Grocery shopping is something I looked forward to doing when I was in college. I dreamed of the day I would stock up my own kitchen and create delicious meals for myself. Little did I know how difficult cooking for one can be and even less did I know about the perils of grocery shopping. Perhaps some of you can relate to these situation…
When I go to the grocery store, I usually spend the first five minutes there like a person who has made a annual pilgrimage from a obscure rural mountain dwelling to load up on supplies for the year: I feel like I need everything. By the end of my visit, I have realized that I have no need for baby food or soy eggnog or the cheese that comes in the little wax wrappings, or manila envelopes or plush animals of any kind. I realize two things: I should not have gotten a cart that I now feel the compulsion to fill, and that need to shop with a list at all times. Then I face the uncomfortable dilemma of whether to return my unwanted items to their proper places or pretend that a box of cereal can be abandoned among the baked goods or the bin of clearance Christmas DVDs or worse, in the candy aisle of the register. The third is the most shameful of places, where I say to the cashier “Yeah….I thought I needed this, but I don’t. Uh….can you…I mean I realize you’re really busy but maybe you could…” My mouth goes dry as I realize this is far and beyond their call of duty and chide myself for thinking I needed unnecessary cereal in the first place. Eventually I discard by the register and am comforted only when I see that others have done the same. My cereal goes next to someone else’s spatula, a can of olives and some men’s deodorant.
Going off List
To avoid the above, I make a list and stick to it as though my very life depends on it. It navigates the aisles of choices and allows me to get out of the grocery store in a less-than-obscene amount of time. However, the direction and peace given to me by a grocery list is precisely the opposite of what I feel when I go “off list”. When I finish going checking off items, I need to leave the grocery store immediately lest I see something I think I might need, then my mind begins to spin and I quickly become overwhelmed and lost. Adventure is for some, but oftentimes not me.
There are days when I wonder what it might have been like to grocery shop in a tiny store where you didn’t weigh options buying butter because there was only one kind. Now I buy butter and feel like I’m buying a house. Part of me wants the best deal, while another wants the best quality. Yet another part of me wants the most quantity, which requires me to exercise mathematics muscles unused for years as I compare ounces with pounds and calculate serving. In the end, I have spent so much time choosing butter that I forget any other reason I’ve entered the store.
Every time I stand in line behind someone screaming at their child, I feel confusion and pity. First of all, I wonder if they have ever heard the expression “kid in a candy store” and even more so if they remember what it was like to be able to reach out and grasp a Milky Way from where you are seated securely in the cart. You can’t pass up an opportunity like that. No sane child would. Plus, it’s just candy, and yet the child’s mother is yelling as though their child has set off a nuclear bomb. This confuses me, and makes me slightly uncomfortable, especially if the kid in the cart is far too old to be in the cart. In that case, discomfort wins.
The grocery store, while not always the smoothest trip, is surely a treasure trove for candid observations. Or maybe I just look for them. Call it the curse of the blogger.