Busy Sunday grocery stores have to be one of the most vicious tests of my patience that exist in this society. When we first walk in to HEB, there is literally a cart at every turn. Each time I think I’m going to go down an aisle and be able to easily get to whatever item I’m looking for, I turn down that aisle and see the traffic jam of a reality that is people trying to prepare for their week.
My girlfriend and I even made a list that corresponded to the entrance and exit to the grocery store to try and make our time even more efficient (who am I kidding, my girlfriend made the list). It helps, but only a bit. 10 items that we should be able to get in 15 minutes. Judging by the time it takes to get to the first 3 items on our list, we misjudged that time frame by about 30 minutes or so. Glad we will be heading straight home after we leave the store.
Navigating the Aisles
I start to look at all the people like obstacles in an old Atari game. This is how I used to handle the hallways as a teenager in high school. When you go to a school that has about 2,000+ kids in attendance everyday, you get use to weaving your way through a crowd efficiently. Mind you, I was not always on time to class. Then again, when you have 7 classes on different sides of a building, that is larger than a couple football fields, and…you only have 5 minutes between each class to…
- go to your locker
- possibly use the restroom
- talk to a few friends
- prepare your brain to absorb a new subject
- AND get to each class before the bell rang
…running late every now and then (or a lot of the time) was kind of expected.
I start numbing myself to the crowd at the grocery store and start filing the people away as sketches and jokes in my head:
- The guy with his 2 items in a grocery cart aggressively headed toward the milk. I guess he’s really gotta have his Pops…
- The eight member family that is walking slower than humanly possible, as if they have choreographed a slow modern dance around their grocery cart, all whilst blocking the largest aisle in the store.
- The frantic lady with an overflowing cart that keeps stalling, changing directions, and can’t seem to make up her mind. Possibly an indicator of how she lives her life.
- The endless sea of random kids that keep popping out of nowhere, forcing me to scan and stop every fifteen paces, and causing my girlfriend to quietly gasp and touch me on the back of the arm each time she sees one that I don’t. This ocean of children makes me doubt my urge to have kids at some point.
I start thinking about how many friends I have. How many people I care about in my life. Then I compare it to how many people live in this city. In this state. In this country. In this world. Now, as I reach out and grab some bananas, I am intellectually panic-stricken and overwhelmed. I think to myself, there is no way, as a species, we are on a course of improvement. We are all a bunch of mouth-breathers, and the world is just going to eliminate us like the cancer we are.
I grab the last remaining items on our grocery list, spinach and apples, thinking “ugh…what’s the point?”…
The Check Out Line
We go to check out. I look at the endless tabloids, and feel another wall of “we’re so screwed” attitude washing over me. I see Jillian Michaels on the cover of some magazine, and contemplate an NPR’s This American Life episode I had heard awhile back about psychopathy in business executives. My girlfriend comments on Gwen Stefani being pregnant. I kind of give an ,”oh that’s great…” noise and shrug thinking ‘ugh, another kid in the world.’
As I start to put the groceries on the conveyor belt, I sink back into reality and start to wonder why I am being such a shit head in my own brain. I look at the lady who is checking out ahead of us. She seems like she is enjoying herself just fine. She catches me observing her. I politely smile, she smiles back. I’m reminded, I’m not walking around in some god damn movie.
All of these strange humans are trying to make it in this world just like my girlfriend and I. They have their own frustrations, goals, loves, hates, failures, and successes to deal with. We probably, at some point in our rush through the store, blocked someone’s way, ended up on someone’s humorous mental list of weird grocery store inhabitants, or made someone question their faith in humanity and the survival of our species.
Leaving the store
We go out to the car to leave the store, and this woman is loading her kids into a grocery cart getting ready to go in and brave the crowded grocery store. The little girl is waving at everyone that passes by with a huge smile on her face, as her mother is trying to get her squirming brother to sit down. My girlfriend waves back and I smile. Then, my girlfriend looks at me and smiles. I see in her big lovely eyes the reason to keep my faith in humanity.
We get in the car, and she comments, “Can you imagine how much effort it must take just to get your kids ready to go to a trip to the store?” I reply with a quiet exhalation of a “Yeah…” And, I am not frustrated with the world or humanity any longer. In this moment, I am inspired by it and in love with life.