Tales of a Grocery Gladiator

Healthy groceriesI never used to shop at this particular grocery store. When the kids were little, and as likely as not to pull themselves out of the cart and land on their heads, bolt out the door while I’m rifling for my wallet, or surreptitiously sneak a Snickers off the rack, it was just too much to deal with, and bag my own groceries.

This lack of bagging service means that the prices at this store are super reasonable, but for a mom of young kids, it also meant shopping excursions that were races down the aisles, me pulling crap into my cart as fast as I could before someone had a melt-down or a blow out, and then also remembering to pack the cold foods in with the cold, not inadvertently stowing the bread under the apples, while the next customer waited on me to clear the lane, and the kids threatened a WWF smackdown right there on the linoleum in front of God and everybody.

I couldn’t handle that kind of stress.

I remember my MIL telling me she’d look for young moms to help with their groceries while shopping here, probably abandoning my FIL to take care of their own stash while she played Fairy Godmother of the checkout lane. She’d had five of her own kids, she could sympathize.

I thought of her the other day while I was bagging my groceries at this same store. Alone. Now, instead of stressing me out, the whole shopping thing has become a game. Can I get through the overcrowded produce aisle and to the beer cooler and done, in between my last meeting of the day and the time the kid needs to be picked up from school across town? Loading up the bags is a satisfying test of my Tetris skills, and then I’m leisurely returning to swipe my card before the next customer unloads his cart.

I could be on American Gladiator: Grocery Edition.

“She’s rounding the corner from the bakery section … expertly assessing the checkout lanes before picking a target and moving in, and … OH MY GOD, she’s been blocked by the slow old guy with forty seven bags of bulk dried fruits and legumes … and the biggest box of kitty litter I’ve ever … it’s got a crinkle in one side, Larry, I think he’s going to haggle for a discount on that one.”

“Not a problem for our contender, Sam, look, she’s moving on, maneuvering that cart like it’s part of her, around the mom with the toddlers and then the college boys with the beer, and she’s going to slip in right behind the woman in the suit with the box wine and a People magazine. A wise choice of aisle, indeed, Sam, and her signature play. She could go all the way to the semi-finals.”

On this particular day, I was bagging my groceries when I saw a woman pulling items one at a time out of her cart, a weeks-old baby in the crook of her other arm. She left her cart in the line of traffic and moved to the end of the aisle to bag her groceries. The woman had about two dozen oranges spilling out of a bag after the checker carelessly weighed them and shoved them her way. She bagged them one at a time. A bottleneck of grumpy shoppers behind her.

“Look at her go, Larry, she’s done bagging in record time – and I must say the tidy way she’s got those cereal boxes lined up in her canvas totes is impressive – and now she’s moving on … she’s … oh my GOD Larry, she’s bagging that baby-orange lady’s groceries now, TOO.”

“Now that’s not something you see everyday here on American Gladiator, Sam, real teamwork. The baby lady’s still loading her oranges one-handed and there’s our champion, scooping everything else up and bagging it, waving off the baby lady’s protestations and clearing the whole aisle.”

I’d always thought I’d do the same thing as my MIL in that store, once I got to the point where I didn’t have toddlers clinging to me, but until now, I really hadn’t noticed anyone needing help.

As engrossed as I was with my little grocery-ninja-lympics fantasy, it’s really no wonder.

A couple things I noticed about this exercise:

  1. It’s an incredibly vulnerable thing, letting someone peruse your groceries. What the hell did this woman need with so many oranges? Not my business, but I wondered. I know I wouldn’t want anyone analyzing the crap I stock for our family. And,
  2. What is the deal with accepting someone else’s help? This woman was going to take forever to load her groceries, one orange at a time. Of course she needed help. And I’d totally have refused it, were I in her position.

Is that a woman thing? A mom thing? A western thing? This polite “no thank you,” when in reality we should be saying “yes, I’m completely not up to this, thank god you came along.”

What is that?

These thoughts preoccupied me as I was pulling into our neighborhood later – the nature of help and of groceries and whether or not my popsicles were melting – when I passed a neighbor struggling with her ginormous garbage bin about halfway down her driveway.

I pulled over, and got out. Full of the altruistic spirit, I waved her off.

“Here let me,” I said not waiting for her to say “no, thank you,” as I was sure she would.

“Wait … what … no, I …” she followed me down to the end of the driveway as I wheeled the behemoth over the curb and deposited it into the street for her.

I slapped my hands together. Another job done. Another reluctant lady saved by my heroism. “There you go,” I waved as I turned back to my car.

“But, … I was pulling it back into my garage.”

Uh. Oops. I guess if I’m going to be zealous with the assistance, I should work on my powers of observation as well.


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Photo by: Greggavedon.com

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  1. Go! Go! Go! Go! 🙂

    I find it interesting that someone else\’s screaming baby/toddler doesn\’t phase me one bit. BC (Before Children b/c it certainly doesn\’t mean Birth Control), I would get annoyed while out shopping or at a restaurant and someone\’s kid(s) would be all loud and unruly. Now, AC (After Children), I can totally empathize and offer a sympathetic smile. I don\’t know if I can say I\’ve done a good deed like yours, but I say not giving the moms dirty looks is something.

  2. Oh, your MIL is a saint! I\’ve had so many horror stories at the grocery store with a bunch of kids in tow, including a newborn. I\’ve had several people over the years offer to help me and I usually refuse the help too. For some reason it\’s hard for me to ask for/accept help too, but I always appreciate the offer! I really admire people who look for ways to help others, especially those who don\’t take no for an answer and help anyway!