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Originally published November 15, 2013 at 4:58 PM | Page modified November 15, 2013 at 5:20 PM

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Guest: The Costco crowd — it’s the future of America

The Costco crowd is a keyhole view of diversity and the contemporary face of America, writes guest columnist Gerard Letterie.


Special to The Times

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The Costco concept and business model; it wasn't that long ago that only the locals kne... MORE
Kind of sad to claim that the future of America can be summed up as.. overconsumption. MORE
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IT’S been a long few weeks for us congressional watchers: a steady diet of newsfeeds of our leaders holding forth with odd agendas, creating a crisis and pushing so many so close to calamity. I needed to step away from this dark nonsense. Nothing could be further from the reality of what America is all about.

I needed a dose of bright, positive energy and surroundings that remind me of the art of the possible. So I went to Costco.

The Costco challenge: It’s a full-throttle, Red Bull-charged atmosphere. I leave with unexpected grab bags of stuff I never intended to buy. But it’s transitioned from a grab-the-essentials excursion to a keyhole view of diversity and the contemporary face of America, which stands in stark contrast to the starched politicos who saturated my viewfinder the preceding weeks.

So away I went to Costco; no solemn faces here. There were people in electric red and gold saris with golden bangles, bracelets and toe rings. Red, green and yellow collided across a knee-length dashiki.

Professional team logos shouted from shirts and caps and oversized, sagging satin shorts. One man wore a blue blazer with a Ralph Lauren logo and knock-off Top-Siders. There were complexions of every color from white to black, and hair of every shade from black to blonde and every wave from straight to curly, cut close and buzzed or puffed out like a Sly Stone wannabe. There was gray hair and no hair and one fully coiffed bouffant. Some heads were covered with baseball caps, embroidered kufis and the drawn hood of a tan dishdasha.

Movement was everywhere. People navigated shopping carts brimming with goods. One family pushed a flatbed stacked with a half dozen rice sacks, five-quart soy sauce jugs and a paperback John Grisham novel atop a 12-pack of paper towels.

Toddlers lolled in child seats in wire shopping carts. Older kids ran randomly through the toy and video sections. People searched the aisles glancing at product labels. A Hamid Karzai look-alike complete with a Karakul hat studied the fine print on an oversized cashew jar.

The Costco team dotted the floor space, wore sheer hairnets at kiosks laden with only-one-per samples of lasagna, salsa and curry dishes. Spicy smells filled the space around the kiosks and small white cups littered the floor.

Accents, tones and foreign languages filled the air. There was Spanish here and Chinese there and other Asians speaking a click-clack staccato. English was heard as people funneled into the checkout mash-up.

A vibrant randomness and colorful chaos flowed in a great and wonderful way. The language of abundance in mind and spirit was spoken. The deep diversity told a rich and familiar story about people who had left familiar settings for American dreams and a sense of the possible. They were carving that path forward with their families to a better place like so many before — my parents and grandparents included.

An anything-is-possible vibe saturated the atmosphere, a sense I hadn’t had while viewing the news the previous weeks. And it spoke to how diversity can translate into one voice: getting things done and moving things forward — something desperately needed from the suits behind the congressional podium who allegedly speak for America and Americans.

So my advice to our leaders: If you hear rumblings over your shoulder of strange and foreign sounds, pay your membership fee and join us. Otherwise, step aside.

The Costco crowd: It’s contemporary America, and we have work to do and goals to accomplish.

Gerard Letterie is a physician at Seattle Reproductive Medicine. Email: gerardletterie@gmail.com




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