Our friendly neighborhood grocer

Walking home up Sheikh Saad this evening, we ran into our neighborhood grocer, Abu-Fahad. For a moment or two, I didn't recognize him out of context, but fortunately we recalled in time to say hello. After he passed, I realized that I had never once seen his entire body. What I mean is, I've never seen him out from behind the grocery counter. I had no idea if he was fat, skinny, or even short or tall, really. He has always been 3/4 covered up by the sales counter.

The grocery store he runs is amazing. It's about the size of a walk-in closet, if even. It certainly isn't even as big as a 7-11 or other convenience store in the US. And yet, he has everything. If you don't see it, ask for it, and he'll rummage around in the back or under the counter until he finds it. He also is quick to pick up on his customers' tastes. When we first moved in, he only carried certain kinds of crackers and candy bars. I don't know if he went through our trash or what, but gradually, he started carrying the kinds of snacks we liked. He also has learned to stock up on fresh milk - he used to run out all the time, but now he must have upped his order to accommodate our milk-drinking habits.

Sure, he doesn’t necessarily have a wide variety of brands – there’s usually only one kind of each product. But that means less indecision for us. In the US, trying to decide which kind of yogurt to buy can become a complicated ordeal when you have to choose between no-fat, low-fat, normal fat, light, low-carb, sugar-free, creamy, custard-style, drinkable, fruit-at-the-bottom, pre-stirred, extra calcium, 4 oz., 6 oz., 8 oz., etc. And that’s just within a certain brand, and besides the flavor. I think I’m happy to let Abu-Fahad make those kinds of decisions for me.

You know you've been in Syria too long if...

Unattended street kiosk?