It‘s sometimes important to stay out of the way. I’ve learned this over the past 66 years of my life. This concept is especially true when you find yourself at the supermarket. I try to stand in front of the most innocuous products on display, in hopes I could hide as my wife picks out the most perfect bunch of bananas.
Following my wife through the supermarket or, as I used to call it, grocery store, I was impressed how easy it was for her to fly through the labyrinth of shopping carts and displays. They were placed in the middle of the aisles to not only sell the products but to drive everyone in the store to stress levels they never wanted to reach.
We worked our way through the store, to finally reach one of my wife’s favorite parts of the store. It had every type of vegetable I knew and a few I hadn’t imagined existed. Understanding only the vegetables I remembered seeing in my refrigerator, and could pronounce, I was surprised by a sudden burst of cold water flowing from the top of the refrigerator case.
At first, I though some sort of water- line had broken. An older, almost hysterically giggling woman came to my aid, explaining that a spray system is used to keep the vegetables looking fresh. Of course, I couldn’t quite understand how watering carrots in plastic bags could help them stay fresher.
Walking through the the vegetable aisle, I wondered if the mirrors lining the back of the case were one-way and a store manager was in back having the time of his life. Continuing through the produce area there were fruits I never knew existed. There were miniature bananas and things that looked more like roots than fruits. I thought I saw a face but it was simply the reflection of a rather bluish watermelon.
The apple section surprised me with at least 15 different varieties of apple in neat, formed piles. Some were so perfect in color and shape that they looked more like waxed replicas, than the real thing. I later discovered the more perfect the apples looked, the more like wax they tasted.
Toward the back of the store was the delicatessen area. Originally from New York City, I figured this would be easy. Since my wife had more important foods to find, she sent me out on a mission. I took a number and waited my turn. I found out this was the area for a Type A personality.
When the person behind the counter called out a number, not only did everyone surrounding me look at his or her number but also made sure no one had the capacity to skip in line according to the chronology of a single piece of paper. When called on, I confidently ordered one pound of turkey.
The person behind the counter hesitated a few seconds and asked me what type of turkey I wanted. There are different types? After I stared blankly for a few seconds she broke my stupor by explaining turkey could be in the form of pastrami, ham, bologna, or hot dogs. Hot dogs? She asked if I wanted just turkey.
“Yes!” I answered, hoping the questions would come to an end. Well, she continued, how would you like it cut and what calorie variety would you like? “Yes”, I answered again noticing that the girl behind the counter just sighed and cut the amount I ordered. Or, at least, I think I ordered.
When she came back, she asked if I wanted something else. Quickly I ordered the one thing I knew she would understand. “One pound of American cheese!” I bellowed ,hoping all who surrounded me might understand I knew what I was doing.
The girl’s face turned blank as she asked me what type and color I wanted. “Yes”, was the only answer I could give, hoping this experience would soon come to an end? Who would have known blue cheese based guacamole pepper sauce was a favorite among many shoppers.
Finding my wife at the milk and egg departments, I proudly gave her the neatly-wrapped plastic bags containing the meats that I was assigned to order. She was about to say something, but decided not to, because of a rather pathetic look on my face. I never realized milk came, not only in different sizes but also different levels of fat.
The bread aisle was the longest and with the most varieties. Like milk, breads came in varying degrees of calories per slice, type, size, and even color. The frozen food department reminded me of my trips to museums displaying colorful works of art behind large glass cases.
Arriving at the check-out counter I saw an assembly line that would have made Henry Ford jealous. Within minutes we were buzzed and beeped through a type of laser computer that registered my purchases.
I only wished it took a bit longer, so I could read about every strange occurrence that ever occurred on the planet through the headlines of the many newspapers and magazines that entertained the shopper while he, or she, was waiting to leave. I never knew Martians originally came from Arizona.
Two bag boys placed my groceries in another giant cart. We were escorted from the store within minutes. Before we left, I was given a giant receipt that told me not only the prices of my groceries but also exactly what I had bought. The number on the bottom of the receipt shocked me the most; $295.96.
Driving home I came to a rude awakening. I had just spent more for groceries than I paid for the mortgage on my first home.
Surviving the labyrinth of our not-so-modern super markets by Jim Fabiano.
Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer who lives in York, Maine USA.
You can E-mail Jim at: email@example.com