Over the years I have become something of a power shopper. Sadly, my shopping is not done at Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman’s or anywhere with any kind of panache. Instead my power shopping is done at the local Walmart where I storm the aisles, pushing my shopping cart like it’s a portable tank and accomplishing the questionable feat of buying a week’s worth of groceries in under forty-two minutes.
Like any true competitor, I challenge myself each week to see if I can get the shopping done a little faster so I can get out of the store that much sooner. I suspect that if I shopped at someplace slightly (OK, HUGELY) more glamorous or anywhere with free samples I might not be in such a rush but since I don’t, I have to content myself with setting new speed records for getting milk, bread, cat food and a twelve-pack of Tab into the shopping cart and me out the front doors faster than the speed of light.
Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at grocery shopping, if I modestly say so myself. I’ve memorized the layout of the store and my grocery list is always in chronological order, starting in produce and ending up in frozen. I also stack my coupons so that they are in order too. Occasionally it is a little depressing to realize that the one thing in life that I have truly excelled at is being a neat and orderly grocery shopper but I try not to dwell on it. After all, we can’t all be Meryl Streep.
As with anything in life, there are always pitfalls that must be avoided when grocery shopping. I have learned never to shop on Saturday afternoons, never shop when I’m hungry and to always shop alone to avoid the impulse buying tendencies of certain males I live with. Unencumbered I can fly through Walmart like Mary Poppins on her way to a tea party. With anyone along the process takes twenty minutes longer and costs at least fifty dollars more.
But the biggest pitfall I encounter when trying to best my previous week’s speed shopping record is typically the family reunion that is happening in the produce section. Or the chips aisle. Or in front of the cheese cooler. Just as I am careening around a corner with the checkout line in view, I am forced to come to a screeching halt due to a large group of people gathered together talking about such vital things as their neighbor’s niece who just moved to New Mexico or Uncle Jack’s gallbladder flare up or how high their sunflowers are so far this season or what Aunt Edna’s eye doctor told her about statins. Naturally, no one moves so much as a centimeter to let any other shoppers pass and just as naturally no one makes eye contact with all of the shoppers who are flattening their bodies against the rye bread and English muffins as they try to maneuver their way to the gluten free hot dog buns.
I used to be one of the people who attempted to politely scoot past the rude creeps conducting their meet and greet dead center of the aisle. Not anymore. Now I push my cart forward until it is almost but not quite touching the tailbone of the worst offender and say in my best outdoor voice, “EXCUSE ME!” The group typically slinks over to one side—still not making eye contact—while I triumphantly sail toward the whole grain wheat bread, feeling the dirty looks and glares I am getting for breaking up the party burning into my back.
I’m fine with that. No, I’m GREAT with that. I actually enjoy being the killjoy of the grocery store party set. Which gives me something else to be depressed over if I think about it for too long. When I was a little girl I always dreamed that someday I would go to sophisticated cocktail parties and laugh over champagne with the likes of my generation’s Noel Coward (although I haven’t been able to pinpoint who that would be as of yet). I never dreamed that instead I would get my jollies by breaking up family reunions in the bread aisle at Walmart.
Which all goes to prove that what you dream about might never come true but you can still entertain yourself in some highly peculiar ways.