Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To Boldly Go...

In a far away quadrant of the Des Moines Skywalk, the Marketplace convenience store
heralds a civilization advanced in the art of the snack.

  I’ve previously written about my lunchtime experiences with the snack/convenience store on the ground floor of the downtown Des Moines building I work in. I’ve been in the habit of getting an ice cream sandwich for lunch time after my healthy lunch of an apple and an orange. The first time the lady that works there ran out of the ice cream sandwiches, I bought 2 ice cream bars and a new supply of ice cream sandwiches soon made its way to the small freezer in the back of the small store. But the second time she ran out of ice cream sandwiches, there were no ready reinforcements and I whittled away her supply of ice cream bars in the meantime. Last Monday I finally exhausted her supply. I waited 2 days before going back and looked in the freezer but there were no ice cream bars or ice cream sandwiches. The lady gave me an imploring look that I took to mean that I was now supposed to work my way through the eternally untouched fudge bars or ice cream cones with the nuts on them (not to mention the ancient Eskimo Pies and Frozen Snickers), but having been emboldened by my Cheetos boycott of the vending machine at work, I was determined not to settle for an unwanted confection and I put on my saddest face and walked out of the tiny store.

  I made my way upstairs to the second floor not looking forward to an afternoon of work without any ice cream or Cheetos in my belly and I just decided to kill some time and take a walk north along the second floor skywalk that connects all the downtown buildings and parking garages. I walk 2 blocks on the skywalk to and from my car every day and it is a fairly depressing walk. There is a fancy restaurant attached to a hotel and an assisted living home with people whizzing by in their super scooters, but otherwise there is nothing to see but people going to and from work and I wasn’t expecting anything different by walking north instead of east.

Little did I know that this humble harmonica player was the sentry to a brave new world.

  The first thing I saw on my walk was a man in the hallway playing the harmonica for the spare change people would drop in his styrofoam tray. I couldn't decide if he was playing the theme from Star Trek or 2001:A Space Odyssey, but I made my past him with no money changing hands, made a left at the end of the corridor, and ran right into a world of color and light called the Kaleidoscope Hub. Coming from the antiseptic office environment with a convenience store with no ice cream sandwiches, I felt as if I had entered the bar in the first Star Wars movie.

Not all that glitters is gold in the Kaleidoscope. How many people risked having 'BBQ to Die For'? and at the Maid Rite,
it looked as if the sign (and some of the customers) needed first aid.

  The Kaleidoscope is a combination food court/strip mall. There were tables to sit at and people everywhere. The first store I saw was an ice cream/popcorn store so I had at least one spot to buy some ice cream (albeit expensive ice cream). Then there was a ‘Happy Sushi’ eatery (I wonder if the sushi was happy).

  I made my way through a batch of places to eat (Palmer Deli, Subway, a Burger King on the first floor, etc...). I saw a store that seemed to have every kind of cell phone cover available. I went in looking for some headphones for my amazing iPod, but they had the same headphones selling for $30 that Wal-Mart charges $5 for, so I passed. Since the cell phone cover store also offers to ship packages for you I assume they have a large internet business. There were some empty spaces and run down restaurants, but as I reached the end of the Kaleidoscope, I saw a Bruegger’s Bagel shop. I tucked away the location for further notice (Kathy and I both love everything bagels with Vegetable cream cheese), and then saw a clothing store that sold nothing but Iowa Hawkeye or Iowa State Cyclone gear, which I’m sure gets a lot of busy workers picking up a piece of clothing for a last minute gift for the sports lover in the house (There is also a florist and card shop for the same purpose).

With my preferred ice cream treats unavailable, I had to forage in the Des Moines Skywalk
for a new snack supply. Luckily I found a freezer full of treats to enjoy.

  I had almost made the complete round-trip and was heading back to see the guy playing the harmonica when I saw ‘The MarketPlace’. It looked like the convenience store in the first floor of the building I worked in, only on steroids. The first thing I saw was an entire rack of snack food items. Since I’m still on my boycott from the work vending machine (I’ve only seen one bag of Cheetos move along in the last week and a half), I got myself a bag of Crunchy Cheetos. I walked through all 4 aisles of the packed shop, looking at 7 or 8 soda coolers, and all the various snack foods, when I spotted a freezer in the corner. I hustled over and saw it was chock full of Blue Bunny ice cream sandwiches. I picked out a vanilla sandwich and turned to pay when I found myself face to face with a bag of Cheeto Puffs in a rack of big snack bags. I grabbed the 3 1/4 ounce bag, put away my Crunchy Cheetos, paid the man at the counter, and made my way back to the office. Since I ate the ice cream sandwich on the way back, I had the whole bag of Cheeto Puffs to feast on back at my desk.

A snack food motherlode!!
  Eating so much junk made me kind of sluggish at work, but after being denied my favorite treats by the vending machine and convenience store it felt great to have things my way for once. I see now that I was just momentarily taken out of my comfort zone by a higher power becasue that's what it took for a creature of habit like myself to travel to an unknown destination. I’ll give the convenience store lady a couple of days to restock her supply of ice cream sandwiches, but if she doesn’t get it together, I’ll just travel to the my new snack food destination on the second floor.