Flower shopping is only as fast as the slowest customer.
Once a year, Detroit's Eastern Market turns into a wonderland of scents and colors with the annual Flower Day. It's a time when all sheds and open areas fill up with 15 acres of annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, succulents, and trees, all for sale at low prices. It's a wonderful day, drawing thousands of shoppers, and it has been called the largest, open-air flower market in the hemisphere.
It's also a horrible pain in the ass because, in our car-centric region, it's perhaps the only time in a year some people are in a crowd.
We can help. Here's our advice.
First of all, be warned. There's construction around Eastern Market, especially on the Russell Street side, but it could be anywhere. (Along with spring flowers comes spring road reconstruction and patching.)
Unless you intend to use the underutilized parking garage, resist the urge to drive right into the heart of the market. Scared to park your car on the periphery? You shouldn't be if you obey one key rule: Leave absolutely nothing of value in your car. That means no laptop on the back seat, no jacket on the floor, even no change in the cup-holder. If you really want to have a car nobody will steal, drive a stick shift. Your typical Detroit car thief is used to automatics.
Now, on to the market. How to navigate a crowd is an important topic, especially when you have so many people who spend so little time in a crowd all gathered together in a crowded space. And the flower market is crowded. It's no Somerset. It has narrow aisles and is not engineered the same way, say, a Kroger Supermarket is. This is old-school shopping, and requires a bit more thoughtfulness.
Lesson One: Always be cognizant of the people around you.
When you're shuffling along in a flower market, you are at least moving, and so you are not in the way. When you stop, you very well might be. How do you know? Look around you. At least try to leave enough room for people to walk around you. If you can't, at least acknowledge the other person who's trying to get by with a smile or a shrug and an eye-roll. Nothing irritates people more than dancing behind a person who's absolutely oblivious to the needs of others. Show good fellowship and try to be gracious. It really helps a lot.
Lesson Two: Do not stop to talk to somebody going the other way.
We've seen this move before. Bob is pushing a double-barreled stroller south through the flower market. Bill is dragging a Radio Flyer wagon stacked with flats north through the flower market. They suddenly recognize each other right at one of the market's most difficult bottlenecks. At this point, Bob should say, "Holy shit, it's you! Wanna meet up at 3 p.m. down at Vivio's?" And Bill should say, "You said it!" and they should both keep moving
. But what do Bob and Bill do? They stop and hold a five-minute conversation, completely unaware that everybody around them is giving them eye-daggers as they stand trapped behind their stroller-wagon barricade. "How's the wife?" Bob says, as several anxious shoppers are now doing snake dances trying to get around him without stepping on his son's yogurt-smeared face. Even without pulling carts or pushing prams, two people standing in the middle of a crowded aisle will block movement. You wouldn't stop your car on the expressway's hammer lane to chat over the concrete barrier with your buddy, would you? Please don't do it here.
Lesson Three: Consider running your cart or wagon tag-team-style.
People love garden carts and wagons because they're able to load plenty of flats of flowers on top of them as they shop. But do you have to pull it down every aisle? Isn't it possible to have your spouse or partner off to the side somewhere, off the aisle but easy to find, where you can walk a few flats over to the cart without dragging your cart down every single aisle? In some situations, there's just no other way to use the cart. But it simply isn't always necessary to have it right there, while you're choosing, thinking, considering, haggling — and obstructing. It just makes that person behind you want to wrap their fingers around your throat until your head pops off like a dandelion blossom.
Lesson Four: Leave the baby stroller at home.
Yeah, we know. It's fucking magical to look at all these flowers. Jesus Christ, will little Duncan or Emily love to look at all this colorful crap and the little bunnies in cages and shit like that. Well, no. Not really. Especially when they're strapped into a stroller and being shoved through a crowd of people trying to nimbly walk around them and bargain hunt, all while they turn you into a 1-mile-per-hour shuffle-butt slowing traffic to a crawl. Show them the videos later, or strap them onto your body if you really must take them.
All that said, be sure to enjoy Flower Day! It's a wonderful experience, if a few thoughtless jerks don't ruin it for everybody else. It goes from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 17.