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May 13, 2024

Grocery Shopping

By Tedi Trindle

Some people really like to shop. Some people even love to shop. I, however, am apparently not some people. At least not some of those people. I despise shopping, primarily because it causes me to take a shower, get dressed, go out of the house, be amidst people, and spend money.

I don't have anything against any of those activities as a general rule, but when they are combined with shopping, I hate it. Now, there are lots of types of shopping, and I admit, I have a hierarchy of hate when it comes to the different types. My favorite place to shop is the hardware store, preferably one of those super-sized places with a good garden section. My very least favorite place to shop is the grocery store.

I would rather burn my eyes out with a flaming baton than go grocery shopping. Unfortunately, I need to eat as much as the next person does, so that whole flaming baton thing is right out. And grocery shopping occasionally has to be done. Plus, there's beer at the grocery store.

I have a million reasons why I hate grocery shopping. However, I have only two thousand words with which to enumerate those reasons, so I'll try to summarize.

First, there's parking. If you go to a really big supermarket, there are acres of parking spaces. And the first five acres are always full of cars. So you have to walk for half an hour to get into the store while dodging cars driven by crazed teenagers and old people with nothing better to do than cruise grocery store parking lots. By the time you enter the store, assuming that you survive, you will have forgotten where you parked your car. So, after you've concluded your shopping, you will spend an hour pushing a grocery cart loaded with ice cream and other perishable melting things while trying to find the one silver Honda Civic among the fifty in the lot which actually fits the car key you are carrying. If you drive a mini-van or an SUV, you could be wandering for days.

By comparison, mid-sized grocery store parking lots are a little easier to deal with. Except on Fridays, when you might have to cruise until Saturday morning in order to get a space. However, even at those stores, they always manage to position parking in a way which is least convenient for the customers and has the maximum number of speed bumps one can have and still have pavement between them. We won't even talk about the location of the cart corrals.

Presuming you have parked and arrived at the entrance without either going postal on the Girl Scouts selling cookies out front or opted, instead, to mug the Santa collecting for the poor, you go in. Sort of. Except you can't get in because there is no central entrance aisle. That would be too convenient and you wouldn't get to see all of their fabulous merchandise. So, you can either go left and try to push your way through the crowd lined up at the pharmacy and the customer service counter, or you can go right and try to negotiate past the little old ladies squeezing melons and lonely bachelors who have been told the best place to pick up chicks is in the produce department.

Once you actually get in the supermarket, you have to figure out what you are going to put in your basket. If you're smart, you have a list. If you're really smart, you've sent your husband to the store with the list.

Putting things in your basket requires two basic skills. The first skill is knowing what aisle your stuff is on. Like snowflakes, no two grocery stores are alike. If you don't believe me, go into five strange supermarkets and try to find a can of fried onions. Some stores keep them with the canned vegetables, some in the snack aisle, others, the salad fixings section, and so on. In one store, I finally located them next to the instant mashed potatoes. Of course. Silly me.

The second skill for actually acquiring the needed groceries requires the lightning-fast reflexes of a race car driver and the fortune-telling ability of a Romanian gypsy. This is the skill that allows you to maneuver your cart around other shoppers. This is one of the reasons why my preferred time to grocery shop is at three a.m., when most of the rest of the world is asleep.

On aisle three, there will be five children playing tag at the end of the row, invariably in between you and that gallon of 2% milk you can't go home without. Their parental unit in charge has wandered off to check the price of day-old bread in the bakery aisle and doesn't really care if they've just knocked down the display of beer cans stacked to resemble a football stadium.

On aisle six, there will four people over the age of eighty who have been next-door neighbors for fifty years blocking the entire aisle (and your access to the Pop Tarts) while they talk about another neighbor who lets dandelions grow in their yard and populate the rest of the yards with the pesky things. If they should happen to notice they are hindering your progress, they will all immediately try to move at once and lock their carts together in a puzzle that Rubik couldn't disentangle.

On aisle ten, you will find a couple discussing who, amongst all the human beings on the planet, drinks water (isn't the answer "all of them!"?) while simultaneously blocking your acquisition of the last bottle of Fresca in the state. Your mother wants the Fresca, so you can't leave the store without it. Beside them is a day-trader on a cell phone trying to dump her stocks in GenTech and placate a screaming two-year-old throwing himself on the floor repeatedly because he wants a candy bar.

Should you have gotten all the way through your list without either a) hanging yourself from the double coupons sign or b) impaling yourself on the kitchen implements in aisle four, it is now time to go to the checkout. Be very afraid.

There is one simple rule regarding the way the grocery checkout works. Whatever line you get in is the one that will immediately grind to a halt. Especially if you have eight guests arriving for dinner in two hours, or you are late to catch a plane to New Zealand and are only buying a jar of peanut butter (which you heard you can't get in New Zealand).

If it's the express lane, you will be preceded by three people. The first person will be an English major with 25 items who cannot count. The second person will be a math major with 17 items who cannot read. And the third person will be the cashier's long-lost cousin whom she hasn't seen in twenty years and who needs to cash a third-party check.

If you are doing what I call "big shopping" you have two options, neither of which involve the express lane. You can go to the automated check out lanes and teach five either elderly or non-English speaking people how to use the machines, or you can wait in line with the masses of other people who have done their monthly shopping and are towing one cart behind them while pushing another one in front of them. None of them is paying in cash and they've never used the particular model of credit card machine this store is outfitted with.

Should you opt for the automated checkout, you will undoubtedly be purchasing something which requires a cashier to come over and check out for you. The cashier in charge of automated checkout will also be the customer service manager who needs to go to all the other registers first, process a vendor payment, and deliver a reprimand to a box boy before swiping her card over your barcode scanner so you can go on your merry way. Failing that, the machine will spit out the thing you needed to buy most as "item not found".

If you instead elect to stand in line for a regular cashier, one of two things will happen. The cashier will go on break, or will be a trainee who needs to call someone over to ask something of a more experienced cashier at the rate of about per three items scanned (out of two hundred).

You will inch your way up in line, having exhausted the tabloid headlines for entertainment value. You will seriously consider buying the bubble gum flavored lip gloss, the handy three-in-one toothbrush, and the scrolled horoscope for your birth month of this year, which is three months away, but by the time you get through line, will have arrived. To try to stay awake, you begin to analyze what the person in front of you is buying, and why. The large woman with the bawling baby directly in front of you is buying six boxes of Twinkies, ten pounds of white flour, lard, bacon, and a jar of 100% natural strained peas.

The person in front of her is buying two bottles of expensive wine, brie, an assortment of fresh fruit, two baked potatoes and some condoms. He has a handful of coupons, none of which correspond to what he is buying, and he wants to pay in kopeks. The only English he knows is, "that's too much money!"

The person behind you keeps ramming their cart into your hamstrings whenever the conveyor belt moves half an inch. The five children who were playing tag are associated with this person and are disassembling the candy display beside you and playing catch with the magazines. Parent-in-charge keeps repeating, like a mantra, "Don't do that, no, you can't have that, sit down in the cart, I wish I had a gun." Well, guess what, lady, so do I.

And now you know why I hate grocery shopping. I'm sure there is more. But this will do.

Article © Tedi Trindle. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-04-24
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