Today I had the most traumatic experience. I went to the store in the middle of the workday.
You may think this sounds like a dream come true - to escape from work in the middle of the day, to get paid to go to the store. But this is not the case. You see, I wasn't getting paid to shop for shoes or purses or cute athletic wear. No, I had to shop for groceries.
Show of hands for all of you that enjoy grocery shopping? Exactly.
If you’re like me, you do your grocery shopping around 8:30 pm on a Sunday night when no one else will be in the store. You get in, you get out, you go so late that no one gets spooked by the woman in her pajamas still sweaty from the day’s workout pushing the cart at a speed faster than should probably be legal without regard to any small child, accidentally dropped loaf of bread, or anything else that may have unfortunately fallen to the ground and about to meet 4-wheeled cart demise.
But when you go grocery shopping for work – you have to go at prime time.
Two choices here. Choice number one: You can go around 9:30 am when the store is crawling with moms and tots. You will get through the store but not without a pounding headache from the squeals, cries – and if you’re lucky the opportunity to witness a spectacular tantrum – from scores of cranky, small children.
Alas my schedule did not permit a delightful early morning shopping trip today.
The other choice - you can go at 1 pm. But here’s the tradeoff – sure, at 1 pm the store is less, much less crowded. But think about it. Who is grocery shopping at 1 pm? Not the moms – it’s nap time or kindergarten pick up, late lunch time. No. Instead, you have the people that can afford to go shopping at 1 pm because they have nothing else to do. In fact, this very well might be the highlight of their day. I’m talking about ex-cons, the unemployed, grumpy old men, creepy old men (much different than grumpy old men), and the crazy old woman living down the street with 400 cats who smells like mothballs and has a color of hair better suited for a crayon than her head.
Traumatic, I’m telling you.
There I was, pushing my shopping cart through the store around 1 pm. It was empty, deserted, I was probably 1 of the 8 people in the store. Of course, my cart was announcing my presence every inch it rolled on. Yes, I had grabbed the gimpy cart with the wobbly wheel that wanted to go it’s own way while the other 3 conformist wheels rolled straight ahead.
It was not my usual grocery store, and I didn’t really know my way around. Which meant I made about 1000 wrong turns down the wrong aisle and took twice as long to find any one thing. A day later, when I finally made it to the checkout lane, I could sense something would go wrong.
Someone started talking to me. No, not the bagels, nor the peanut butter. It was someone mumbling something about Angelina Jolie. Angelina Jolie? Here? In this grocery store?
Actually, she was in my hand because I had taken up a copy of the latest celebrity trash talk magazine to pass the time. And I had to pass time because the person two people ahead of me had picked up the 1 item in a store of about 1 million items that wasn’t scanning with a price.
Catching up on my celebrity dish, I hear a voice and I look up. It’s a woman, an older woman with crazy hair, glasses, Capri pants that really should have just been long shorts. She was emptying the contents of her cart on to the belt while simultaneously spreading the latest dish about Angelina Jolie, and her threat of impending divorce, and the fact that she got pregnant while Brad was still married.
At first I had no idea what this woman was talking about because I really don’t have Brad and Angelina first thing on my mind in the middle of the day. No sooner did I figure out this story than she switched to another. This time, about the president and the Queen. Then she switched topics again. And again. And then I realized I have met a woman that knows more about celebrities than she probably knows about herself.
But that didn’t stop her from telling me all about herself. And her cart. She quickly pointed out the contents of her cart now displayed along the belt. Three bags of corn chips, salsa, carrots, mushrooms, a pound of potatoes, a bottle of wine, and – my favorite – a box of Weight Watchers ice cream because clearly counting calories with the ice cream after 3 bags of corn chips was really going to count.
She proceeded to point out the corn chips – all 3 bags – picking them up and showing them to me.
“I’m on a chip diet,” she said.
I didn’t know what to say. I’m one of those people that doesn’t find other people’s bad eating habits all that entertaining. I’m not saying my diet is better, or that I’m better but what I’m saying is that I don’t find it particularly funny that at some point in my life I will probably have to pay for your inability to feed yourself the right way – either through taxes, or increasing health care costs, increasing cost of food because people like you are literally eating the world away.
“And after my chips, I’m going to be real thirsty.” Or bloated. It's your call.
I still wasn’t sure what to say. Was she trying to be funny? Or, was this just an example of crazy woman making conversation in the store because I was the first real, live, not televised person she had talked with that day.
“I guess that’s what the wine is for,” I said, playing along with her about the whole ha ha your bad diet is oh so funny to me.
“Oh no,” she said, “this is not washing down wine." She was dead serious now. "This is sipping wine. It’s Beringer, $20 a bottle”
Ok, crazy lady - time out. First of all, if you are buying it in a grocery store, I’m sorry but it IS washing down wine. Secondly, it’s white wine. Why bother. Third, it’s Beringer and if you’re paying $20 a bottle for it you’re paying too much. And, to make another point, who washes down their corn chips with wine? Save yourself the 20 bucks, and go buy yourself a 6 pack of beer instead.
I didn’t say that. Some days, I wish I could.
She started talking some more about her chips, and her wine, and about how she shouldn’t open the wine in the store because she had to get behind the wheel, and drinking wine would make her wreck her car, and she drives a 20 year old car, and if you wreck a car like that do you know what it’s called? Irreplaceable.
The things you learn in a grocery store.
Finally, the cashier starts scanning her groceries. But the conversation doesn’t stop. She starts to tell the cashier about her car, and the irreplaceable value of it. The cashier seems mildly entertained but I sensed that she herself had some issues. Something not quite right. The two of them seemed strangely aligned in conversation that was bizarre, but quite fitting, and a day later they started bagging groceries – together – when the cashier was finally done and asked the woman would you like help out and the woman said ok.
The cashier disappears to find help while the crazy lady stands next to her cart.
A minute goes by. “I’ve got ice cream in here,” she announced. A minute later, she said it again. And again.
Oh my god crazy woman, then wheel the cart out yourself. Save yourself, and your ice cream.
The man behind me in line is staring at me with a very strange look. Grumpy old man or creepy old man. It’s hard to tell but he doesn’t look amused. And he doesn’t look patient.
“I guess patience is a virtue,” crazy woman said.
I couldn’t help it, “yes, apparently in this store, ” I said. It wasn’t just a virtue, it was a prerequisite you had to sign a waiver for before you entered the door. In fact, you had to be willing to sign away the better part of your day just to get through this damn line.
The cashier finally returns, and as she reaches for my groceries I look down at my tax exempt card and back at her, and back at the card and I think to myself if I tell her this is tax exempt it could add another hour to this already neverending trip. It couldn’t get much worse, could it?
“I’ve got ice cream in here.”
Seriously, would somebody please help the crazy lady outside and then get her some clinical help? At the very least shove an ice cream sandwich in her mouth to shut her up.
I give the cashier the card. I might as well go for broke. This trip had hit bottom already. And the guy behind me was still staring.
As soon as I hand her the card, I know I’ve made a mistake.
“I drive by this place every week,” she said recognizing the name of my workplace on the card.
Super. How about you drop off these groceries the next time you drive by because by then you might be done checking me out of this line I have been standing in for the PAST ½ HOUR.
I started bagging my groceries to expedite the process, and she is in no hurry because she has to tell me about the fact that she drives by my workplace. I felt like saying great! guess what! I get to not only drive by it, but drive into it! every single day! and do my job! that I would actually like to get back to at this point! because I hate this store! and the fact that I have wasted over 30 minutes waiting in line in here! and while we’re at it, did you happen to hear that the crazy woman with the cart has ice cream in there!
The man behind me gets escorted away by another cashier. Apparently, he started waving a white flag and someone noticed. He quickly informs the other cashier that he had been standing in line for well over 15 minutes and he was not pleased.
Grumpy man after all. With a creepy staring problem.
“Yes, I drive by this place every Thursday on the way to my fiancée’s house,” the cashier says again.
This is where if I was a single woman, I would have just fled the store and buried myself in the ground. Because if this super freak can find a fiancée then it makes no sense why nice, normal women cannot find a man in the world. I would have just thrown in the dating towel, bought myself 400 cats, slept in a bed made of mothballs eating corn chips and washing them down my grocery store wine. Sipping my days away.
“Yes, it’s a very nice place. To drive by,” I said. Maybe if I finally respond, she’ll stop talking. Like it would be that easy.....
“Every Thursday, I drive right by there. On the way to someone’s house.”
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I get it. I. GET. IT. Do you think if I shout I HAVE ICE CREAM IN HERE someone will come wheel me and my cart away?
She finishes checking my groceries, and by then thank goodness I have them all bagged, I grab my receipt, and I am quickly on my way.
90 minutes later, I have returned to work. I walk in and see my co-worker at the table and she asks how I’ve been.
“I just went to the store and I do not want to talk about it.” She laughs, and so do I, because of all the things I could be asked to do at a job, going to the grocery store for an hour and half on a Thursday doesn’t seem so bad after all.
But that doesn’t mean I want to return to the store around 1 pm any time soon.