It's early in the morning and my feet are on the threshold between the real world and Whole Foods. There's only one reason to have one's feet on the threshold between the real world and Whole Foods early in the morning: free samples.

Fresh. Free samples. Violet believes I'm betraying nine o'clock for eight-thirty. I have loyalty issues. This will cause her to  re-think our friendship. It's very simple I tell her. I go early because by mid-morning the samples turn post-apocalyptic - ashen and covered in debris from customer's pockets.  But Violet won't let the loyalty issue go. "Loyalty is a feature in a boy's character that inspires boundless hope," she says. "Sir Robert Baden-Powell." I remind her Sir Robert Baden-Powell thought Mein Kampf was "a wonderful book with good ideas on education and health..." She reminds me he wrote a book called Pigsticking or Hoghunting that did to pigsticking and hoghunting what Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra did to university students getting into the pants of other university students. Powerful counter.

The cheese section today features a tv table full of Grana Padano cubes. Grana. Padano. The only cheese I would run onto a busy street for if, say, the package of cheese fell out of my bag onto the sidewalk and was knocked into the middle of the road by an elderly person, say Esther Rydell, in an electric wheelchair playing sidewalk polo with another elderly person, her crush, Frank Grabinsky. Grana Padano weakens my knees like no hot ex-girlfriend who brutally dumped me but calls 5 years later and offers a half-hour session of redemption sex. 

So I reach for my first sample of the day - I never forget my first sample and take pictures on occasion  - when an employee steps in front. Name tag reads Mark. I'm familiar with Mark. We're not store friends, more like store acquaintances. But I've heard good things. "You're cut off," he says.

"I'm what?" I say.

"You're cut off, sorry," he says. I was cut off from eating more cheese even though I hadn't  had a piece. I thought this particularly cruel given their awareness of my predilection for Grana Padano.

I am. Unhappy.

"How can you cut me off? I haven't had even a piece so it's not like I'm toasted with cheese. I'm not hand checking other people for a sample, or picking up samples without a toothpick. You can't do this. I'm one of your best free sample customers. I always put the used toothpick in the used toothpick cup. And didn't I, two weeks ago, didn't I save the table of samples when that guy fell over from a heart attack? Everybody knows I respect the free sample, I would never do anything to harm the institution of the free sample. I'm a model free sampler. I don't understand?!"

Mark is unmoved. He points at me with an arthritic index finger like the Grim Reaper. "Make it right with Polk. He's our friend." I hear murmurs of agreement, look around and see other staff nodding. I feel like I'm in a Stephen King novel.  "Make it right with Polk."


Polk is my accountant and has been my accountant through many tax years. On Valentines Day I hurt his feelings. (see below Valentine's Day Polk). Apologize. I need to apologize. This is what I need to do. "I'll apologize. That's what I need to do." I say. "You need to get him a gift," Violet says. We are in front of Holt Renfrew guessing which of the outbound customers have belly rings.

"That seems excessive."

She tells me the gift backs up the apology. The gift is the apology's muscle. "How about a gift certificate to The Bay?" Violet shoots me a look. "But I know nothing about the man. He does my taxes." Violet tells me he's a collector. "Good. I'll get one of whatever he collects. What does he collect?"

"Traffic signs. All will be right if you get him a traffic sign."

"Isn't it illegal to snatch traffic signs?"

Violet grins.