Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I will admit that I am in serious trouble when asked to go to a grocery store.  Before I can adequately tell my story, we will need to revisit the past.  When my first born was a small child, she and I would look forward to our Saturday trip to the grocery store with my wife.  I should clarify that while we looked forward to this, my wife did not savor the thought of having us go with her.  Never the less, her shopping list would be split between us and I and my daughter would be on our way.  Now understand that my daughter and I had a game.  We would attempt to satisfy an entire meal by visiting each of the vendor’s sampling booths.  This in turn led to a complete  abandonment of our half of the shopping list.  After much sampling, we would catch up to the other half of the list with our cart full of nothing from our required list.  This led to my ultimate lifetime ban from our Saturday grocery store adventures.

Though this episode might have been chalked up to a lack of discipline, it turns out that I am just a bit attention span distractable.  In my case, grocery stores are my nemesis.  On one misadventure, I found myself in a grocery store with one third of a list of items needed for a cottage weekend with a friend and my wife’s brother.  Old habits die hard and there I was heading toward the nearest sample booth.  I ask you, who could resist a Bubba Burger sample?  When finally tracked down by my two shopping partners, I was retasked to just get milk and eggs.  This seemed simple but once I realized that the milk selection area stretched for several yards with a host of varieties, sizes and dairies to choose from let alone that eggs could be bought in every conceivable size and assortment, all hope of success was abandoned.  I was then reassigned to securing potato chips with my friend now monitoring my every move.  I approached the Lay’s display at the aisle head trying to decide between barbecue, sour cream and onion, or plain old plain.  Three options, this should be a breeze.  Zeroing in on my choice, I was feeling quite confident when I hear my friend’s voice calling me from around the corner.  The scene that faced me was an entire aisle, seemingly a mile long, stacked with every conceivable packaging of potato chips in an infinite variety of flavors.  My question is how many brands of potato chips can there really be?  Faced with an entire aisle of this one product, I am ready for psychological help.  At this point I actually called my wife, who upon finding out that I was in a grocery store, stated in a near voice of panic, “save everyone, drop what you are doing and get back out to the car.”  This actually sounded like the police officer’s request to get your hands in the air and back away from the vehicle.  And I thankfully, for everyone involved, followed orders.

So this brings us to the present.  Due to a series of almost comical winter falls, my wife found herself in an arm sling and a complete leg brace.  Groceries were needed and her going there was out of the question.  After some serious consultation, it was decided that I was being sent in.  To say that this might have been one of history’s tragic mistakes, may just be an understatement.  My attention distractedness has by this time in my life reached new heights.  Upon arrival at this mega grocery store I am immediately overwhelmed by the sheer volume of aisles filled floor to way too high ceiling with every conceivable variety of grocery product known to the civilized world.  My list, which was already missing and retrieved by a trip back through the parking lot to its ultimate resting place, has but twenty items on it. How long can this really take?   Having eventually deciding on the appropriate size shopping cart, I am ready for my first “phone a friend”.  I call my wife to ask where I start in this maze of aisles, only to have her state that I start in Aisle 1 and work my way through each aisle.  This is helpful?  Really?  I am already mentally creating the “easily distracted, never grocery shopped as a profession”, grocery store arrangement.  Three to five aisles one brand of anything and a guide located at the head of each aisle.  And the journey begins.

First item up, toilet paper.  My wife wants the plush comfort style.  Seriously, they make uncomfortable toilet paper?  Turns out they actually do.  I eventually secure the correct brand, in the correct version and in the accurate packaging arrangement, six not four and certainly not the eight pack.  I am almost feeling cocky now, a serious misjudgement.  Next up, holiday paper plates.  To the trained professional shopper, it is understood that these are held in multiple store locations.  You apparently never know when you may suddenly decide to add paper plates to your list of necessities.  It turns out that the ones I needed were located in the candy section, this being clearly not a good location for a sugar junkie.  Smart product placement but not good.  I now make the first of my many eventual product return trips to replace the paper plates I purchased in the paper plate aisle.  What was I thinking?!!

I will spare you the story of the next 17 items but not before letting you know that they used up my next two “aisle shout outs”.  I have by this time discovered that there are three varieties of male grocery shoppers. The first is the seasoned bachelor who actually has figured out the process, very likely through a book on “successful grocery store shopping for dummies”, but like a true male, he is a hunter.  No particular pattern, just your random aisle jumping to complete a list in alphabetic order.  You will cross paths with him multiple times in your journey.  DO NOT WASTE AN AISLE SHOUT OUT ON HIM, he is focused and has no time for your incompetence.  Read the book before you venture out again.  The second shopper is the male in the guardianship of the shopping spouse.  These are easily identified by their stooped over appearance, leaning on the shopping cart and following behind the spouse who occasionally is heard barking out orders to “try and keep up”.  And then there is the third species of which I am clearly one.  We wander aimlessly up and down each aisle trying to be saved by the seasoned female shopper.  I actually found myself following one and after she would rapidly narrow down her selection to the one brand she wanted, move on efficiently to the next item on her list.  I somehow decided that I should just grab another of what ever she had chosen and claim it as my own.  This had to be a cost and time saving method.  But then I came to the sad realization that all but one of the items were not even on my list.  And again I am back to returning products misguidedly appropriated.

So finally, I find myself down to my last two items, apple cider and microwave popcorn.  I approach the frozen food aisle.  Now for those of you seasoned veterans reading my desperate blog, you are asking yourself why are you in the frozen food aisle looking for microwave popcorn?  Not surprisingly so is the woman whom I have passed for my third rotation through the stacked freezer compartments.  Sensing I may be hopelessly lost and possible facing a slow starvation death in the final aisle of this grocery store, surrounded by food but not able to reach the checkout aisle, she asks what I am looking for.  She asks me curiously, and even politely, why I think microwave popcorn would be in the frozen foods section?  I state that it is where I find it in our house.  Little known secret here, or at least an urban myth I have fallen prey to, it pops better if kept frozen.  Didn’t know that was my task upon arriving home but not the grocery store’s method of storing.  She then kindly, almost with pity, explained that I would find it in the snack aisle.  “Any chance that is near by” I ask?  Of course not as remember this is an adventure.  It will be found in the first aisle I went through, that’s right, Aisle 1.

Any chance I will run across apple cider on the way?

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