(Satire) Attention, Ralphs' Shoppers! We Have a Special in Our Seafood Department for fresh Pleisiosaur Steaks
Harried Shopping at the Grocery Store
Did You Weigh That?
Do you like grocery shopping? If you do maybe you can explain why. I asked a friend of mine this question, and his response was "I enjoy ogling the girls."
If you were born to accept grocery shopping without much (if any) fuss, or you actually enjoy the experience, you might find this hub semi-interesting, although it is certainly slanted toward grocery shop haters.
Like a Saturday-based religion, my wife and I park in the Ralph's (aka Kroger) parking lot and shuffle into the store. I pull out one metal basket on wheels and inconsistently wipe down the handle bar with a Clorox quick wipe -- a nice courtesy of the store and probably preventing the spread of who knows what.
Sometimes the effort to gain a cart becomes something like a chariot race. The key is to avoid the small flock of children who want to jump into one of the carts disguised as a Disney-like ride. If you live a quiet existence, the squealing and tantrums over who will sit where begins at the very entrance.
If it's a hot day outside, the rush of cold air flooding out of the store feels refreshing at first but quickly turns to frosty if all you are wearing is a T-shirt and shorts. If it's a cold day, you'll still get a blast of frosty air -- as the grocery stores seem to find it less expensive to turn their entire enclosure into an igloo vs. raising the temperature to a moderate 70 degrees F.
If you've brought a sweater, a sweat shirt or any kind of jacket, you'll make it through this trek without losing any digits due to frostbite.
As a side note, I have to mention that individuals who live anywhere near the coast in Southern California have adopted a mentality that it's NEVER cold outside, and they will wear Hawaiian shirts, baggy surfer shorts, and sandals. Wearing a raincoat of any color is an unwritten heresy. Carrying an umbrella is really pushing the envelope.
I suppose the idea is to look like you are on some perpetual, never-ending vacation -- and maybe in certain ways you are. My way of reaching a reconciliation between shivering my arse off and being semi-comfortable is to go for the layered look. I'll wear basic underwear -- T-shirt and underpants, blue jeans, a body-hugging shirt, topped off by a hoody. I wear rubber shoes that look exactly like a black sport-shoe (only the shoes do not leak).
If you happen to get caught in a shower, you will be soaked through, but this is the price one must pay for looking like the Big Kahuna. Perhaps surfers can tolerate colder temperatures than the average desk jockey. It's all absurd, of course. The real beach bums have skin like worn leather whereas the desk jockey look like they just stepped off a jet from Norway.
I have no prejudice toward Hispanics, but what is this tradition of having the entire family in-tow just to get that night's essentials? Sometimes you can see two large families coming down the aisle, like a parade or procession -- everyone from Grandpa Jose to tiny Elizabeth who was born two weeks ago. The toddlers to teenagers find the open space to create all kinds of games (usually involving blocking the aisle at some point).
From time to time, things do get smashed, scattered or simply taken out of its orderly row. On one occasion I noticed a couple of teens spitting uncooked lentils through a straw at unsuspecting customers. If I were the manager of one of these stores I would attempt to enforce some kind of leashing law.
There are a number of noises and disturbances that must be blocked off. The music is tuned to some hideous pop station (unless it's around Christmas), so you've got to put up a mental defense against that (even on a good day).
The most difficult challenge is to dismiss the mind-drilling pain that can be brought on by some toddler who is denied something -- a piece of candy, a new toy, a glow-in-the dark bar of uranium ... whatever. We've all been witness to undisciplined/hysterical brats, and there is no (legal) defense except to retreat to a far corner of the store -- maybe those aged-looking tomatoes weren't as bad as they seemed at first glance. And sometimes we find ourselves in the position of being a barrier. There are people I've observed who can walk faster than I can run, and they always seem to be tapping their foot exactly at one of my pit stops.
Invariably, one such as myself will present a road block to an employee bringing out a hundred cases of 7-Up on a flat-bed cart with wheels. I am still conscious enough to recognize myself as a hindrance to others, but nothing of the same can be said of the octogenarian lady with light blue hair who (like some pulp detective) is fascinating by comparing the contents of one brand of yogurt to another.
Some of these ladies are so deep into their private world that one is forced to become a contortionist in order to get some of what you desired -- it may not be the best flavors, and it may not be in the quantity you had originally sought, but human beings were never meant to twist their bodies in shapes that resemble pythons.
My wife and I might make it through three-fourths of the store before our fortitude becomes a mangled ball of wire. The ethnic food aisle has to be bypassed -- perhaps the same for the bread aisle (unless you actually need a loaf) then identifying the whole wheat loaf on the run, tucking it under your arm, and jumping over and between various opponents, is a feat normally isolated for quarterbacks.
What about the condiments aisle? Is a jar of mayonnaise or ranch dressing worth the duress of a second run at the gauntlet?
And the lunch meat aisle? You'd like to get a pack of hot dogs, but all the processed meats can be discounted as unhealthy and probably just something else that will turn green in the refrigerator -- forget them, they can't possibly be worth it.
The final part of the marathon is locating those one or two aisles with checkers whose signs indicate they'll accept more than 15 items. As you zero in on the cashier line with the fewest people, shoppers literally come out of the cereal boxes like ghosts. The fast-walkers flank my slow-moving tank from both left and right directions.
Once again the ice cubes and ice cream will continue their partial un-thaw. This is aggravated by someone who gets into a disagreement with a checker about a fifty-cent coupon. A call goes out to the manager for resolution. I'm feeling two quarters in my pocket and wondering if I could push this heap of clay over the waterfall by simply slapping the coins down on that little ledge where they allow people to write checks.
Eventually, it becomes your time to unload, and your Adrenalin had better be up because the cashiers are like super-soldiers high on meth. Even with both my wife and I unloading the cart, the cashier is never behind. You have no idea what he or she is doing. Did she ring up seven cans of cat food or was that eight or even nine -- you have no way to tell. Somewhere at the tail end of it, you see someone who looks like they are twelve years old -- stuffing the whole wheat package of bread into a sack with full size bottles of 7-Up, Diet Coke and the large Aquafina bottles.
The tomatoes on the vine are loaded in with the cans of cat food and Progresso chicken soup. There's nothing you can do. You're like a grunt on Omaha Beach. Too much is going wrong at the same time that nothing has more than a secondary impact. You find yourself at the point of checkout, with no idea what the cashier has done. The only option is to swipe your debit card, enter your PIN, and press the ACCEPT button.
It's not as if the assembly line has stopped behind you. Someone behind you has already loaded the conveyor belt from your rubber bar to his/her own. You experience the feeling of being compressed into a can of tomatoes or shot into a carton of Organic, Lactose-Free, 2% milk fat. As usual, you've pressed "No Cash Back," so the cashier merely has to rip the endless ribbon of charges, discounts, bonus points, and hand it to you.
There is no time for questions, small talk, or even looking about for a forlorn can of tuna being abandoned in this mad, smiling rush to hurtle you outside. The last few minutes are too hectic to be certain of anything. Ideally, shoppers would be able to observe the checker's judicious use of bar code scanning. Did the scanner read the bar code on the celery stalks correctly? Who can say.
You still have the sweet labor of dumping all the crazily assembled contents (held together with the most flimsy of plastic imaginable) into the trunk of the car. While driving, you hear the contents rolling around like some impossible combination of a waltz and a polka. The next stage of the process is critical -- you've got to get those frozen items put away asap while keeping an eye for all other perishable items.
Unless you go through the sacks with a pair of tweezers, you are bound to miss the creative packing ideas of the bagger. You've purchased dish soap, some variety of Drain-o, a bottle of Mr. Clean, a can of Ajax. At a glance it looks like all these articles can be stuffed under the sink; unfortunately, you overlooked a small container of yogurt, and it won't be discovered for several days past its expiration date (even if it had been refrigerated). Yes, you can bring the vile container of yogurt with you on the next visit to the grocery store, and explain what you think had occurred. Maybe you even still have that long, ticker-tape of a receipt. But, the manager is not at your fingertips. He or she is in the middle of some fouled-up Western Union transfer of fees. And then you begin to wonder whether your time is worth ninety-nine cents. They've already begun playing that same song by Cher, and you start to worry about larger matters, such as the mitral valve in your heart.
In the "old days" every can, head of lettuce, box of cereal was tagged with a price sticker. There were no big surprises. The checker took longer because he/she had to operate the cashier machine like a giant ten key pad. You had plenty of opportunity to see if they flubbed up. Today, the big grocery stores have a kind of "Rawhide" mentality -- get those steer through the lines faster than their senses can account. With three, four, five loaded carts waiting behind you, there's a lot of pressure to just go ahead and pay $2.00 each for some tiny tangerines that had escaped the customer ahead of you. You can see that the clear plastic bag is already beginning to tear. Are you willing to absorb the silent contempt of fast walkers, hysterical babies, a blue-haired lady who will be lucky to make it to the parking lot? You have every right to make a complaint, but is it worth the stares of derision from everyone else caught in the same dilemma as yourself?
While contemplating that, don't forget the five-gallon container of distilled water or the box of kitty litter stashed underneath your cart.