Turn left at the frozen foods

ALL together now, let's cheer for Dick Towns, who told me Shaw's Super Market employs an Orientation Counselor! I have surveyed a few friends, and to borrow a word from the political analysts, the ``consensus'' is that an Orientation Counselor in a supermarket is the boy you catch by the arm as he hurries by and he tells you where the black pepper is. If that is so, I hope he gets 10 percent on his groceries and check cashing privileges. I'm a firm believer in orientation, which I usually spell with a small ``o,'' and I well remember my dismay the first time I was disoriented and needed a counselor.

And during the past summer we supershoppers in the immediate area could have used a few Orientation Counselors. Our favorite superduper undertook to enlarge its space, but instead of closing down for the meantime, it just set the several-million project a-going and kept on selling groceries. All summer, thus, we would go to shop and there would be the workmen pulling down and putting up, moving things about, and making great clatter and clutter that disoriented everybody who came in for a piece of cheese and a dozen jumbo eggs. Nobody knew where anything was, and one day a clerk told me the electric light bulbs were going to be in Aisle 28 just as soon as Aisle 28 became functional. But it was, withal, an amusing transition - it slowed down shopping but it taught all our housewives a great deal about masonry, refrigeration, and electronics. Each week the customers saw progress from simple food supply into the wonders of state-of-the-art consumer-related logistics.

But during all this, the management neglected orientation counseling, and nobody in either buying or selling had the slightest idea where anything was. One morning my conjugal purchasing agent wanted some Sudsy-dudsy, and she came quite by chance on an aisle where a dozen or so prosperous-looking and well-dressed gentlemen were arranging 2,000 or 2,500 kinds of soap on the shelves, and she asked where she could find Sudsy-dudsy. ``Who makes it?'' the man asked. She said she didn't know. So he called, ``Who makes Sudsy-dudsy?'' A man down the line raised his hand, and said she'd find Sudsy-dudsy over on ``old'' Aisle 10 with housewares and detergents. At the moment, he explained, he and his friends were arranging the shelves, dividing the space brand by brand, each man being a sales representative for a different company. By next week, he said, the new aisle would be ready.

The manager, another time, told me he didn't know where the spices were, but he would inquire, and he said when the new store was completely ready there would be a map so customers could learn where to find things. At the time I didn't realize this was orientation assistance.

The first time I was seriously disoriented (referred to above) was in my boyhood. I had a mutt, half beagle and half neighborhood, that thought he was a bunny dog, and we had gone over the Ridge one Saturday morning to seek supplies for a rabbit pie. It clouded over shortly and there was no sun for orientation purposes the rest of the day.

Then my friend and associate, said mixed-up beagle, took off in hot pursuit of some chickadees and left me unattended in the wilderness, somewhere on the far side of Titcomb's 600-acre swamp. I found myself disoriented, and knew not going from coming. I was woodwise enough so I didn't go trotting in circles or falling into any brooks, but I entertained the alarm that accrues when one realizes he is ``bewildered.''

I felt in the back pocket of my jacket and brought out the compass I had never needed before. I put ``Ol' Betsy,'' my single-shot .22, to one side so the barrel wouldn't influence the needle, and then I found the compass needle had no marking to tell N from S. I spoke deprecatingly about people who would make a compass with that deficiency, and said to myself, ``I need an orientation counselor!'' Such a compass is useless; I was lost.

I came out of the woods in due time thinking I should hit the Coombs road near the Ruel Hinckley place, but I came out exactly behind our own house, not 100 yards from my own barn. Disoriented and completely turned around, I didn't recognize my own home and believed I was lost somewhere over in the next town. Not only that, but my beagle needed orientational counseling, too. I never saw him again. Funny thing, though - I still have that compass.

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