She looked at me, with her purple hair, as if I had just asked her where they keep the crack cocaine.
“Wine,” I said, repeating myself. “Where is the wine section?”
“Wine?” she said. “Is that what you said?”
It was a total, like, third dimension moment. I was in America, speaking English to another English-speaking American yet I felt like a human on an alien planet.
Everything looked familiar. There were aisles for chips and pasta and there was a section for fresh produce. I was in a grocery store, so the setting seemed reasonable. It’s not like I was asking for wine in a dentist’s office or something, although that would be amazing (to take the edge off). I had passed by beer, but just couldn’t find the wine.
“Oh,” she said. “We don’t sell that here.”
I needed a minute to compute.
“I’m not 21,” she said, motioning towards a group of her co-workers. “They would know better. But I’m pretty sure you have to go to a liquor store for that.”
A man at least 20 years her senior, wearing an identical uniform and tidying now-expired Valentine’s items, nodded silently with authority.
“Yep,” he said. “A liquor store. They’re even cutting down on the beer we can sell.”
What the actual hell was going on, Utah? I mean, really. I understand that the state has a strong influence from a certain alcohol-abstaining religion, but why discriminate between wine and beer?
“Oh, and the beer we sell is only, like three-percent alcohol,” the older guy informed me, again. “It’s us and Minnesota that have it that way.”
What. What is actually going on? So, the folks who make beer are making diluted batches of it just to sell to the poor saps in Utah and Minnesota?
“We can’t even sell wine coolers anymore,” some dude with eyes half-open but still in uniform told me.
And, while I understood his point, I didn’t really give him sympathy. Does Bartles & James even exist anymore? Did I even spell that right? Are wine coolers still a thing, even? RIP Zima.
These are all the thoughts that instantly rushed into my head, while still withholding sympathy for the wine cooler comment, despite his heroic effort to achieve victim status.
So, where’s the nearest liquor store? Oh, one mile, Google maps tells us. And when does it close? 7. 7? On a Friday? It closes at 7 p.m. on a Friday? And it’s snowing? Like white-out, hail-snowing? And it’s 6:37 p.m. right this minute?
Dangit, Utah. You’re gorgeous and magical and you have landscapes that other states envy and contours humans drool over – but you feel like a friggin’ convent on a Friday night.
Not to fear – I was raised in Michigan. I was born in a blizzard. Shit, I spun into a snowbank and navigated black ice countless times – 22 years ago. And we had 23 minutes to make it 1.2 miles to the state liquor store, which honestly, felt like visiting a prison before visiting hours expired (even though I’ve never actually done that). I always go well before visiting hours are over (ha).
No really. It might be time to loosen up a little, my sweet northern neighbor. What will happen after 7? What will happen if you sell a bottle of inexpensive wine (because, let’s be honest, we’re pretty stingy) at the grocery? What will actually happen?
It seems very Footloose-ish in 2019 to be living this way. But it’s okay. I got to the store in time, along with a throng of other people, who clearly needed to stock up before you were closed on President’s Day (which is a total bank holiday and not a liquor store holiday, btw), and returned to our little place without incident.
I just think you should reconsider. The 7 p.m. curfew is a bit much. Especially for adults, who truly aren’t sinners. We’re simply seeking a legal beverage. After a long day. On a cold night. And we don’t have wine glasses in our little rental. So, the hot cocoa glasses make us feel even more the sinner.
Oh, Utah. We love you. But we could do without your wine curfew.