Most people find shopping to be a chore. It’s like brushing teeth, or cleaning under the couch. Worse even, because you tend not to find gnarled $3 dollar bills and dentures. Grandpa wants those back, by the way.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a Dickens of a time (that is to say, I have a long, drawn-out, 19th century of a time) finding specific ingredients. I’m not one to shop around. I know what I need. I get it. I get out. Or I would, if things were more logical.
In the event I need to go shopping, I write up a list on the back of a bill I haven’t paid yet, stuff it into my pocket, make sure I have all my keys, and peddle to the nearest King Soopers. After the clumsy conundrum of trying to lock up my bike (I can never get the damned lock around the pole, through the spokes, inside the seat, over the gears, behind the wheels, and on top of the handle bars. I think that’s how you’re supposed to do it.), I tote my oversized duffle bag into the store and aim for the one aisle that carries pickles, paper towels, chocolate, and Fred Flinstone vitamins. After wondering why laundry detergent with complimentary cookies made the cut for front-of-the-store feature for the week, I duck to the right and head for the first aisle on the right-hand side of the store.
But before I get to my serious shopping, I’m distracted by the blood pressure machine. I just have to check it, you see. If there’s a line of old people, I push them out of my way, insisting that my almost non-existent pulse will make the extended wait worth their while. It’s like entertainment! As soon as the little green screen registers “41,” I let the old folks drool for a bit (some pass out), and then continue on my shopping journey.
Aisle 1: Tampons, make-up, and batteries. Even if I did need batteries, my unhealthy male embarrassment at being in the same aisle as tampons trumps any dire need for Duracell.
Aisle 2: Chips, salsa, soda, garbage cans. This must be the overflow aisle. I’m not sure what they’re advocating here, but it’s certainly not recycling. I find a big bag of gum-flavored tortilla chips and throw them in my bag. Strangely, I seem to recall gum-flavored corn chips just a few aisles down.
Aisle 3: Soup. Coffee. This is the aisle for those who just got their wisdom teeth removed. Or are lacking the fine and practiced skill of mastication.
Aisle 4: Tuna, fake crab, fake fish (actually labeled as such), matzo balls, and baking necessities. I guess they figure seafood lovers and orthodox Jews do a lot of baking to go with their… paellas and matzo ball stews. I don’t think chocolate is kosher though, is it?
Ducking out of the incongruous pairing of canned salmon and yellow cake mix with purple sprinkles, I end up in the butchery section of the grocery store. Has anyone noticed that the butchers who stock the meat are never happy? It makes me wonder if they’re in the back with a cow carcass grinding the beef themselves (i.e. “Hooves, Frank! No, no, no, get the tail out of the way…”) Onto aisle 5. I don’t think I need any meat this week…
Aisle 5: The randomly placed birthday and bat mitzvah card aisle with accompanying gifts like plastic pistols and round things that you throw at people. The aisle you won’t go down with your kids, even though you need to get your significant other a birthday card. A pelting of plastic balls in the bladder just doesn’t seem worth it.
Aisle 6: Tofu, pasta, pasta sauce, beans, and canned vegetables. What don’t they can these days? I think I saw canned bread, canned pie crust, and canned fried chicken. I’m happy to report that they haven’t started canning toilet paper, though.
Aisle 7: Dry goods. You know, like, rice. And…jam. Peanut butter. Milk. And eggs. I wonder what’s in shelf-stable eggs. Have they been irradiated? What does that even mean? I always assumed it meant “made safe for consumption by un-discerning shoppers and most pets that eat from the table.” It probably just means “not radiated.” Huh.
Aisle 8: More tuna. Huh. What’s going on? Surplus? Somebody needs to take it easy on the bait.
And last, but not least, I wheel into the section that merges bread products and vegetables. On the far wall, I see a mostly empty, glass-covered case of confections. It’s 4pm. I imagine most of them have been sitting out all day. But it never seems to matter. I could pass them in the “Two-Week Old Discount Rack” and still start drooling. “50% OFF AS-MARKED PRICES!” If grocery stores ever had clearance sales, I’d be all over the doughnuts: “MUST GO! TAKE AN ADDITIONAL 40% OFF AND PUT 75% ON!!” Did you get the fattening joke there? Maybe I’m just sugar deprived. Or sugar depraved. They didn’t have doughnuts in Germany. That’s what it is.
In any case, I wander back and forth, slinking into the vegetable section, wondering what someone would do with something like a “rutabaga” or a “potato.” Strange things. I leave this odd dirt fruit and reach for the lettuce mix with Vitamins C and D added, duck to the front, and point my bag toward the self checkout line.
Unfortunately, though, there always seems to be a wait when I’m set to get my stuff and get out. Inevitably, I miss the sign that says “Overflow, please line up in aisle 5.” So, I eagerly wait in aisle 4. When the next checkout stand opens up, I dart to it, colliding into a 45-year old gentleman getting ready to pay for an artichoke and slippers. He drops the slippers, I apologize, and then continue to head for the register. “What are you doing?” he asks. “Checking out,” I say, wondering why that wasn’t transparent already. “You have to wait in line,” he retorts, pointing toward the 12-person queue that has formed in aisle 5. “Oh, I’m sorry!” I say, in my most apologetic voice. Moping back to the end of the line, mumbling certain unspeakables under my breath, I hold out for the next opportunity to swipe, pay and head out. And yes, it’s always the cereal aisle. And yes, I’m always tempted to get Captain Crunch. Because of the color scheme on the box. Yep.
But then, my eventual chance at self-checkout glory is thwarted by too many items, a bumbling personality, and the absence of my credit card which I left at home in the laundry basket. It really was in my other pants. So, I bargain with the employee eyeing my less-than-masterful checkout: “I’ll give you an IOU. No? My license? No? You can have my watch. My left shoe. This pen?” Nothing ever works. So I fumble around for a different form of payment. Eventually I find it: my never-used credit card that I was saving for extreme emergencies. My bagged lettuce fits the bill, I feel, so I swipe, sign, and stuff my bag, desperately wanting to get home. Already this shopping thing has been exhausting.
My fumbling with the bike lock is the perfect resolution to this story. I think two or three bikers come, lock up their bikes, and move on while I’m still unweaving chains, steel, keys, and fingers. Ultimately, I ended up with black, oil-covered hands, and a lock in pieces on the ground. But never fear! I piece it together, throw it, too, in my bag, and peddle through a red light and several blaring car horns to my apartment. Oh what a glorious salad I will have tonight!
…but I forgot the pickles, vitamins, and chocolate. Oh well. I guess it will just be a lettuce salad. Mmmm lettuce salad. But I do have peanut butter! Maybe that goes well on a salad… mmm peanut butter salad…