Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Time In Hell

Going grocery shopping is not my personal favorite chore. 

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!

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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. 

23 comments:

  1. Hahahaha! Your posts just crack me up sometimes! I avoid the self checks too. I usually end up having all my kids along and cant concentrate on how to measure produce and such while trying to keep the kids under control. Ive had my share of inept CHECKERS. Sometimes I feel like being rude and asking them to ask for help (especially with my WIC checks). Can they not see I have a cart full of kids? Hurry up!
    Funny post! Thanks for the smiles this morning :o)

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    1. Anytime :) Yeah, I don't think I would even ATTEMPT self-check with more than a baby on-board. Too much pressure!

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  2. Do you have grocery delivery down there? It costs $8 up here for the delivery, which I balked at at first. But you know? That's a small price to pay for my time and my sanity. Also, almost all your dry food and pantry stuff can be ordered on amazon with free shipping.
    I hate the grocery store, too, so I have this well thought out :)

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    1. Grocery delivery? That's brilliant! This makes me want to move back to the USA. But in the meantime, I think I'll head over to the Amazon dry goods section...

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    2. I think we do have grocery delivery, but I've never looked into it. But Amazon? I've said it before and I'll say it again: you are a genius. I'm a prime member (which makes me both sad and glad...) so it should work out perfectly. Thanks, dearie!

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  3. You're too funny! But I respond the same way to poorly bagged groceries.

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  4. Haha! But I am SO with you on the organization necessary for grocery bagging. OF COURSE the cold stuff goes together! And yes I did put all the cans on the belt together so they would be bagged together. And too bad that Miriam was happily holding that bag of beans, it belonged with the other dry goods and absolutely couldn't wait because then it would be with the produce!

    And that electronic voice was totally yelling at you. It's happened to me, too, and I didn't even have the excuse of having a baby with me. Stay far, far away from the mean self-checkout.

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not alone here. Neat-freaks of the grocery store conveyor belt UNITE!!

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  5. Oh my goodness, you are SO me!!! I always organize my groceries on the belt and then cringe when they start picking and choosing and for pete's sake, let me at least put them in my cart instead of just tossing them in and crushing all my softies!! I thought I was neurotic about this because I used to be a checker....I was actually trained in this area (crazy I know!) I'm pretty sure Walmart does not take as much interest in this dept. as other groceries stores ha ha. I'm glad to see that others feel the same way...maybe common sense is a little bit common afterall..? And as for the self check out...I can't remember when the last time was I tried that (our Wal-mart is not big time enough ha ha) but yes, it always screams at me or freezes up or something, I have never attempted it with more than 4 items!!

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    1. I didn't think I had too many items. I was wrong :)

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  6. This post is hilarious! I never do self-checkout because it stresses me out.

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    1. Thanks, D! I remember an article I read a while back that said self-check was getting less and less common. Maybe if they'd get a nicer voice system...

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  7. I'm exactly like you -- I always thought it was because I worked at a grocery store for 4 years in high school -- we had it drilled into us that you NEVER put meat with anything else, cans go on the bottom, bread and eggs on the top or in their own separate bags, don't make the bags too heavy, etc. etc. And I try to be helpful to the cashiers, just like you. I organize everything in just the order that they need to bag it in but THEY DON'T PAY ATTENTION! How dare they? ;) Seriously, though, I've been tempted to call the manager a time or two and give them a hard time about what kind of training they're giving ;) However...I've never attempted to manage the self-checkout, and judging from your experience...maybe it's better not to complain to much and just let the cashiers do their thing :)

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    1. Don't try it, Amy! It'll ruin your self-confidence!

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  8. Self checkout is a nightmare. I always avoid it when I'm alone, but Chris always insists it's faster. He's probably right, too, but there's just nothing more frustrating than the little ones trying to "help" put the groceries in the bags when you have that automatic voice yelling at you and the self-checkout attendant eyeing you with suspicion.

    This post was great: cringe-worthy, funny, and so well-written!

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    1. Maybe it IS faster for Chris: he seems very analytical and able to think in stressful situations. Not me :)

      Thank you, Em!

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  9. I have never loved grocery shopping, but I have actually learned to like the self checkout.... But only because I never have too much to deal with! I'm sorry that your grocery shopping was so horrendous, but thanks for making it hilarious and sharing it with us!

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    1. I'm here to humiliate myself for your pleasure! And I'm glad self-check works well for you -- you must be the chosen one! (Either that or too intelligent for the rest of us :)

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  10. You are hilarious, Sarah! The guy clearing his throat of plegm made me literally laugh out loud :) Pass the Oreos, my friend.

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    1. Good! I like to hear Lenae-laughter. Brightens my day :)

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  11. You? Crack me up! And self-checkout is horrible. I can't ever do it without ending up needing help, so I never use it. And I tell myself that it's not because I'm avoiding something I'm clumsy and stupid about, it's because I'm righteously protesting against evil machines taking human's jobs!

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    1. Yes! Righteous protest!! From now on, that's my story, too ;)

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?