When I was a newlywed, I loved going to the store with Justin and lazily filling a cart. The process was so domestic. So simple and lovely.
Now when I go to the grocery store, it's when I can wedge a trip between the baby's nap and preschool pick-up. The cart is filled with the baby carrier almost to the exclusion of any groceries and poor Landon swims in a sea of food.
|Remember this? Happens every week...|
I'm sweating by the time I've raced around the store's perimeter, my cart probably has a stiff wheel, and Lauren's preschool ends in ten minutes. I'll be late. I'm always late. Then, at home, there's no newlywed husband waiting with strong arms to unload my purchases; there's only me. Me with the baby on this hip and the preschooler on this hand and new naps unfolding like a lover's arms before us.
Still, grocery shopping isn't all bad. There are a few moments of joy that come as I load my things onto the conveyor belt. You have to understand: organization thrills me. Perhaps because I see so little of it in my home, and am too undisciplined to make it more common. The conveyor belt is a small, manageable bit of organizational pleasure. Grouping the products by temperature and heft and boxiness and tenderness. I take a shocking amount of geeky pride in providing the cashier with easy-to-bag items. Even more so if I've remembered my cloth bags. (Which is almost never.)
So when my efforts are thwarted by a disturbingly inept bagger, it takes all of my tactful willpower to not push her aside and bag the items myself. I mean, I HAD the cream RIGHT there next to the butter and you put it...with the bananas?! It's hard, you guys, being so generous with my bitten tongue. I say nothing. But in the parking lot, I rearrange a few things (tortillas on top of a whole chicken? really? dishwasher detergent alongside flour? REALLY?) so that my nervous tic won't make the drive home more dangerous than it needs to be. I can breathe easily once the frozen things are stacked together next to the refrigerated things and all of my heavy produce is nestled snugly away from the bruisable bananas.
But there's this thing that's in the corner of my mind: I could do the bagging BY MYSELF if I went to self-checkout. I usually eschew the option because honestly, my overloaded cart is too full to make the option any less time consuming than the regular checkout.
Until the day it wasn't. I ran into town for a handful of things and needed to hurry; self-checkout was empty, so there I made my stand.
I felt proud of the beeps as my products were scanned across the lasers. I weighed my plums. I rolled my oatmeal carton. I swished my cheese across the glass. It was all very satisfying.
But before I knew it, I had boxed goods bagged with my grapes and a large yogurt carton tipping over beside my bread. My head almost exploded right there on the beeping register, but I pressed on. I tried to move the yogurt into a different bag to alleviate the pressure. Just as I lifted it, the robot-machine pinged noisily at me:
Please put the item BACK in the bag before scanning your next item. Please put the item BACK in the...
I obeyed, flustered, and Stoneyfield Farms lay sullenly beside Earthgrains. The world tilted, but I couldn't intervene again. The pinging machine would notice, and then there'd be hell to pay. In the form of attention garnered by robot-lady's accusatory voice.
Now there was another customer waiting behind me, shifting from foot to foot while my hands hovered over a pound of ground turkey. But I couldn't put that in yet, because the bag in front of me was still waiting and I needed to choose something to match the bread...or the yogurt.
WHICH THING DID I NEED TO MATCH?!
It was becoming too much for me. My cheeks caught fire and the customer behind me cleared some phlegm. I panicked. I grabbed a can of diced tomatoes and ran it across the lasers while reaching for another item -- any item -- to complete this hellish madness. But I had forgotten to bag the tomatoes before scanning the Oreos...
PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAG! I swore the robot-machine-lady-voice was yelling at me, and I dropped the can of tomatoes on the scanner with a crash.
I looked around nervously. The self-check attendant was eyeing a clipboard, but I just knew she was about to declare me incompetent and boot me over into checkout lane 5, where a mother of twin toddlers was wrangling three carts' worth of food onto a groaning conveyor belt.
The Oreos seemed to mock me. The tomatoes sobbed great, acidic tears. The phlegmy customer leaned against his cart. The store spun in trippy circles.
My heart cried out, I need my mama!
So I ripped into the Oreos as soon as my tushie hit the driver's seat. I mean, what other option did I have?
Yeah, me and grocery shopping aren't on the best of terms right now. And self-checkout can die a slow death. Long live cashiers and baggers.
'Inept' is saintly compared to what I'M capable of in the checkout line.