One of the admittedly guilty pleasures we missed when we moved from Los Angeles to Asheville was Gelson’s salad bar. Gelson’s is a grocery store chain in Southern California, and we had one a few blocks from our old house. Since I’ve been back in Los Angeles, I’ve hit the Gelson’s salad bar a couple of times a week. I don’t know how to explain it, exactly. It’s not a huge selection. It just has everything I want, in the size, quantity and combination that I want it. The only problem is you have to pay by weight. My beloved grilled tofu cubes are surprisingly heavy and make for an expensive salad.
But there’s a funny sort of phenomena around the salad bar, and I was aware of it before we moved. I’d just forgotten about it, until I returned and started building my favorite salad again. I call it “Salad Rage.” It’s similar to road rage in that someone gets behind you, follows you very closely, in a very aggressive manner, then does something crazy and hostile. Believe it or not, this happens at the salad bar on a regular basis. I’m not slow. I get my container. I know what I want. I get the same thing every time. But no matter how fast I move along the line, there’s ALWAYS someone behind me who simply must get through the salad line faster.
Often, if there’s a line, I’ll go pick up other things I need, then come back to the bar. But even when there’s no one in sight, someone inevitably gets in line right behind me. I’ve been non-gender specific in my descriptions so far, but in the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess: It’s always a woman (or women). And it’s a very specific kind of woman. She’s in her 40s, well-dressed, alone, and I am in her way, an obstacle or symbol of everything she despises. She will shake her head and reach across me to snatch the tongs. She will sigh and stamp her little designer shoes. More often than not, I take a step back and let her pass, which only serves to enrage her more. The other night, I did that, and one of the angry salad ragers barked, “Am I in your way!?” Completely missing the fact that I was moving for her benefit.
I don’t know who these angry salad women are, or what’s happened in their lives to make them in such a hurry at the salad bar, resentful of anyone they see as blocking their access to the baby corn. I smile, I stand back, I get out of the way, all the while dreaming of picking up the vat of honey mustard dressing and dumping it over her furious, but well-coiffed head. I never encountered any salad rage women in Asheville. I wonder if it’s just an L.A. thing? Or maybe we just didn’t go to the angry salad bars there. There were never any women at all around the Ingles salad bar, but that might be because it was mostly a meat bar.
Around 4 or 5 o’clock in the workday, I start thinking about dinner and my Gelson’s salad. Are the angry salad women there already, waiting for me? Wondering where the jerk who takes all the grilled tofu is? Do they wait in the parking lot, texting each other on their BlackBerrys and Sidekicks, announcing my arrival? And could attacking someone with a vat of salad dressing really be considered assault?