CINCINNATI – OK, I'll be the first to admit it. This is far from your typical assignment … although it beats the pants off an 8 a.m. government meeting.
Seriously, those are the worst. But I digress.
Back in September, I wrote a story for WCPO.com that's since been dubbed "The Kroger Wars." In the wake of the grocery chain's biggest and baddest new store opening at Oakley Station, I compared its fresh features to that of the nearby Hyde Park location.
In the story, I mentioned – albeit briefly – a long-running rumor I'd heard immediately upon moving to Cincinnati just a few months before: The Hyde Park Kroger, it turns out, is the hottest place in the city to pick up dates, a matchmaking ground zero -- or so goes the story. All it takes is a melon + a grocery cart and boom = reservations for two next Saturday night.
I had always distrusted this theory; I'm somewhat the skeptic.
"Seriously, guys, is that true?"
But this past Thursday night, I got to test its validity first-hand.
My task: Inconspicuously browse the aisles looking for singles in hot pursuit. Watch for the foraging of fruit and track its ability to ring in dates. And since there's really only so many times you can slow-roll through the produce and frozen food aisles (let's say it's no more than seven) and still look natural, this all required quite the performance on my part.
However, folks, it seems I have to be the bearer of bad news: I'm officially, once and for all, now and forever, stopping this rumor dead in its tracks. During my multiple passes through the store, not one match was made. Not a one. At least no melons were harmed in the process. But, you know, it is February and they are so out of season.
Plus, it had snowed like one-tenth of an inch the night before. Maybe people had stocked up then. So I could still be wrong.
But just for argument's sake, here are my theories about why Kroger dating is now dead.
1. It was all just a diabolical, well-thought-out, well-spread rumor in the first place
It's all a myth. The watermelon/cantaloupe/melon-in-the-cart game never really existed. Some second-shift stock boy was bored one Thursday night and his tall tale provided a few wisps of excitement. Or maybe there really was something magical afoot at Kroger once upon a time. I'm so sorry, folks, but that magic seems to have died. You've missed your window. But I hear OTR is nice.
2. The new! and improved! Oakley mega-Kroger on Marburg has all but killed the nightlife here.
I mean, a lot has changed at the Hyde Park Kroger since the fall and the new store's debut. It's certainly less crowded on Paxton. I can literally walk through the aisles now. I also got parking in the front row. Yes, you read that right. I said FRONT ROW. As in the very first spot right by the door. Crazy, right?
Anyway, if traffic counts are down, that certainly would kill a lot of the buzz. No one wants to go to the deadest bar in town. Speaking of … the new Kroger has a bar. Wine tastings. Events. Perhaps the scene has moved there and now involves the selection of a fine cheddar cheese.
3. We all suck and human interaction is truly dead.
Be honest. Do people really chat up strangers on the regular at the grocery store? “Hi, my name is Fred. Nice melon.” Cheesy. Everyone I saw that night was either talking or texting on their phone, or so oblivious to those around them, they wouldn't have noticed 10 melons being carted by the pope.
But not all hope is lost, my friends. In an unofficial poll of my peers via social media, it seems at least one was lucky enough to land a date after a shopping trip at the Hyde Park store. My buddy Rami, who has since moved away from Cincinnati, scored digits and dinner from a helpless babe bound to a scooter following some kind of leg injury. He helped her grab a needed item from a store shelf, they started talking, and dinner resulted.
I personally don’t think it counts, since no fruit was involved. But you can't win 'em all.