Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Meditations In a Grocery Store

Friday night, grocery shopping. A collection of scenes and people.

A lady buzzes past me with her phone to her ear, carrying a basket and dropping f-bombs willy-nilly. Hey, I want to say, don't use that language in front of kids! However, no kids are anywhere in earshot. And even if there were, in all honesty, they've probably heard that word before. But I'm still annoyed. And still think that people who talk on the phone in grocery stores and roam around oblivious to whose way they're getting into are douche-y, regardless of their language. your language, douche-nozzle.


My particular grocery store just rearranged the entire store in an effort to make it "consumer-friendly." They clearly did not seek help from any librarians, who would have done a much better job grouping like items together and organizing crap so it makes sense. I should not have to go to two different aisles to get both jarred and individual snack packs of applesauce, people. I'm pretty sure they both have the same Dewey number and should thus be adjacent on the shelf.


At the meat counter I ask for a pound and a half of ground chuck. The guy puts 1.28 pounds on the scale and asks, "Is that good?" You're like a quarter pound off. It doesn't have to be a bullseye, but it does have to be on the dartboard. He is not thrilled when I politely tell him I would like for it to be closer to 1.5, because that is what I asked you for, damnit!, and I come thisclose to being one of those annoying control-freak perfectionist women I've seen at the counter who make the guy keep adding and taking away crumbs until it is precisely the right amount down to the thousandth with no margin of human error. Just for spite. But when he grudgingly throws a chunk on and it totals 1.58, I gush a breathless "Thank you so much! That's exactly what I needed!" because I'm thinking maybe the guy just needed some positive reinforcement in converting from fractions to decimals.


There's a grumpy old man on a Hoveround who I keep almost literally running into. When we first meet we're both in front of the canned soft drinks, and his daughter asks, "What kind of soda do you want this week, Dad?", and he replies, "Just get what you want, because you always do, anyway." And she just stays calm and carries on and doesn't try to kill him, which I imaginarily high-five her for.

We meet again at the end of an aisle where I step out and he doesn't see me and almost runs me over with his Hoveround. I was taught to be polite to my elders, so I apologize and quickly navigate out of his way even though it really isn't my fault. I hear him mutter as he motors towards the dairy case, "Probably thinks it's my fault, I'm just an old guy, clearly I don't know how to drive this thing." I imaginarily high-five his daughter again, because this man cannot be a joy to deal with.

The last time we meet he and his daughter are in front of the eggs, bacon, and sausage.

"I've already been in this part of the store three times, what else could you possibly want?" he asks his daughter.

"Help me figure out what we should have for breakfast. Tell me what you like."

"What the hell does it matter, anyway? My life is miserable and isn't getting any better. You think eggs are going to make it better?"

And suddenly, I have to look away, because this is possibly the saddest thing I've ever heard a stranger say, and I feel my heart breaking for this man and his daughter. I vow to be a little kinder to the people I meet in the store, even the ones who annoy me. Maybe especially the ones who annoy me. I have no idea what's going on with these people, and if I knew, I wouldn't spend so much time getting worked up over slow walkers and people who can't find the ketchup.

Who am I kidding? I will still get worked up over this, I'll just feel a lot guiltier about it now.


Well played, Kroger. You have a big display full of Honey Grahams, marshmallows, and Hershey bars. Once s'mores have been thought, they cannot be un-thought. You darn manipulative bastards.


It's getting dark when I head into the lot. It was a warm day, but the air has become crisp and smells like fall. The store was packed, but the lot feels strangely empty. I think of how I have to rush home, throw dinner together, and make sure Jason knows he's picking the kid up from swim. I am tired and more than a little resentful that my adult life has come to this--grocery-shopping and people-watching on a Friday night.

But I think of the old man and his daughter. I am grateful that the only burden I'm carrying in this moment are some reusable cloth grocery bags; the burdens they share are far heavier.

And I know when I go home and get my chores finished, I can make s'mores.

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