I’m not a shopper. I don’t have a philosophical problem with shopping. In fact, I’m a huge fan of our consumer society. It’s just that I’m too many civilized generations removed from The Hunt to appreciate the joy of finding that perfect item — on sale. This doesn’t mean I don’t shop — I do. Every week, like my Cro-Magnon ancestors, I go out into the urban wilderness to claim my rightful place in the food chain. It’s called grocery shopping, and in North America, it’s a mutant hybrid of a scavenger hunt, an obstacle course and a futile battle against stupidity. Here is just a sampling of the moronic forces arrayed against us every time we venture forth to buy food.
My Real Name Is richard.petty\943 — Even before you get into the store, there are the people who think that, just because they have a video screen in the dash of their car, they can drive as if the parking lot is a RealTime simulation of Nascar Heat 2 from Playstation.
Where Am I? — These are the folks who enter the store and stop dead –as though they’ve just broken the Time/Space continuum and have no idea what dimension they’re in.
“It’s a grocery store. That stuff on the shelves is food. You came here on purpose!”
Me Go Here Now — There are the people who have no reasonable sense of direction, nor any concept of organization. They stop in the middle of the aisle; back up, turn around, start again; think about it, stop, turn, bash into the cart next to them; stop, try again and then nonchalantly head off in the direction they started with. And even though you get stuck behind these idiots three or four times, when you see them at the checkout, all they have in their cart is a frozen pizza, a package of disposable diapers and two cans of dog food.
Me Stop Here Now — These are the folks who stop their cart sideways in the middle of the aisle, tying up traffic in both directions, while they contemplate the pickles.
“It’s a condiment, for God’s sake — not the Bayonne Tapestry!”
There’s A Reason I’m Lonely — These are the people who ambush you into listening to a long-winded monologue that starts with the price of sugar, goes through the hurricanes in the Caribbean and finally fades away — somewhere between the guy next door who won’t cut his grass and the drug dealer across the street — but only because you quit being polite and just walked away.
OMG! I Haven’t Seen You Since Tuesday — These are the friends who meet at the congested intersection of Dairy and Frozen Food, or in Produce, or — oh, hell, it doesn’t matter — because they invariably launch into a protracted conversation about how much they loved their vacation, how much they hate their vocation or Henry’s hemorrhoid operation. You can’t get past them, around them or over them without pulling out a gun. And on particularly bad days, Henry and his proctologist are standing there, as well.
And finally, just when you think it’s over:
I Forgot You Have To Pay — These are the people who stoically stand in line at the checkout for twenty minutes; then, when it’s their turn, wait patiently while the cashier beeps every item — until, at the very end, they suddenly realize they’re in the middle of a financial transaction and start fumbling for their money.