Do not, I repeat do not go to Trader Joe’s at 11:45 am.
I was on my lunch hour – which was quickly turning into a lunch half-hour – when I headed over to Trader Joe’s to pick up some things. "Things" as in bars for Ironman training. Again. Again with the bars. With Ironman training, the need for bars never comes to an end.
As long as I was there – you know how this goes – I decided to get a few other things. This is what I would call mistake #1. Never go into the store looking for more than you really need. You end up taking out twice as much than you want and half as much as you really needed in the first place. If that makes any mathematical sense. Grocery shopping is like racing – focus, focus, do not get off track or you could really get off course.
So I headed into the store, grabbed a basket, and set off down the first aisle to find a loaf of bread. Easy enough. Loaf of bread, wheat, in a bag. Check, done.
Next, on to bananas. Not so easy. Something was going on around the banana display. Let me explain.
Apparently I missed the sign that read that at 11:45 am on a weekday there is a mandatory four child minimum when you shop at this store. It’s important to note that these don’t have to be your four kids. No, they just have to be four kids circling around you at any given time.
Which was a good thing. Because there I was at the banana display swarmed by kids. Note to self and others: next time you buy bananas you may want to reconsider your plan. There’s a very good chance that your banana has passed through a child’s hands. Little did you know that a banana is not only a tasty good source of a potassium, but also something you can easily throw at your sibling, something you can talk into, or something you can wave wildly at your mother while yelling (at the top of your child-like lungs if I may add) look mommy, ‘nana! ‘Nanas are here! There are so many ‘nanas! while also jumping up and down with said 'nanas which your little hands then proceed to drop all over the floor.
Amusing, of course, unless you have now less than a lunch hour to choose a few bananas for your own. And I might add that you should not enlist the help of a child in picking just the right and ripe banana because when you do you risk having to tell the child “that’s not a ripe one”, oh, like 100 times. Not that I overheard this or anything.
Forget the bananas. They were too green anyways. Move on to the next tasty fruit – strawberries. Things are looking a little better over there. But holy crap what just whizzed by? A kid with a small cart and a smaller brother in tow. What’s more fun than relay races up and down the aisles?
I’ll tell you – screaming at the top of your lungs. Really REALLY LOUD. Because mom was in no mood to buy you….organic apples? I’m not sure what a child would scream about in this store (we were nowhere near the candy aisle) but there it was, child meltdown right in front of me melting into the floor in the organic produce section. Life for semi-vegan children is so unfair.
On to the rice where there can’t possibly be more kids. Wrong. Each woman in that aisle had at least four kids maybe more - they were all mixed up and running circles anyways. Four kids – some sitting in the cart, some with their own carts, some hanging from the cart, some riding the cart, some trying to get underneath the cart. And somehow each mother watches all of her kids all on her own. While trying to grocery shop.
For a moment, I am amazed. Our neighbors have one child – a four year old – and they don’t even attempt the grocery store. They get Peapod (which I’ve never understood – I mean, can you think of anything more wrong than someone else touching your groceries?) and call it a day. But here these women are – all of their children around them – not only getting through the store but grocery shopping along the way.
Admiring the amazing multitasking ability of women with four children hanging off of cart, I realize my time is ticking away – no, silly, not my biological time per se (sorry, mom) but time on my lunch hour. So I head up to the register to pay.
The front of the store is crowded, it’s a mess. Long lines, big orders, children yelling, bells ringing as the clerks call for help.
Is there not a bell I can ring too? H.E.L.P.
I choose the shortest of very long lines, and finally get to the front. And then I realize I have made critical grocery store mistake #2 – I forgot the bars. Great. The one thing I came here for and I forgot. And I am not coming back here today, or any other day at 11:45 am, so I regretfully exited the line to go select my bars.
Back to the lines. Is it possible that they could have grown exponentially longer since I last was there? Possible. Very possible indeed. So I wait in line. A very long line. And as children jumped at the counter and swung on the carts, it came to me. The answer to why children seem to love this very organic place...
Mini-me carts and free balloons.
Say no more. Trader Joe’s has cornered the market on this one and captured the attention of every kid. Balloons were like cocaine – serious, the kids couldn’t get them fast enough and once they had a purple one they wanted a green one instead. And the mini-me carts? Pure marketing genius. Show me one kid that didn’t have that cart stacked with unnecessary empires of highly unprocessed foods. I saw one kid with a mini cart filled with 8 loaves of bread. EIGHT LOAVES OF BREAD (yes, I counted, again, LONG LINE). And you know what mom did – bought them, bought them all.
At that moment, the noise level reached a crescendo and the whole scene took on more of a carnival feel than a store. Balloons floating to the ceiling. Kids running with balloons. Kids running with bananas. Kids waving last minute buy-me-now items at mom. Kids filling up carts just as quickly clerks emptied them and mom paid.
So there I was, with my small basket, and all of a sudden feeling like I needed a small cart and a balloon realizing if you can’t beat them you might as well join them, grab a banana, scream at the top of your lungs, accept the fact that the whole store is going bananas anyways so you might as well just enjoy the show and stay.