stopped by the supermarket around midnight tonight for some desperately needed items (toothpaste, soap, q-tips, donuts, etc.). with the pouring rain and late hour in a quiet residential neighborhood, the supermarket seemed naturally empty at first: two security guards, a checker and bag boy, a pony-tailed harley-rider pounding on a bag of ice with his fist while his old lady bought a pack of fruit stripe gum.
but here's the strange part: a dozen or so japanese men were scattered across the front of the aisles. they didn't seem to be doing anything at first, just standing around with cameras strapped to their necks. then i noticed that occasionally, one or two of them would pick up a package of sale-priced entemanns or smuckers and inspect it like one would a ceramic vase in a pricy museum shop. and every few minutes, they all huddled in a group to snap pictures of the stunned-looking, bleached-blond, red-faced stock boy who was pushing a large dolly of boxes down the frozen food section.
while checking out, you know i had to ask the checker: "what's with the photo session?"
"the what?" he replied with a blank stare on his face, scanning the rainforest zest.
"the photo session - right there. behind you. the group of men inspecting the hostess cupcakes? the paparazzi telling your stock boy to work it?"
"oh, that. they're observing the night crew." he replied in complete monotone, as if japanese tourism was business-as-usual at ralph's around midnight on a thursday.
obviously needing more details about this phenomenon, i asked: "what exactly are they doing?"
again, monotone: "they're observing."
i tried again: "what are they observing?"
this time he stopped mid-scan and looked up at me as if i was the most inept person he'd ever laid eyes on: "the night crew."