|Ground-up kitten? I'm there. Cats are so smug.|
"Mmm, pumpkin spice."
The experience of grocery shopping is becoming more and more surreal. My trip to the local Meijer store yesterday clinched it. The flaws of the entire world were evident around every corner. Not only was the place torn up, people were running into each other--with carts, without them. Items had been moved from one end of the store to another, rendering all of us grocery-shopping rookies despite years and years of experience. People were coming unhinged. In all fairness, no one wants to be made to feel incompetent, especially not the average afternoon clientele of Meijer, which includes new moms with young children in tow, retirees, the occasional person on lunch break…and me.
I overheard various complaints to store employees about the construction. I wonder what the heck these customers expected the employees to do about it. No one complained to the construction workers who were standing around in this hollowed-out pit in the middle of the produce section. I suppose they were afraid the construction workers would resort to catcalls, because it did appear as if a street of New York had been magicked from some burough and set down in the middle of the potatoes. It just seemed to me that they’d be more likely to have answers about the logistics of the move. Is there some unwritten rule about not engaging construction workers in conversation? (They don't only speak in catcalls, do they?)
Anyway, signs and prices were inaccurate, full sections of shelving were empty, carts of merchandise en route to other places were blocking aisles. I saw right away that it was going to take some extra time to navigate this food labyrinth. Still, I was confident I’d get out alive, even though from all directions came the sound of folks exhaling huge gusts of breath in frustration and despair. This was no more discouraging than the venomous glares directed at anyone not engaged in a fight to the death for groceries. I'm sorry. When did this become The Hunger Games?
At one point, when I had made a conscious decision to wait patiently for an older woman who’d wandered about twenty feet from her cart, leaving it directly next to another cart belonging to a woman who was scouring a shelf in vain, searching for an item she'd never find because the store HAD BEEN COMPLETELY REARRANGED, the shopper behind me edged her cart in front of mine trying to squeeze past. Unfortunately the gap between the two stationary carts was no wider than a scooter. When it became obvious she couldn’t fit (which is why I DIDN’T ATTEMPT IT), she stomped out from behind her cart (completely blocking passage for a cart-less shopper behind her who could’ve easily slipped through the scooter-sized gap if Ms. Proactive Grocery Predator hadn’t decided to make her move). She rolled the old woman’s cart up, all the while skewering me (yes, me) with a gaze that said in no uncertain terms: “Why didn’t you think to do this, you dumbass?”
Here’s my answer, lady: because it’s rude. It occurred to me, fleetingly, that I could push the hindering cart aside and get past, but honestly I felt the bulking form stewing behind me and figured Ms. Proactive Predator was about to go in for the kill. By that time I’d seen about five cart collisions and didn’t want to be involved in one personally. I’d even observed two women that had already collided meet up again in another aisle. While this time they were able to ward off direct impact, they exchanged a chuckle about the irony, saying something like “It’s you again. Ahhh, we’re two women on a mission. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.” Yes, it’s so amusing to run people down over bags of Cheetos (although they were kind of cute—they were shaped like skeletons! Have you seen those?)
Did I mention the store was in shambles? ATTN: Proactive Shopper Types. No one’s finding anything they need! This is the fault of store managers and corporate executives—NOT mine or the elderly woman who left her cart for about five minutes in search of something that has been methodically hidden from her under the guise of making her life better. I’m trying to be patient, here, in the face of adversity. So chill the fuck out! Capiche?
Don’t get me wrong: I can be aggressive enough when the situation calls for it, but grocery shopping doesn’t call for it. I mean, the actions required for such a task are light lifting and basic math. I never saw grocery shopping as an opportunity to show-off ninja skills. To me, getting a can of tomato sauce into my cart two minutes earlier isn’t worth making an elderly woman feel as if she were just taking up space on this earth. She's been here longer than I have. It isn’t worth fostering the impression that any fellow human—all of whom have every right to occupy a human-sized area, mind you—is merely in the way. Besides, everyone in the store was in everyone’s way.
I could tell just by looking at this poor, unsuspecting woman who’d haplessly abandoned her groceries for a brief instant, thinking no one would be affected by this reckless deviance, that she’d be mortified if someone moved her cart. And I was right. The moment she saw movement in her peripheral vision, she snapped to attention. Even though she still hadn’t found the object of the mission that resulted in the unfortunate cart abandonment, she returned with due speed. Emitting an audible gasp, she meekly tried to move the cart even further out of the way (I suspect she would’ve made it disappear entirely if such a thing were possible, although even that wouldn't have satisfied Proactive Shopper Chick.) She then proceeded to apologize to the other woman…for her very existence. The cart-moving woman, intent on getting in front of people who had actually arrived BEFORE her and were thus entitled to get to their grocery items first IMHO, responded by making some sort of grunting noise in acknowledgment of the older woman’s apology. I translated it as: “Well, that’s okay that you’re alive and here, adjacent to me, at this very second. Just don’t let it happen again.”
I tell you, it was a most ridiculous scene. (Not the most ridiculous scene EVER, though. I've got tons more where this came from.) I wish I could’ve video-taped the interaction in order to have it sent out to a university and analyzed by sociologists. I’m sure it says something about our culture. I’m just too depressed right now to figure out what.
You see, I forgot to buy cabbage, kale (if they even stock kale anymore. I think I saw a sprig of it peeking out from underneath a construction worker's boot, so they must have some somewhere) and cooking spray. I’m not going back. We’ll just eat grass in place of the kale, timothy hay for the cabbage, and I’ll grease up the crock pot with some K-Y Jelly. That’ll work.