Sunday, November 05, 2006

What's in Your Cart?

The grocery store in the pond is a fascinating place. I like to go and glide through the aisles, looking at all the colorful boxes and bags. The most fun I have is by watching the people though. Just like the forest, the grocery store has many different types of species.

The first rare species is the single female. She usually carries a basket instead of a cart, and fills her basket with fresh fruit and lean cuisine meals. She may toss in some cottage cheese and a few yogurt's, with some bran flake cereal. A little deli meat, low fat cheese and wheat bread and she's in the check out line. She throws three or four magazines on the conveyer belt, and a few chocolate bars. Occasionally, there will be a pint of double fudge ice cream and a fresh bottle of chocolate syrup. Those are the times the cashiers flirt a little more with the single female, which she responds to by laughing with her mouth open to show all her teeth, shaking her hair back. It's similar to the baboons mating ritual.

The second rare spices is the single male. This is different then the bachelor. The single male is generally unkempt and bored. He throws as many pizzas and frozen meals in his basket as possible. Realizing he should have gotten a buggy, he just grabs another basket instead. He loads up with chocolate and regular milk, chips and sour cream dip, pork rinds and beef and hamburger buns. He grabs bacon and eggs, and has to get a separate buggy for the beer and soft drinks he hauls home. A few cans of peanuts and beans, and he is set for the month. In the check out line, he brags to the cashier that he can crush a beer can on his forehead. The big event of his weekend is watching the football game on his buddy's big screen TV.

The third rare species is the bachelor. The bachelor tends to get a buggy and select a few bottles of wine and freshly baked Italian bread. He tends to fill his cart with pre-mixed meals in a bag, along with pasta, chicken and several types of fancy meats. He only eats expensive deli meat on rye or sourdough bread with his own specialty mixed mayonnaise. If it is a special occasion, he might create a dip with crackers. He stares blankly at the cashier, wondering if the minimum wage worker in front of him is smart enough to put all his cold things together.

The sub-group of the bachelor is the lonely bachelor. This man has a look of sadness in his eyes as he slunks around the grocery store. He buys alcohol, soda and bread with a package of hot dogs. When he stands behind you in line, avoiding your eyes, you wonder if he actually eats. The image of him sitting in a ragged armchair watching a rabbit-eared television, drinking cheap beer in a paper cup pops in your mind. It makes you want to touch his arm, tell him it'll be ok. However, it wouldn't help. Whether it is a broken family or a job that has slowly eroded his soul over decades, one touch won't help him. All that can help him is love, and the kind you can't give.

The next group is the Old Ladies. The old ladies shuffle around the store in what looks like a pink housecoat, looking confused. They buy a lot of cat food and fresh fruit. They tend to buy colorful packages, not really looking at them until they've gotten home. At every sample cart, they stop to chat for several minutes before going through their routine list. Since they've been fixing the same menu for decades, they don't have to think as they walk blindly through the aisle, pulling things off the shelves. However, at the baby aisle they stop and inform everyone within sight that their grandchild is the most brilliant baby ever. They follow their chosen prey through the store, waving photos and chattering wildly. Before they leave, they select a few motivational books to read for the week. Then they donate them to a local shelter.

The next group is the young married/ living together couple. This couple dances through the aisles, giggling and kissing. They get in fights over what kind of chicken to buy, and what percent milk. After sulking through the cereal and soup aisle, they passionately make up in the fruit section. They squabble about different cleaning products and bread types, but leave with a full cart stuffed with enough food to feed an army. One side of the cart is stuffed with health food, while the other is overflowing with chips and ice cream sandwiches. They'll be back the next week.

The subgroup of the married couple is the older married couple. This couple is either childless or their children are grown. This couple has begun a cooking class and spends an hour arguing with the meat market over the different cuts of meat. They cook exotic meals, and buy fine wines and breads. The majority of the time they eat out, so the major shopping is done when the kids come in. However, they always keep a supply of snacks on hand for last-minute home visits. They usually have a puppy or a kitten, and fill their cart full of dog food and toys.

The final group is the family with kids. This group varies and is the most populous of all the groups. Whether it is the parents with the children or just the mother or father with the children, it is a moving ball of chaos. The children hang from the cart shrieking, arms extended as their grubby hands grab everything down the aisle. They throw candy and rip cereal boxes open to pour into open mouths. At the slightest discipline, they fall onto the floor in a tantrum that shatters the overhead lights. The parents respond through threats and grim faces as they grit their teeth and charge through the aisles. Snapping at the cashiers, they pull their children from the toy machines and head to drop off groceries before the afternoon soccer game.

Grocery shopping is an adventure in itself, and it does make me wonder. What do people think when they look in my cart? Do they see a cute Blonde Duck, or do they see a matter of mass confusion? I guess I will never know.