Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ode to Hancock Center H-E-B

I must be about to get my period (sorry) because I just had the most emotionally rewarding experience at the H-E-B.

Ok, so, Hurricane Ike is happening right now:

(P.S. - Leave it to the NY Times photo journalist crew to make a natural disaster look so breathtakingly artsy!)

As a result, many Houston and Galveston evacuees have fled to Austin, where the weather here is relatively stable. As such, our neighborhood H-E-B has been packed with confused out-of-towners.

"Excuse me, where are your bottled waters?"

"Is there a cell phone store nearby?"

"Do you know how to get to "Man-chac-a" Street?"

I don't know if it's the spirit of Texans to rise above adversity, or the fact that H-E-B employees are just so damn odd and charming, or (most likely) the afore-mentioned womanly reason, but everyone was in, like, the best mood at the grocery store this morning!

"Ok....GUYS....should we get some ham? To make......." (dramatic pause)...

That was a goofy Houston dad at the deli counter this morning, wearing an Astros shirt, with his two little kids in tow. I imagine that evacuating one's city and sitting on the highway for 8-10 hours is probably somewhat of a tense experience, and yet, here was this cool dad who probably did exactly that, getting his kids all pumped up about some ham.


"YEAH! Let's get ham!!" These are his little kids, who are quite literally getting worked up into a frenzy over Boar's Head honey maple ham.

"Ok! Ok. Ma'am, hi, excuse me? We need to get a sample of ham. We need to," (turns to wink conspiratorially at kids), "test it."

The kids are now shrieking with giggles, barely able to suppress their delight that their daddy just tricked the deli lady into giving them a sample.

"WHOA! This is some HAM! Am I right, guys? Am I right??"

Would you believe me if I said his kids were double-fist-pumping the air right now?

"We'll take ONE! POUND!"

And then, I kid you not, his kids started jumping up and down.

Oh dear reader, I wish you could have been there. It's not an exaggeration to say I was very nearly moved to tears by this grocery store tableau. It was pretty freaking precious, I'm not going to lie.

And it doesn't stop there.

Alright, so the poor H-E-B employees - R. was there yesterday, and he said there were check-out lines stretching down into the aisles. You know all those people had to work late yesterday, especially since H-E-B is a 24-hour operation. So I'm pushing my little cart to the check-out, still dazzled by goofy, feel-good Houston Dad, but bracing myself for a surly checker. Because they are probably underslept and tired. But instead, I got the most amazing service.

"Well hey pretty lady! How you doin today!"

That was my checker, as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (pause: weird expression? Are we talking about squirrels here? Is rodent analogy?) as you can be. I thought about it, and told her I was doing alright. And herself?

"I'm hangin in there, thanks for asking! You got any plans tonight?"

I told her about Dana's party tonight, and that we will be going karaoke-ing.

"Aw man! That's fun! Is it a birthday?"

I told her indeed it was, good guess!

"Hey, Rita - she's going to go karaoke-ing tonight!!"

By now a second checker, Rita, has wandered over, to get in on this crazy conversation.

"Oh girl, for serious! What are you singing??"

I sheepishly admitted that Fergie is sorta my go-to, precisely because she does not sing, but spells things. (At least Fergie circa 2006-07 did).

"Aw, lady!" (Back to original checker now), "You're going to be the best one up there!"

Now, based on appearances alone, this prediction was, shall we say, unwarranted. I was (still am) looking about as unimpressive and non-diva-like as you can get - wearing the shirt I wore last night which has a wine stain on it, yoga pants, and flip-flops, and sporting as my friend Rob would call it, "David Lee Roth hair."

But it made me happy anyway. These girls made me feel like a semi-celebrity, just for chatting it up at the check-out line. And, and - this, after all employees worked late, crazy hours last night.

So, Hancock Center H-E-B, it's official: you've stolen my heart.

And I'm totally coming to buy Midol from you in a few days.


Anonymous said...

and in turn, you livened my day.

d said...

nice post.

Anonymous said...

Hancock HEB and I go a long ways back, nearly 24 years. Back before 24-hr Fitness was Hancock HEB and even before that when Hancock HEB only had a two-door entrance. Long gone is a quaint gelato place (had to be one of first in Austin) called Gelato Penguino.

Jon said...

Tolls, I'm currently at the office, on deadline for the Oct/Nov issue, and THIS, this small anecdote plucked so effortlessly from your day, just became the little pep boost I needed to get through (yet another Local) of our 6,000+ word feature.

Tolly M said...

Aw, thanks Jon. :)

Kristan said...

Very cute! I'm here via a tip from my friend Angie ( in particular about this post. Quite a delight, and makes me proud to be a Texan. :)

tiffanie said...



Breyonce said...

The Far West HEB is not nearly as cool. Le Sigh.

BTW, you totally left "Barbie" off your poll. Yes, I played with Barbies, like daily. What?

Jeff said...

And this is precisely why I seriously want to consider a move to Austin and get the hell out of L.A.!