Adventures in Grocery Shopping


I don’t know about you, but I would rather wrestle rabid alligators than deal with the weekly trip to the grocery store. Nothing against the notion of shopping itself, but it’s a jungle out there, or rather in there.

For me, it usually starts as soon as I reach the shopping carts. Guaranteed, the first one I go for is going to be super-glued to the one in front of it. You’d think I’d learn and move on. But no, I stand there tugging and pulling until people stare; then I move on to a different one. The next one is either soaking wet, has a suspicious-looking tissue in it, or is one of those special carts that not only has a squeaky wheel, but also pulls to the left. The latter is what I usually end up with.

So I’ll start making my way down the aisles–my cart sounding like a hospital gurney as I try not to take out every display on my left–when I’ll inevitably hit the first of many road blocks, otherwise known as the aisle hogs. These are the people who don’t care if there are other shoppers in the store, don’t care if other people are in the aisle; and certainly don’t give a flying French fry if you can’t get by them. With cart parked dead center in the middle of an aisle–at a slant–they’ll inevitably stand there for all of eternity, staring spiral-eyed at the macaroni and cheese display. Even if I offer a polite “Excuse me,” it still won’t rouse them from their shopping-induced stupor.

I’ll also surely encounter The Old Home Week Committee. The members of this group feel it’s right and just to conduct the business at hand, usually the town gossip or news of Old Man Winkle’s hernia operation, by congregating directly in front of the busiest promenade in the whole store–the meat counter. Then I and several other weary shoppers, now hopelessly stuck in the committee-generated traffic jam, will swap defeated, knowing looks until the meeting adjourns sometime within the next century.

Speaking of the meat counter, without fail I always encounter at least one of the meat fondlers. These souls apparently need to be “in touch” with their carnivorous cravings, and therefore take it upon themselves to personally poke and prod every package of meat in sight, while I wait to find a break in the action so I can squeeze in and grab a roast. I’ve learned to be cautious here, for if I take something they’ve had their mitts on within the past five minutes, the fondler in question–still feeling the rights of first refusal–will shoot me a look that could grill a hamburger.

Then, without fail, there’s always at least one complimentary coughing kid whose mom could care less that a.) junior is going to end up sicker than a dog from being out, and b.) everyone else in the store is also going to end up sicker than a dog from junior’s germs. Yet mom happily takes her time, making certain junior has sufficiently hacked up the contents of his lungs throughout every aisle and smeared snot on every piece of produce.

By some miracle, I will finally get–more or less–all that I came in for and go get in line. By the way, I’ve finally figured out how grocery store managers calculate the number of cashiers they need at any given time. I had several hours to think about it during the last time I stood in a checkout line. They take the number of shoppers and divide it by seventy-three. Any additional cashiers left over get sent on break. At this rate, customers are lucky if the expiration date on their milk is still valid by the time they get to their cars.

The cashier/shopper ratio is only part of the hold up, as inevitably several of the customers in front of me will all have their own little set of issues to make the line go at the rate of a snail sliding over something sticky. There are the coupon queens, the check writers who left their ID at home, and the people who need at least eighteen price checks. Not to mention the long lost relative of the cashier, who feels the need to reminisce–at length– while she plunks down her ravioli, rhubarb, and ricotta.

Once it’s finally my turn at the checkout, there’s the epic question of who’s going to bag. Since baggers seem to be an even rarer species than the people in the “12 Items or Less” lane who aren’t mathematically challenged, it’s usually a face-off between me and the cashier. If I decide I’ve been through enough already, and have absolutely no intention of putting anything in a bag, I’ll end up feeling guilt as I’m sure the cashier hates the place even more than I do. If I’m determined to hold my ground, the cashier will purposefully be as slow as the maple syrup that will inevitably end up leaking in my bag. So usually I do bag–and I’m bitter about it–but at least it gets me out of there that much sooner.

Only to realize I forgot the milk…