I hate grocery shopping. It’s probably the worst thing in the world next to wet socks. Wet socks are worse.
Grocery shopping, you’d think, is an extrovert’s favorite chore of the week, right? Because the extrovert gets to go out and see people and talk to strangers and sing at the top of his lungs, “I want to be where the people are!”
But no. That is not how I feel about grocery shopping. The way I feel about grocery shopping is how some people feel about having Great Aunt Muriel over for dinner. It’s just something to get through as quickly as possible so the obligation is satisfied until next Easter.
So when I asked my wife to make brownies for a coworker’s birthday party, I didn’t realize that it would include a trip to the grocery store. By myself. Because Dana ran out of cocoa powder, and it’s my friend’s birthday, so it makes sense that I would be the one to fetch it.
I left the house. I sat in the car for a few minutes whimpering about what I had to do. But then I bolstered myself and turned the key.
Cub Foods isn’t that far from my apartment, but I was trying to find something a little closer to home. I noticed a dollar store that advertised grocery products and it was just two blocks from my house! Yes! I skirted the greater evil for a lesser one, and I’ll be home in ten minutes!
But upon arrival, it was hardly an improved situation. The dollar store had clutter through every aisle and people clogging my path to the grocery section while they looked at which party plates would go best with the lime green table cloth mom was holding. They weren’t talking about it, though. They were shouting about it. Because they couldn’t hear each other from 18 inches away.
I muscled my way through, tripping on cardboard boxes and soup cans, to where the hamburger buns were squished onto the shelves. I think the workers were trying to see if they could get two whole crates of buns on one shelf. Everyone loves flatbread, right?
And then there was no baking aisle. I should have guessed, but I was too hopeful to not try. I even went to the attendant and waited five minutes for him to stop reading his magazine so he could tell me that they don’t carry cocoa powder.
Back in the car I went. Waiting for the lights to turn green, I had another smoke to settle my frazzled nerves.
I then arrived at the actual demon den – the grocery store.
Let’s talk about a few of the reasons why by body shudders when it’s time to go shopping. I am in a store, filled with people who seem to have left their personal bubbles in the car. It doesn’t matter if I have my hand on a bag of rice or bag of apples, if that’s the product that the little old lady six people away from me wants, she will have it. She will push her way through five of those people to take the product out of my hand then talk to me about it.
“Oh, that looks nice. I’ve heard Dole makes really good apples, haven’t you? Do you think my grandson would like these apples? I think he would. He’s such a good boy. You remind me of him! Thanks for getting these apples for me, dear. Bu-bye!”
All the while I’m standing there dumbfounded and angry and my skin is crawling because she patted me on the butt on her way out. This has happened, folks. I kid you not.
I arrived at Cub foods with hell-bent determination to get the cocoa powder and be out of there in 6 minutes flat. Bracing myself, I gulped down air as my breathing tubes constrict in protest.
Grocery stores aren’t that hard to figure out. If you’re looking for cocoa powder, go down the baking aisle, right? It makes sense!
But that’s only if you are a logical thinker, because Cub does not put its cocoa powder in the baking aisle. And I would know, because I stared at every item in those mile long shelves for 20 minutes in search of my treasure. But it was not there. And people started reaching around me and brushing up against me with their purses and asking if I knew where things were.
“Sorry, I don’t work here,” I said with as much politeness as I could muster.
“Oh, I know. Would you help me anyway?”
“Check aisle 13.”
“Did you just make up a number without knowing what I’m looking for?”
Still no cocoa powder, so I did the next logical thing. I looked in every other aisle in the store. Just so you know, they do not keep their cocoa powder with their cat litter.
Finally I found an attendant.
“Please,” I said after distracting him long enough from shelving canned tuna. “For the love of God where is your cocoa powder?”
“Yes! Cocoa powder!”
“Like, for hot chocolate?”
“No! For baking!”
“Are you going to tell me where the cocoa powder is or are you going to continue interrogating me until I spill my life story?”
“You just don’t look like–”
“WHERE’S THE DAMN POWDER?!”
Seriously? That’s the one I had started with.
Low and behold, there was the cocoa powder in the same place where the lady had started talking to me. It was at that point when I walked away to avoid other folks taking my kind face for a kind face.
With my precious cargo in tow, I saw the end of my suffering in sight. I just had to pay and walk out the door. Fast lane fast lane fast lane. Come on! Papa’s gotta get home before he yells at another undeserving bystander.
“Welcome!” the automated cashier said in her mechanical voice. “Please scan your first item.”
“Have you scanned your rewards card?”
My hands were shaking with frustration to the point where I can barely swipe my card.
“NO!” I yelled without turning around. I took a glance to see that the little girl wasn’t even talking to me. But now a lot of people were staring at me. I grab the cocoa powder and almost run out the door.
Keys. Where are my keys?! I thought in a panic before realizing they were in my hand. Close call. My sanity was waning.
By the time I got home an hour and a half later, my hair looked like I had stuck my finger in an electrical socket. My face was twitching like a stressed out hen and my grin was a little wider than socially appropriate.
Then my wife greeted me with a sympathetic smile, a kiss, and a beer.
I guess grocery shopping isn’t so bad.
Image credit: SpeakEasy