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Wegnesia. Wegmentia. Whatever it's called, it's a Rochester thing.


Have you ever shopped at a Wegmans, gone through the check out, and exited the store only to be stopped in your tracks at the pumpkins or the firewood or (insert seasonal patio display here) by the thought: Where am I?

Not, where did I park? But, where am I? As in, what Wegmans am I at?

It happened to me the other morning at the Wegmans on Route 31 in Perinton. I bought an egg sandwich and a bottle of orange juice on my way to work, walked out, and wondered, momentarily, why the Country Club Diner wasn’t across the street.

Until I walked out that door I could have sworn I was in the East Avenue Wegmans in Rochester.

This happens to me occasionally. Maybe a few times a year, about as often as one might experience déjà vu.

Where am I? CITY Editor David Andreatta is discomwegmanated. - PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Where am I? CITY Editor David Andreatta is discomwegmanated.
Indeed, these spells are somewhat like déjà vu in that they’re weird and fleeting. I pause briefly to bask in their strangeness, then move on. My surroundings feel simultaneously familiar and slightly off – reversed or inverted – like being in a Bizarro World.

After I left this world the other day, I shared my journey on Twitter. I asked if there was a term for this experience and speculated that I couldn’t be the only person in Rochester to encounter it.

Rochester is home to Wegmans and has the highest concentration of stores than anywhere else. Consider that there are 17 Wegmans in Rochester and its suburbs, and 18 in all of Pennsylvania. Given their proximity, chances are you’ve shopped at more than one. I shop at three regularly.

The response was validating. Hundreds of people “liked” my tweet and enough of them claimed to have had the same experience for me to conclude this is a bona fide “Rochester thing” – like Garbage Plates and the Red Wings and the Lilac Festival and, of course, Wegmans.

“I have experienced it many times!” “So true!” “I’ve had this exact thing happen,” “Yes! 100! 100! 100!” “I’ve had this experience,” “OMG Yes,” “All the time,” were typical responses.

Many people described having the experience in the midst of a Wegmans shopping trip, rather than at the end of one, like me. The feeling typically comes upon them, they said, when they’re at what they called an “away” or “road” Wegmans, as opposed to their “home” Wegmans.

This is another “Rochester thing” – “home” and “away” Wegmans stores. The “away” stores can throw a shopper off his game much like an “away” athletic venue can to a visiting sports team.

A shopper will be walking down what he believes to be the cereal aisle looking for a box of Lucky Charms only to find shelves full of canned yams or laundry detergent.

They had all sorts of names for the sensation, most of them plays on feeling forgetful, sideways, or upside down.

The most popular were “Wegnesia,” “Wegzheimers,” “Wegmentia,” and “Discomwegmanated.” There was also “Wegnility,” “Wegtigo,” “Weglirium,” and “Wegfusion.” Others were “Wegmorphia,” “Wegtoxicated,” “Wegnomenon,” and, alternatively, “Wegma vu” and “Déjà Wegman.”

I prefer discomwegmanated. It doesn’t have the ring of Wegnesia, Wegzheimers, or Wegmentia, but discomwegmanated perhaps best describes what’s actually going on inside the afflicted shopper’s head.

The other three words are derivatives of amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, each of which is associated with debilitating memory loss.

That’s not what’s affecting most Wegmans shoppers who have to take a moment in the middle of the dog food aisle or outside with the Christmas trees to recalibrate. We’re only temporarily confused. We’re discombobulated. We’re discomwegmanated.

The experience is not, in most cases, a sign of significant memory loss, according to experts. Not all memory lapses are created equal. Forgetting where you left your car keys, for instance, isn’t the same as forgetting what car keys are for. Calling your daughter by your wife’s name is different than forgetting you have a daughter.

Absent-mindedness, which seems to be at the heart of discomwegmanation, is one of six “normal” memory problems as we age, according to the Center for Brain-Mind Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Stress and lack of sleep are contributing factors, too. So is multitasking. Think about all the ways we overload our brains. There are smartphones and social media and, in a Wegmans, 50,000 to 70,000 products, according to the company.

The average supermarket carries about 40,000 items, according to the Food Marketing Institute, a trade group. The same group notes that the typical supermarket is 46,000 square feet, whereas Wegmans stores run 75,000 to 140,000 square feet.

Each Wegmans is its own self-sustaining city, like an airport. And like cities and airports, each Wegmans is designed a little differently. Everything a visitor needs is there, just not where they might expect.

Wegmans now has an app to ease discomwegmanation. The app pinpoints items in specific stores.

But when that peculiar feeling strikes, now there’s a name for it, too.

David Andreatta is CITY’s editor. He can be reached at [email protected].