Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday's Words for May 28, 2008

Yesterday I went to the grocery store, and I have an announcement to make.

Men should not be allowed to go grocery shopping alone. Ever.

This is a subject that I’ve longed to address for some time. I’ve held off, because I wanted to be certain that y’all knew me well enough to understand that this announcement is not made out of any anti-male sentiment. I have no anti-male sentiment. I do, however, believe that men and women are wired differently, and thus suited to different tasks in life. And one task men are definitely not suited for is grocery shopping.

Normally, this isn’t much of an issue for me. Sometimes it does arise, however, like when you have a man pushing a shopping cart, with a couple of kids tagging along, running here and there, nearly getting mowed down by other shoppers, grabbing things off the shelf and trying to dump them into the basket while the man wonders when, exactly, he lost control of the situation. Those moments you want to take the man back to where the carts are and point out the ones that have the red kiddie seats—complete with seat belts—which undoubtedly his wife uses when she comes in his stead.

And sometimes it’s a very minor issue, like when you encounter a man looking from his list, to the shelf, complete helplessness etched upon his face. Feeling charitable you say, “May I help?” He asks, with desperate gratitude in every syllable, “What is ‘tomato sour’? It’s right here on the list my wife gave me but I can’t find it anywhere.” You in turn kindly ask, “May I see the list, please?” He thrusts it at you eagerly and you read and it then ask, “Do you suppose she wants tomato soup?” That’s worthy of a chuckle and you get to do a good deed in the bargain, so that’s not too bad.

And then there are times like yesterday.

Now that I think about it, this could have been an object lesson from above. I do have a problem with patience (I know, I know, it’s hard to believe. I think so too. My family, however, begs to differ.). Here’s how it all played out.

I had whipped through the grocery shopping at near break-neck speed. Before leaving the house, I had compiled my list in my usual efficient manner, and happily, everything in the store was exactly where it was supposed to be. I pulled into one check-out line, then realized three things simultaneously. One, there were three other carts ahead of me; two, the clerk was young and chatty and moving very slowly; and three, the lane two registers to my right had just two shoppers, the one whose order was being processed and a man with a cart that was but half full.

Needless to say, I changed lanes. And this was my mistake.

I noticed that shopper number one’s order was nearly finished, and that the belt was empty.
Then the man ahead of me reached into his cart. Ah, good, I thought. I’ll be out of here in no time.

Sadly, this proved not to be the case.

Yes, the man had reached into his cart – for his ‘green’ bags. Many of us in this area use the re-usable shopping bags, rather than taking the disposable plastic ones offered free at the check-out. He proceeded, then, to open each bag – he had five of them - and inspect the interior of each one before placing it, open, on the belt. They took up the entire belt. The cashier said good-bye to the previous customer, and turned to Mr. Mom in front of me, greeting him in a friendly manner while gently taking his fully opened bags off the belt, and folding each one so that she could set them aside, ready for her to use.

The gentleman then began to sort through his cart, and place his items, one by one, on the belt. First up were five red delicious apples. How do I know there were five? The same way I know he bought 2 green peppers, 2 red peppers, and 2 red onions. Because he had chosen to eschew the little plastic veggie bags offered in the produce aisles (lest you think he was just being ‘green’ he did use those bags for other things). Added to the belt to finish off his produce department purchases were two heads of leaf lettuce. Dripping wet. On the belt. Then he produced a coupon – I assume the small, withered-looking scrap of paper he held was a coupon – and discussed with the cashier for two entire minutes whether or not this coupon would be honoured.

Triumphant in his cents-off quest, he then waited until all his produce had been rung up and bagged before placing more items on the belt.

On and on he went, examining each item that he took from his cart, fussing over where each item should go on the belt, but every once in a while taking a moment to frown at me (I assure you, my dear friends, that I was not muttering that loud). When his cart was empty and there was a bare six inches of available conveyor belt space, I whipped the green ‘separator’ into place between our orders and began to load my purchases on. I would like to point out that I was finished this before Mr. Mom paid for his booty.

My husband, who had been with me, was chuckling along with me – I thought. I do know he found the man’s manner very strange because he said so. It wasn’t, however, until I overheard him telling our daughter of this adventure that I understood the true source of his humor. “There your mother was, in the checkout line, making notes about this guy the entire time!”
It’s sad, but true. We writers are often underappreciated.


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