Friday, February 5, 2010

Loaves and Fishes

When there are so many cars circling the parking lot that you need they all blend together in one conga line of horns and blinkers, you know it is going to be a bad trip to the grocery store.

I live near a Wegmans. If you do not, I pity you. It is quite simply, the greatest grocery store on earth. Going to Wegmans for lunch and getting to people-watch from the second-floor balcony while she chows down is my daughter’s favorite thing to do. However; Wegmans on a good day is busy. Before a holiday, it is crowded. When Jewish and Christian holidays overlap, it is bedlam. On a Friday before a snowstorm, it is absolute pandemonium.

So I drove by Wegmans, ignoring the siren song of a fruit smoothie and a small batch of divine chocolate chip cookies and instead drove to my pokey, yet perfectly adequate usual shopping spot. That is when I realized that much like Dante, I was about to face the nine layers of hell.

  1. Parking. I had both kids with me, so my preferred spot is near a cart return stall. Today, it meant finding any spot at all. I drove around a few aisles until I managed to snag a spot far enough from Shoprite that I needed a map and guide dog to find my car again.
  2. Carts. The poor schmo on cart duty was only corralling one or two per trip instead of the usual dozens. I also saw people standing at the edge of trunks, watching anxiously at groceries were unloaded so that they could zip in and grab the cart the second it was emptied. I managed to snag the cart of choice, a “driving” cart: two steering wheels, half the amount of storage, and almost no maneuverability. No ankle is safe.
  3. Deli. Dozens of people were standing in one very small section, nudging forward inch by inch as though the closer they are to the counter, the faster their number would be called. This never works, but it does not stop people from trying.
  4. Snack food. Mercifully, it is Super Bowl weekend which means the store is overstocked on Doritos and Tostitos. There was more than enough salty carbs for everyone.
  5. Meat. There were exactly two packages of ground beef left in the store. In fact, all red meat was all but gone. Chicken was still in stock but going fast. Carts were lined three deep as people dove into the cases, grabbing packages of meat out of the butcher’s hands like so many ducks diving for breadcrumbs. PETA would not be pleased.
  6. Dairy. Blessedly, our store was heavily fortified and there was plenty of eggs and milk in stock. It was slim pickings in the ice cream aisle though. Who knew ice cream was so popular in winter?
  7. Bread. Ok people, how many loaves do you need? Toast for breakfast, slices for sandwiches, and then what? You are trying to feed a crowd of exultant followers. (And if you were, it doesn’t count as a miracle if you “multiply” by buying it all at Shoprite.)
  8. Center aisles. Jam packed with people trying to get one item that was, of course, at the complete opposite end of where they started. I spent ten full minutes looking for marshmallows. Mini’s for cocoa and giant ones for indoor, oven-baked smores. My quest was not in vain.
  9. Checkout. Ah, now this is where it got dicey. Some people mistakenly believed that the checkout lanes were operating on a one-line, multiple checker system. They believed there was a manager up front directing traffic. As a result, there were dozens of people in one long undulating queue winding through the frozen food and dairy aisles all uttering ominous warnings to any shopper who dared pass. Imagine their level of anger upon realizing it was the regular one-cashier, one line system. Not good. Not good at all.

Luckily, I emerged relatively unscathed. It took me one full hour, one opened box of snack mix and one bottle of water (to share) to keep the kids quiet, and all the patience I could muster not to kill the people aimlessly wandering as if it were a slow Tuesday in summer, but I did manage to get everything I needed to feed a family of four. Mission accomplished. Now, if it doesn’t snow, I am going to be PISSED.

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