Illustration by Jan A. Igoe
Every so often, when I’m down to my last wilted lettuce leaf and my Chinese takeout tab is approaching triple digits, I venture outside my comfort zone and into the supermarket.
By supermarket, I mean a food-tropolis the size of Saturn, where every item is continually orbiting around “for your shopping convenience.” It takes an experienced tour guide with a GPS to find the artichoke hearts. Even he won’t know where the sardines went since your last visit.
I would gladly hire a bounty hunter to apprehend some bananas and frozen dinners just to avoid the whole scene, but Dog and Beth aren’t returning calls. So it’s just me, alone with the fruits, nuts and other personality disorders. Maybe you’ve met some of my friends:
These brave female warriors (I’ve yet to see a guy) come armed with 4-inch-thick assault binders and an arsenal of alphabetical bargains sorted by expiration date. This is no hobby. It’s a grueling, full-time job, perfect for type-A personalities. If these ladies weren’t clipping coupons, they could be running the Pentagon with their exceptional administrative skill and readiness to do battle over a stray nickel. When you see someone pushing 96 cans of SpaghettiOs in her cart, get your crumb buns to the nearest checkout if you want to be home by Easter.
THE NAS-CART DRIVER
These are guys (I’ve yet to see a woman) who are under the impression that anything with wheels, even wiggly ones, should go fast. And there’s no better place to practice one’s Kyle Busch impersonation than aisle 67 of the local supermarket. As far as these race cart drivers are concerned, anyone dawdling between the gherkins and dills is blocking their straightaway. You’ll be safest by the cantaloupes, where the straights are shorter and the turns come up fast.
THE CLUELESS HERO
There’s always a wandering loner who is surprised he can’t find frozen broccoli in the produce section. You’ll recognize the unmistakable “my wife sent me” look of panic. He may be a decorated Navy SEAL, but he has never had his boots on the ground in a place like this. Just be patient, and if he asks, explain what freezers can do for food.
THE LANE HOGGERS
These people come in several flavors. Some just want to eat right, which is fine, as long as they don’t stop to read (and recite) every label in the store while blocking access to the poisonous product you came to buy. I try not to handle anything with gluten or GMOs in their presence, because they’ll remind me that I am about to die.
Supermarkets are also great places for sorority meetings and spontaneous social gatherings. When friends convene, it’s acceptable practice to park all their shopping carts across the aisle, cutting off traffic for the block party. They may let you pass; they may not. Sometimes it’s easier to grab a bag of pretzels and hang out with the mixed nuts.
When I design a supermarket, it will have traffic lights and yield signs inside the store to reduce collisions and remind dawdlers to move along. Extreme coupon-athoners can shop between midnight and 6 a.m., and we’ll install restrictor plates on our carts so they can’t break the sound barrier zooming past the Bisquick.
Sorry, Kyle. It’s an insurance thing.
JAN A. IGOE is still learning how to navigate the supermarket but will leave advanced coupon collecting to the pros. Kindred spirits can write her at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.