Mistress of the Mix: The String Cheese Incident

My favorite quote from the internet this week is, “If she said she threw the cheese, she threw the freakin’ cheese!” And I did. Right at a guy who was running for the door of Safeway with a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade in one hand, and a fifth of Jack Daniels in the other. I totally chucked that cheese. And I did it for you, Shasta County. Because I love you.

It was Sunday afternoon, and I was on my way to the Pine Street Safeway to buy a couple pounds of cheese. Cheese is my kryptonite; the one food I am never strong enough to deny. I’m always telling my Jenny Craig counselor that. So on that Sunday, I was heading to the store to pick up a two pound package of Lucerne low-fat mozzarella string cheese, fifty calories a stick.  I probably go through one of these a week.

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Not the actual cheese.

I pulled into the parking lot and saw Walter, the big burly security guard, walking along the side of the building. He was escorting a fella with a backpack away from the property, back towards the gas pumps. After registering that, my eye was drawn to a huddle of ne’er do wells sitting on the curb near the entrance to the store, heads turned towards the security guard. And then I saw the other guy, watching them. It was me, watching a guy who watching a bunch of guys who were watching the security guard.

We’ll call the other guy Colby. He was the big cheese, running the show. Colby was a tall, skinny guy in a wife beater and camo shorts, and tattoos running down the backs of his arms. It looked to me like he was waiting for the all clear sign from the gang. And when he got the thumbs up, right around the time I got out of the car, he headed towards the door.

Something was about to go down.

I had already pretty much made my decision to follow this guy to see what kind of trouble Colby was headed for, but it was solidified when he said something to a random shopper walking out of the store as he was walking in. I was too far behind to hear what he said, but not too far away to hear her response, because she yelled it at him. “I didn’t speak to you! I don’t care if you’re not stealing anything! Why are you telling me?!”

Oh, he’s definitely stealing something.

As I entered the building I started looking around for an employee to let someone know there was a group of guys working to distract the security guard and rip off the store. I didn’t see anyone within shouting distance. Colby disappeared to the back of the store, so I turned down the chilled dairy aisle and grabbed a two pound sack of cheese and contemplated my next move.

I could just mind my own beeswax, shell out the cheddar to purchase my cheese, and drive back home without saying a word to anyone. But you know me. I’ve never been the type to remain silent. Besides, Redding’s had a tough year. Drug addicts roaming the streets, homeless shitting on our doorsteps, and then the Carr Fire comes along, adding insult to injury. And of course as forty thousand people ran from a fire tornado that burned over a thousand homes, looters headed in to steal what didn’t burn.

No.  Just no. This is my town, and even if we’ve had our issues over the past couple of years, I care about you Redding, and I am sick of the attitude that anything not bolted down is up for grabs. It cheeses me off that there are now gangs of shoplifters working in a coordinated effort to rip off my neighborhood grocery store. Even if the Safeway corporation doesn’t give a rats ass, I do.

I walked over to the next aisle, and hung out in the liquor section, and waited for Colby to come along. I knew he would, and indeed he did. I was contemplated a magnum of Cook’s champagne when the thief walked up next to me and grabbed a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Then he sauntered over to the stronger stuff and took a fifth of Jack Daniels off the shelf, and started for the front of the store.

I had already started walking that way, nonchalantly staying between him and the south exit, thinking maybe I’d trip him if he tried to pass by me. But he kept walking, as if he was heading for the checkout lines. And for one short moment, I thought I’d been wrong about this guy.

But I wasn’t. He picked up the pace, walked right past the express lane, around the banana display and into the floral department, as if he was on a mission to buy a bouquet of roses for his sweetheart. And then he turned left and headed towards the electronic doors.

I shouted at him from about twenty feet away, and as soon as I raised my voice the thief bolted for the door. At that moment, I did what I hope every former co-ed softball pitcher would do in my situation: I threw the cheese at him.

As luck would have it, Colby wasn’t so sharp, and tried to run out the ‘in’ door. There was a satisfying SMACK as he smashed face first right into the glass. Directly after that the cheese landed, missing the thief but hitting the metal door frame just to the left of his head. It made another loud smack (the dude probably thought he was being shot at), and it scared the curd out of him. He body slammed into the door again, and in his desperation to escape he finally pushed the door open far enough to wedge through, disappearing into the parking lot.

I made a Facebook post about it later on Redding Crime 2.0, which went viral. In the 258 comments, people said things like, “This is so grate!” Another said, “Who Gouda seen this coming? These dirtbags want everything for Brie. Such a Muenster!” Even a Safeway employee wrote that she’d seen the whole String Cheese Incident go down. Still, one person doubted the validity of the story, which led someone to defend my honor by posting my favorite internet quote of the week, “If she said she threw the cheese, she threw the freakin’ cheese!”

Because I totally chucked that cheese. I may not be able to stop the rampant looting and pillaging in my town, but I can throw a chunk of cheese at a shoplifter to let him know there are those of us who will not just stand idly by, silent as a mouse.

My daughter found the perfect wedge of
cheese to toss at the Ashland Safeway.

And so, my grocery shopping friends, I call on you to rise up with me and join the Grocery Revolution. Let’s form a unified stand against petty thieves and shoplifters in our neighborhood grocery stores. Let them know that if they are forming a coordinated effort to steal all the liquor off the shelves, that we will also team up, ready to lob a banana, a package of hot dogs or a juicy beefsteak tomato in defense. We may not be able to stop you, but we will make our mark.

Too cheesy? Well wait’ll you get a load of this udderly ridiculous streaming Cheese Incident Playlist.  Hope it’s not too grating on your nerves.


Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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