Shopping for a good story

For many people, shopping is a sport.  Some glory in finding a bargain, others, well, I really don’t get it.  At all costs, I avoid:

  • department stores with wall-to-wall people and loud muzak that now consists of songs I actually know
  • dressing rooms with curtains that don’t close or doors that don’t lock
  • grocery stores, where carts and stacks of jars attack you even as you tiptoe by
  • malls packed wall-to-wall with people, and constructed to keep you lost so you keep drifting aimlessly, buying more
  • high-ceilinged big-box stores, where it’s impossible to find a salesperson and hurts the conscience to think about their pay scale and benefits
  • craft stores with flickering florescent lights and smelly unidentifiable things
  • high-end stores, like Bloomingdale’s, where “my kind” (i.e. not particularly feminine woman dressed in jeans and an untucked t-shirt) stick out like a sore thumb

If I have to go shopping, it’s because I have a specific thing in mind I want to buy.  No browsing: get in, get out.

I despise shopping.

JRA Cycles web page

Unless it’s a bike shop.  Or hiking and outdoor gear (who couldn’t use another jacket?).  Camera and a/v equipment stores, if there’s a knowledgeable salesperson with time for technical talk.
Hmm. I guess I’m not immune to idle “window-shopping.” It just depends on whether it’s plate glass or float, safety or bullet-proof, or plexi- or anti-reflective, in a double-hung, casement, or porthole. . .

As you might have guessed, I’m not the grocery shopper in our house.  It’s embarassing when I try to zip into one of the 4 big grocery stores within a 2 mile radius–I have no idea where to find anything.  However, put me in a Whole Foods and suddenly I perk up.  It’s the oddest thing.  I think it’s because it feels like fun.  I don’t have to figure out what’s missing from the cupboard or what we should eat this week (I’m not the cook either).  I can concentrate on finding what we each like: our special treats.

  • For my partner, I get Stonyfield Greek yogurt with honey, some beef, and, most shocking of all: vegetables. Under normal circumstances, I’m rarely seen voluntarily approaching green food.
  • For our son, I grab a couple of bananas, snow or snap peas, tamari sesame seed rice cakes, and whole grain pasta.
  • For me, it’s Brown Cow plain yogurt, and a full-fat maple one because I can’t resist; some sort of “crunchy granola” granola or cereal; dark, freshly roasted, decaf coffee beans; and, I kid you not, all of the Honest Agave Mate on the shelf.

Today, I went to the Big Whole Foods, near Memorial Drive in Cambridge.  It approaches my limit for noise level and overall size, but it was mid-day, and I knew they’d have my Agave Mate.  The few stores that carry Honest Mate usually opt for the overly sweet Tropical or Sublime mates.  Since I was all out at home, I couldn’t take the risk of going to the Whole Foods with the Starbucks inside.

Delicata Squash: into the basket
Honest Mate

I wandered here and there.  A Delicata Squash jumped into the basket, but I boxed out the yellow beets and they hopped back to their fellow root vegetables.  My cart grew heavy with coconut soup, lots of greek honey yogurt, and the 8 bottles of Agave Mate they had.

I pulled up to the checkout, noticed there was an older white man poised to bag, and gave him my reusables.  I loaded the belt in the order in which I wanted each bag packed: heavy stuff, then what isn’t easily injured, then the delicate items.  Then repeat as many times as necessary: heavy, durable, delicate.  I slid along until I was next to the bagger, who asked me if I’d like the groceries brought down.  “Hunh?”  He gestured at the plastic bins lined up next to an elevator.  “Oh,” I said, “good idea!”

“Yes, I think you should,” he said.  “I’d hate to see you try to carry those bags down the escalator.  You might get to the bottom, trip, crack your head open, and be taken off in an ambulance.”

“Oh,” I said.  “Good point. Wow, you’ve got a whole story going there.”

“Yep, we have it all for you, including stories.  I just gave you enough for a novel.”

“Hmm.  I only need a short story.”

“Well, okay.  If I see it in The New Yorker, I’ll know where it came from.”

I turned my attention to the cashier.  Waiting to sign the slip, I said “you know, that’s really not enough for an entire story.”  The cashier smiled as the old man told me “hey, you’ve got to do some of the work: round it out!”

He handed me two numbered cards.  I looked at them curiously.  “I’ve never done this before. What do I do with these?”

“Are you parked inside or outside? Outside? Okay, bring your car in underneath the building.  Pull up right next to the conveyor belt.  There will be a nice young woman or man, one or the other, waiting for you with the bags.”  I noticed his silver earring.

“Yes, I suppose it has to be one or the other,” I said.  We bantered about whether dogs might work.  The cashier said “no!” and rolled her eyes.  I jaunted off, cold mate in hand, made it down the escalator without incident, found the nice young man who loaded the groceries in the car, just like they used to at the Hinky Dinky, and drove home without a siren or blinking red lights.

I hadn’t paused to tell him I can’t write fiction: why disappoint him.  But I figured I shouldn’t waste the material.  Is that why people go shopping?  Because it makes for a good story?  Now I get it!

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Shopping for a good story by Kim Brookes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Permission to Use.

2 thoughts on “Shopping for a good story

  1. So enjoyable! Love how you turned the bagger's comment into a story! Very clever. Love the writing style. you really have a talent for writing. really. keep on truckin' – I know this phrase isn't lost on you – it's not every day I can use it 🙂

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