“What are we doing tonight?” Chris asked late Friday evening.
I was sitting on the living room, icing one of three body parts that were aching from the past week’s beating of yards and miles while watching a Tred Barta hunting show where he’s on the trail of an elk herd in Colorado.
“I’ve got a fabulous evening planned,” I said shifting my ice bags to aching body part number two of three. “We’re going to the grocery store to buy some bars,” I announced upon realizing that I was completely out of the bars required for my IM nutrition plan that I needed to practice yet again on tomorrow’s four and a half hour ride.
Not surprisingly, Chris declined the grocery store invitation and instead descended downstairs to work on bikes.
Thanks to Ironman training, Friday nights don’t get much better than this – Chris working on bikes while I get ready for the next day’s workout. It’s not the most scintillating social life that we could ask for, but at least it’s only for another seven weeks.
After a few more minutes of the hunting show, I decided to head over to Whole Foods, the superstore for sports nutrition, including bars, powders, supplements, and homeopathic remedies; whey protein, Siberian ginseng, bromelain, you name it for sports remedies, they’ve got it. Just recently after learning that Pine Bark Extract had shown promising anti-inflammatory results in athletes that took it post-workout, I checked Whole Foods to see if they would have such an obscure item and indeed they did. And for $50 for 30 pills the bottle could have been mine. And that is why I am still sitting with ice cubes in a baggie, de-flaming three body parts on a Friday night.
Learning from last time that if you go to purchase bars do not expect to juggle twelve of them on the way to the register without dropping one at least every other step of the way, I decided to grab a little green basket. Recently, I noticed that Whole Foods acquired ‘short-carts’, the two baskets in two tiers on wheels. The short cart is for those looking for more than a basket full but not quite enough to fill a whole cart. Hence the short cart. Hence proof again that we have far too many choices in this world.
Walking through Whole Foods, I noticed nothing but good, wholesome foods all that could be yours in exchange for all the money you have. Among other tasty baked goods, I eyed the boxed up slices of cake which sounded good after a long week of workouts. And then I noticed that cake was $4.99 per slice. For $4.99 I could make the cake myself and eat all eight slices. Oh, but I forget, I’m at Whole Foods so this is special cake. The kind with sugar that wasn’t fed growth hormones, brown eggs from I’m guessing brown chickens, milk that comes from a box instead of a cow, and mysterious faraway ingredients like carob and whey. Well, they got me and my 4 dollars and 99 cents because the cake went into my basket. And this is why I only shop for bars at Whole Foods. And only when they’re on sale. Because if you’re not careful, you could walk out with 200 hundred less dollars and a cart full of things you can’t pronounce.
I walked up to the aisle stacked with assorted bars. Take half the shelves along an aisle and stack it nearly floor to ceiling with a variety of brands, flavors, textures, and promises all delivered in a five by two inch package and you find yourself gazing starry-eyed at all of the sumptuous sports bars within Whole Foods. Lost in a dizzy whirl of bar flavors and choices, I heard a voice beckon to me, “So you like the bars, do you?”
I looked around wondering if maybe all of the training this week had left me hearing voices from the boxes of bars. Do I like the bars, I repeated the question silently to myself and snickered. I used to like bars until I had to eat about twenty per week. Then I slowly started to hate bars in their tidy little packages packed with their super levels of nutrients. So to answer your question, who or whatever you are, I’m not sure I like the bars, in fact I think I am starting to loathe the bars and after October 21st I swear not to eat anything in a bar form for at least two months.
Engrossed in this entertaining conversation with myself, I noticed a stock boy to my right. He was, at most, 18 years old, with stylish, disheveled dark hair and an alluring apron. Then again, just the idea of a man in an apron is alluring with endless possibilities – if he’s willing to wear an apron perhaps he is willing to do the work typical of the aproned, such as washing dishes or ironing clothes or cooking dinner.
Part of me felt sorry for the stock boy, standing her stocking these shelves on a Friday night. A part of me remembered being his age, knowing that this Friday night work-until-close shift was probably the most entrapping frustration he had ever felt, stifling his teenage social life surely filled with so many things to do so late into the night. Right now as he filled half empty boxes with more bars, I am sure he felt nothing but the angst of having to mindlessly stock these shelves while his friends zipped around town in their parents borrowed cars doing something that would result in a legendary story that he would not be a part of. As time ticked closer to 10 pm, I’m sure he would get restless and dangerously close to the door. Precisely at 10 o’clock, I’m sure he would tear off the apron and bolt out the double doors into an idling car waiting full of friends eager to set off into the late night to engage in things like stealing for sale signs from houses, or taking little yard gnomes, or shouting things at people from the windows of the parents car, or covering someone’s trees in toilet paper.
With such a smorgasboard of suburban adventures waiting for him, I’m sure he was itching to get out of the store by now, so close to being done. And for someone reason he was clearly itching to make conversation with me. But then again if I was 18 years old and stocking bars in a grocery store on a Friday night, I might be interested in making conversation with someone too.
He looked at me waiting for my answer – did I like the bars or not? “Oh, yeah, I like these bars,” I replied, in my head garbling and groaning about my growing disdain for bars as I pulled a few of my favorite flavors from out of the shelved boxes and tossed them into my basket. I noticed my favorite bars were on sale for 99 cents and couldn’t help but stock up.
“Have you tried the Odwalla bars?” he asked. I recalled a few weeks ago when I noticed the Odwalla bars were on sale, again for 99 cents which must be the rockbottom bar cost these days. In search of some other texture or taste for my IM nutrition plan I decided to give the Odwalla bars a whirl.
“Yes, I’ve tried the Odwalla bars,” I said, busily counting bars in my basket to ensure I had just the right amount and just the right flavors for tomorrow’s ride.
“Well what did you think?” he asked. I looked at him quizzically. “About the Odwalla bars, what did you think?” he asked again.
Clearly he had no idea he was talking to an Ironman- in-training, deeply entrenched in a world of training dominated by the digestion of bars and other sports nutrition items. Unless you’ve got some time on your hands, it’s best you don’t ask us about bars or gels or anything else mylar-wrapped. Because right now I have an opinion about every flavor, every brand during every type of workout in any type of weather. At this point, after all of these miles, I could tell you how they taste, the caloric content, milligrams of sodium, carbohydrate count, and exactly which bars taste like sandpaper or make me duck into a cornfield after three hours in the saddle or take too long to chew.
Looking under my Odwalla file, I find a few comments, dry, too crumbly, flavorless, almost like eating the wrapper covered in a little sugar and a few raisins. “Didn’t like the Odwalla bars,” I looked over at him and reported.
Back to the task at hand, buying bars for tomorrow, I began counting the number of bars in the basket, the flavors, the variety, the cost. I was hoping to look so busy with my choice-making and calculations that I would disengage his curiosity about bars or about me. At this point, I couldn’t tell if he was genuinely interested in finding out which bars I liked or if he was just genuinely interested in finding out what type of person goes to the grocery store on a Friday night to buy bars.
“Have you tried the Power Bar Harvest Bars? They’re really good,” he stated with a confidence that just didn’t seem to make any sense. A confidence that he had indeed tried all of these different bars and indeed had favorites. In my eyes, unless you have to eat these bars why would you? With all of the other wonderfully delicious edibles this store has to offer why select and settle for something in a bar.
“Yeah, I like those,” I replied.
At this point, I’m wondering if I’m missing something. I mean, we are talking about bars, right? It’s Friday night, I’m in the grocery store, and this guy is talking with me about….bars? Is he being paid by the bar companies? Have they planted him here on a Friday night to convince hurried triathletes to change their preferences in bars?
And then it hit me. Is this flirting? Is this guy flirting with me? Am I standing here on a Friday night, looking at bars being flirted with by a guy wearing an apron? Was flirting and picking up guys really this easy? It’s been awhile since I’ve been shopping for guys, you know with the husband and all, and the fact that I only shop for bars lately, so I didn’t realize that one had to look no further than the aisle of bars to find a guy, furthermore to find a guy wearing an apron which was surely a good sign that he could be good for all sorts of other domesticated things.
Scared, not sure what the proper thing to do was, or what the proper thing to say was, or how to communicate that I was just here for the bars and not the boys, I just started walking away.
“Enjoy the bars,” he called to me as I walked the other way.
I stopped, turned around, smiled and said “thanks” before continuing on to the register.
When I got back home, Chris greeted me at the door asking if I found my bars. “Yes,” I said, “and I think I found a boy, too.” And with a strange grin on his face, perhaps from seeing the $4.99 box of cake in the bag or from the entertaining thought that his wife got hit on in the grocery store he said, “do tell”. And then we had a good laugh.
So consider this my advice to all of the single girls of the world. Forget about bar-hopping on a Friday night in those smoky bars with those expensive drinks. Maybe it’s a lot easier and cheaper than that. Maybe it’s right in front of you where you least expect it. Next Friday night, take a trip to your local grocery store and peruse the latest selection of sports bars. You might just find what you’re looking for. Nevermind that he’s only 18 years old, just remember rule number one – you must be 21 to drink the beer and at least 14 to spend the night so while you can’t get him drunk you can take him home.
And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, just pick up a Power Bar and call it a night.