up my fried chicken order.

We recently moved and so I’m still getting acquainted with my new grocery store. I feel most connected to community when I’m around food, and I look forward to getting to know the people who work and shop there.


Filed under Essays, NaBloPoMo 2013

3 responses to “My Third Place

  1. Love this! I am never comfortable at grocery stores — mostly because I don’t know how to cook and feel lost navigating aisles I’ve never been in before. I dart in and out of stores, grabbing only usually juice and nutrition bars. You make shopping sound as peaceful as going to that coffee shop where everyone knows my name!

  2. I worked in a grocery store for four years and always loved getting to know my regulars. Thanks for putting the spotlight on the people you came across on your frequent excursions.

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