Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I like grocery shopping, which as far as I know is rare for a guy. But I’m a bachelor so it isn’t like I have anyone else to do it for me. I guess I figure I may as well enjoy the task. Of course I also like eating (probably too much) so it all sort of comes together like a logical jigsaw puzzle. Anyway, a recent excursion to the store struck me as interesting and has the juices flowing. I am not sure why, as it wasn’t all that much different from any other shopping experience, but I’ll just go with it. Take this virtual trip with me, enjoy the ride, and get a little insight into how my thought process works.

My Mom always had a particular day…I believe it was Thursday…to go grocery shopping. She was much more organized that me, and I am sure there was a reason for this schedule. Conversely, I am completely random. I go either when I am nearly out of food, or maybe just out of certain staples like milk, bread, sugar, salt, etc. that make eating more difficult than necessary. Or there are occasions when I have a day off, the weather is quite lovely, I do not want to lay around The Bachelor Palace all day, and grocery shopping seems like an entertaining option. There was a time when, being a night owl, I may decide to hit one of the 24 hour stores just because I was awake super late and had a burst of energy. However, I work midnight shifts now and even though it is not unusual for me to be awake at 3am on my nights off I rarely venture out at that hour anymore.

The specific day germane to this adventure was a Monday. I am typically working Sunday nights and therefore am a lazy waste of space all day Monday, but happened to have a Sunday night off. This factor, along with Monday being an uncommonly lovely & warm autumn day lead to my decision to be productive. Plus I was out of milk, which is like Lindsay Lohan being at a raging party that has emptied it’s last bottle of Jagermeister.

The first thing that happened when I arrived at the friendly neighborhood (yet nationally known) super mega store was something that occurs often and rarely fails to inexplicably bother the living daylights out of me. I get my wheelchair out of my truck, then transfer my big ol’ fat butt into my chair. I was getting something out of the back of the vehicle when a well-meaning yet unintentionally offensive stranger happened along and asked the question I have come to despise…”Sir, can I help you??” I have yet to come up with the proper response. My comeback is usually a palpably tense “No…thank you though. I got it…do it every day”. Should my response be kinder?? After all, these folks are nice and have the right idea. The world would be better if more people were as thoughtful. Or should my response be designed to expose peoples’ disingenuousness?? I have often thought of just saying a simple “Yes” and then sitting there to await their reaction, which would likely be “Okay…what do you need?? How can I help??”. My reply would then be “Well you’re the one who offered assistance. I assumed you had an idea in mind.” I just wish people understood what a dagger to my heart offers of aid are under anything but extraordinary circumstances. I have been a paraplegic all my life. I survive. I find ways to get things done. I understand my limitations and do not engage in activities that are inaccessible or more trouble than they’re worth. Offering to help with typical daily activities that are, for me, second nature, is akin to me asking a stranger if I they need assistance tying their shoes, cutting their meat, or brushing their teeth. It makes me feel pathetic, and I don’t like feeling pathetic.

Anyway…at this point I need to specify that this particular Monday was November 1st. This is important because the first thing I saw as I entered the store was a rather large Christmas tree. Really?? Are you kidding me?? Less than 24 hours earlier it was all ghosts and pumpkins and fun size candy bars, and now we’ve suddenly jumped into the Christmas season?? Look, I am a huge Christmas guy. I love everything about Christmas…the lights, the food, the movies & TV specials, the music. I especially love the REAL “reason for the season” (y’all do remember what that is, right??). But is it too much to ask that we have a little break between holidays…maybe a week?? And can we please give some love to Thanksgiving?? I long ago accepted that Thanksgiving segues immediately into the month long Christmaspalooza, and that’s okay. I also understand that Thanksgiving is difficult to market. There is a finite number of products we purchase and they are all food…turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce…so it’s not really profitable to a wide variety of retailers. Still, Thanksgiving remains one of the “big” holidays and shouldn’t be pushed aside for Santa Claus, imported toys, and artificial fiberoptic trees.

My first task was to head to the deli. I have only recently begun utilizing the deli. I was under some sort of long term delusion wherein I believed that prepackaged meats and cheeses were less expensive. That may still be the case but I think the price difference is negligible these days. Everything is outrageous. At any rate, a couple things of interest occurred in the deli. First, kudos to whomever came up with the handy thickness chart so one can easily communicate how they want an item sliced. It is such an easy, low tech solution. Simplicity at its best. Conversely, I am a bit mystified at the variety of cold cuts available. In my world ham is ham, turkey is turkey, and bologna is…well, whatever bologna is. But not so fast my friend!! There are now apparently dozens of each type. Honey, smoked, sun dried tomato, baked, Italian style…complexity personified. As I was mulling over my choices and suddenly getting that overwhelmed feeling that I used to get before an algebra quiz in junior high, I became distracted by one of the families in front of me. One member of the family was a young girl probably 8-10 years of age. This little “lady” was not only looking at the glass case that holds all the goodies, she had her face right up against it…while hacking up a lung. Thank God the glass was there. But did her mother tell her to cover her mouth?? Stop making out with the glass?? No. As mentioned, there are enough varieties available. I really don’t think we need H1N1 pastrami. Really people…have some class. Teach your children a bit of couth. My apologies to anyone who has to look that word up in the dictionary.

After getting what I wanted from the deli it was time to methodically maneuver through the rest of the store. I rarely make a list. I live alone, meaning I eat what I want, when I want, how I want. This has not been a positive for my unfortunately corpulent waistline, but it makes shopping easy and enjoyable. I normally meander through each aisle and grab what looks good, and over the years I’ve learned a few things.

First, because I am in a wheelchair and God has a sense of humor what I desire is inevitably on the top shelf. And while there is no shortage of interlopers offering assistance when I do not need any, when I really could use some help suddenly I am The Omega Man.

I also have a million dollar idea that I’ll offer up to some entrepreneurial soul free of charge. Grocery stores should be marked off like roads and parking lots. There need to be lanes. Rules should prevent five (usually rotund) people from walking side-by-side and blocking an entire 10 foot area. We’re shopping here folks, not skipping down The Yellow Brick Road. There also should be time limits…maybe red & green lights. If you can’t decide between Fruity Pebbles and Frosted Mini-Wheats move on and come back later. The rest of us need our recommended daily allowance of fiber too, and the ballgame comes on in 45 minutes.

In a related matter, I sincerely believe that motorized carts should only be used by the elderly and legitimately disabled. Using a cart because you are too obese to walk is just sad.

Always buy the greenest bananas available. You’ll seem like a genius in two days.

Milk is in the rear of the store for a reason. It’s a marketing ploy designed to prevent people like me from rushing in, grabbing my favorite beverage, and leaving without being tempted by a bunch of other stuff. That’s fine. It is a rather ingenious plot.

I have recently begun to eat whole wheat bread and I like it. Of course the health benefits are likely nullified when I slather it with Miracle Whip.

Speaking of unhealthy, my heart breaks every time I peruse the plethora of candy out there and the Bar None, discontinued in the mid-1990’s, is not on the shelves. Damn you Hershey!!

I am quite sure there is a method to the organization of each aisle, and if one frequents the same store often finding things becomes easy enough. But why not arrange everything alphabetically?? Or since we’re such a technologically advanced society how about computers placed throughout the marketplace so one can do a quick search?? Think of it as Google for groceries. Yes I realize there are usually signs hanging from the ceiling telling us what we can expect if we venture down a particular row, but unlike the minimalist solution alluded to in the deli I think this calls for some razzle dazzle. Maybe this sort of thing is available in the big city already, but I live in West Virginia, where a number of people still believe Jimmy Carter is President and some continue to be confused by “the clicker” for the TV.

Checking out is always fun. First of all, why are there 25 checkouts but only 8 of them are open?? The eight that are open have lines stretching halfway back to the beer section. I know a lot of people that need a job who’d be glad to work those other 17 registers. Secondly, I always…always…get stuck behind the person who A) is purchasing hundreds of dollars of food in an apparent effort to singlehandedly cure world hunger, and/or B) has an item which the computer does not recognize thereby forcing the cashier to put on the little light and await a management type. Of course this gives me a few moments to leaf through the tabloids to see what my peeps Paris & the Kardashian gals are up to, find out if Brangelina are still married, clarify who is sleeping with who amongst the cast of Glee, and get an update on the whereabouts of the very much alive Elvis, JFK, and Michael Jackson. Does anyone actually purchase those “magazines” or just glance at them in line?? On this particular day I encountered an especially chipper young man at the register who really seemed to enjoy his job and said things like “I want to do everything I can to make this a great shopping experience for my customers”. And I am convinced he genuinely meant every word. It is likely an unfortunate indictment of my cynical nature that I found myself wondering if he may need some counseling.

Now one would think that after checking out the adventure would be over, right?? Alas, one still must get out of the parking lot without injury. What is it about grocery store parking lots that lower the average person’s IQ by 50. I have had more vehicular near misses and close calls in parking lots than superhighways. I sincerely believe that law enforcement needs to be on duty at all times to direct traffic. This would atleast justify the two or three parking spaces marked as reserved for the police. I mean honestly…I NEVER see any policemen there, so why are they needlessly commandeering much needed parking?? Why are these spaces so close to the entrance?? Don’t police have to maintain a minimal level of fitness?? Make them park in the back under normal circumstances. If a real emergency arises they can park wherever they like anyway. And while I am thinking about it, what’s the deal with “stork parking”?? Aren’t pregnant women supposed to walk as much as possible??

So that’s my story. I look forward to running out of food and having another adventure soon.




8 thoughts on “Adventures in Grocery Shopping

  1. Very amusing! The deli counter now reminds me of a Starbucks… way too many choices when I just want a coffee (actually I’ve never entered a Starbucks:) But I’ll have to look for that thickness chart you mentioned. Nice obscure reference to The Omega Man, I wonder how many even know who he is?! That was like the original 28 Days Later. All of those grocery store hassels – crowded aisles, long lines, random food placement – are designed to keep you in the store buying more impulse items. A vast food-wing conspiracy. By the way, your font is great!

  2. The thickness chart is simply a little cardboard thing with lines (think Pong) of increasing thickness and a corresponding number, so if you want your ham so thin that, as my Grandma used to say, you can read the Word of God through it, you just tell ’em 1. If you want your half pound of turkey to basically just be split into two chunks you say 9. Actually now that I think of it I didn’t notice what the highest number is because I like my meats on the thin side. I assume the numbers correspond to numbers on the slicer. It just saves so much time & effort in explaining how exactly you want things cut.

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