SUPERMARKET TRAUMABy Judy Prince
March 08, 2010
Consider this amazing fact: Cookbooks and diet books are equally popular. It’s like some kind of compulsive reading-guilt: “Make the perfect carrot cake!” and then “Watch inches vanish while you read the tabloids!” I guess it’s inevitable that reading cookbooks leads to reading diet books. Makes perfect sense, actually.
I’m convinced, as well, that there’s a causal connection between Do It Yourselfing and divorce. If you and your partner start upgrading your kitchen or bathroom, you’ll find yourselves washing dishes in the bathtub and peeing into ziploc bags, at which point you realise that major house projects are as nurturing of your relationship as “open” marriages and regularly flossing together.
Similarly, I think that supermarket shopping screws up our love lives. It’s a more potent weapon of love destruction than the silent and stubborn debate about which one of you will install a new roll of toilet paper on the springy thingy or whether a man remembers to put down the toilet seat so his wife doesn’t crack her coccyx when she sits.
I’ll go so far as to say that supermarket shopping destroys our sex hormones. It may have something to do with the automatic doors. I mean, if automatic doors are so harmless and wonderful, why don’t we have them installed in our homes? Is it because the dog would be freaked or the cat would perversely walk by the door every two minutes? Well, yeah, but…I think it’s also because the electric chicanery in automatic doors frays the nuclei of our estrogen and testosterone cells. Folks get edgy and irritable, especially since they’ve already swallowed their anger in the supermarket parking lot while furiously wanting to flip the bird at someone taking 12 minutes to maneuver out of a parking space or somebody coming the wrong way and swinging neatly into the place they’d been signaling to get into.
The fact is, people get all weird at the supermarket, and it starts in the parking lot. Gossip has it that a secret supermarket CEOs club has committed to regularly shrinking the size of each parking space. CEOs got the idea for this while seated on airplanes in Business Class and glancing back at squished passengers in Coach writhing under their seatbelts, their knees crushed to their chests.
Here’s a scary thought: Now that airlines don’t provide meals except to Business Class folk, what will this mean, equivalently, for your average supermarket shopper when the CEOs advance their aims? One hates to imagine. Maybe there’ll be a Business Class section in each supermarket. It would definitely have no queue, just a spritely “helper” to roll your Business Class cart to a mini-spa and enter your grocery items while another “helper” administers a pedicure and provides aromatherapy. The rest of the shoppers will be herded into pens like sheep, shorn of their valuables and clothing, then chucked out and tossed down a conveyor belt with their grocery bags hung around their necks. They’ll be able to buy back their clothing the following week at a “VINTAGE CLOTHING–HALF OFF” sale.
Early in your supermarket-shopping experience you’ll find that a leisurely stroll down the aisles will have you swerving to avoid temporary cardboard displays seeking to attract your attention. Like we need more attention-attracting. Just let me hang on to my grocery list and cart and roll up and down old familiar aisles of old familiar items hoping nobody stops in front of me–ever!
There’s another truth that pains me to say, but it needs saying.
Here it is. You see, dear Rodent is actually a menace–but only at the supermarket, and mostly with “trolleys”, as they call shopping carts in England. One can only marvel that this sweet, ever-patient, ever-generous paragon of all virtue has developed a blind spot for everything about trolleys. To put it more precisely, Rodent has a blind spot for everyone and everything EXCEPT HIS trolley.
I found it my civic duty to stay close to him, starting at the early stage of trolley selection, gently policing him as he plowed through the aisles causing folk to leap out of the way in horror, grab their little kids and Englishly pretend not to notice the Trolley Beast in their midst.
Eventually I insisted on pushing the trolley myself while Rodent ran around the aisles gathering and clutching tomatoes, shortbread, oatcakes and tinned tuna. He was not a happy camper, though, as he tried to find me, a leisurely shopper, and the trolley. I tended to drift over to the lingerie, socks, and “$1 for everything” displays, despite promising to meet him at the “Wet Fish” counter.
At last we could see that for me supermarket shopping was a kind of “night out”, whereas for Rodent it was an hour-long descent into Hades, after which he’d have to smoke his pipe for 80 seconds rather than 20, then he could face unloading groceries from the boot and carrying them into the house–after which, running on raw nerves, he’d help me put things into the fridge, freezer and pantry, and then he’d flee upstairs with a carrier bag of sour cream ‘n onion crisps, Fry’s Orange Cream bars, brownies, and new packets of pipe tobacco.
Supermarket managers in England have analysed the personal chaos and tragedy that grocery-shopping has caused, and they’ve cleverly started home deliveries that are quick, efficient, cheap, and as effective at saving marriages as babysitters and massage (exempting cases of folks who’ve massaged the babysitter).
Finally, dear Rodent and I decided to get groceries delivered, thus eliminating weekly Supermarket Hell.
Then we found out when we got to the USA three months ago that supermarkets here, as I’d thought, don’t deliver. They refer you to Meals on Wheels, a service for which we’re not qualified…yet.
So for three months now Rodent and I have been shopping at the supermarket again. I think he’s happily adjusting to the experience because they bag your groceries–a service not offered in England, and one which he found distressing, especially the torture of trying to open those white plastic bags. I told him to just spit on his finger and rub the top of the bag. No luck. Turns out he’d been trying to open the bottom of the bag.
The real reason Rodent has relaxed about shopping, though, is that now I just drop him off at the door, turn a blind eye to his wild trolleying, and am amazed at how soon he’s back in the car, all the goodies tucked neatly into the trunk.
It’s a trifle worrying that I don’t recognise most of the items he has bought, but that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and happy hormones.