“Men and grocery shopping” used to be a phrase that was comedy gold, on par with that other vaudevillian four-word phrase, “take my wife, please!” But in this day and age of stay at home dads and liberated women, this phrase has moved from the comedy to horror category.
I am a man, and as such it is my manly duty to despise shopping. Numerous jokes and comedy bits have been done on the difference between men and women, especially when it comes to shopping. Women like to take their time and find the best deal possible, even if it means spending hours on end searching for that perfect pair of shoes at the ideal price or scouring through the Sunday paper for that $.50 off coupon on sponges (at which point I think they should be free; even Mr. Squarepants can’t be commanding that much money). Whereas men subscribe to the “time is money” philosophy and deem spending an extra $1.oo on refried beans a greater value and savings than spending 10 minutes going through the peeled label section, examining each can, trying to determine which one sounds the most like the Mexican side dish when shaken.
This is not to say that I do not appreciate that my wife happily takes on this lugubrious task. It is something that is ingrained in the psyche of women. My lovely doesn’t spend as much time as most women, but she does delight in a good saving as much as the next lady. Many times she has returned from her shopping trip with her receipt, total in savings circled in red ink, clenched tightly in her fist and raised high above her head in a display of pride that is on par with a man returning from a weekend golfing tournament with a trophy. (I don’t specify here which trophy is won- for a man it is enough that he has a trophy. It could even be for last place but so long as they give a trophy, he will burst forth with pride.) I will note that we men are way more proud of returning home with a good deal than most women are. Our wives could have saved $100,000 over the course of a year but they would not flaunt it as much as a man who returns home after stumbling onto a sale at which he saved 75% on any particular item, even if it was only originally $10. I know that this is a lengthy introduction to my topic but I felt it was prudent. Now to my point: My son Henry was sick, and like all men when sick, he was acting like a baby (I know he was, in fact, a real baby- I am just trying to make a point) and clinging to momma. Because of that, it had fallen on me to do the grocery shopping. My wife still made the grocery list and because I had already left for work when we decided that I should do the shopping, I was without the coupons, much to her chagrin. I have done the shopping before. I often go with her to accomplish this task because it is easier to go with her than to be left at home being solely responsible for my boys. So, you see, I don’t mind doing the grocery shopping and I have done it solo before. It is not something I prefer, but I am capable. My assignment began as I arrived in the parking lot. Now, it is no secret that men take just as much, if not more, pride in finding a good parking spot as they take in seeing their son’s first baseball game. However, knowing the task ahead of me, I decided to forgo circling the parking lot several times in search of the perfect spot for the first available one I could find. I parked a little farther away than I desired but I was anxious (and I am using the proper word here) to begin my task. I double checked my phone for the shopping list my wife had emailed me and psyched myself up with that jumping and punching routine boxers go through right before a big bout. With the surge of testosterone and confidence, I began my assault on the grocery store. The glass doors, in recognition of my manliness and determination, slid out of my way in anticipation of my entrance into the store. I grabbed a cart and began checking things off the list. My wife loves me dearly and even went through the trouble of listing the items I needed to pick up in order as they appeared in the store. So the first thing was produce. There are no less than 25,000 different varieties of apple and our Winco happens to carry all of them. Undaunted, I chose the cheapest ones, knowing that my wife would be pleased by my savings. I didn’t actually get the cheapest because I decided my wife would rather me pay $.05 more per pound for Gala apples than to review the receipt and see that I had purchased something called a “pink lady” which to me sounds more like a drink you would buy at a pretentious yuppie night club than a type of apple. As I wound my way through the store checking things off of the list and picking up a few items that my wife had failed to include (why Oreos and Ice Cream were neglected was beyond my ability to reason), I came upon an interaction between an employee and a shopping couple. The couple were discussing which cereal to choose (no doubt the man advocating the better-tasting Lucky Charms and the woman choosing to go with the cheaper Marshmallow Mateys) and the employee was coming through the aisle pushing a shopping cart with one hand and dragging a pallet behind her. Now, I am involved in customer service so I may be a little more sensitive to this than most people, but what transpired next was a great disappointment in customer relations. The couple were out in the aisle a little but certainly not blocking the entire thing. The employee drew near and instead of saying excuse me or clearing her throat to announce her presence, said, and I quote, “It’s okay, I’ll watch out for you”. Now this text cannot do justice to the saturation of sarcasm that encompassed this comment. The couple was shocked with mouths slightly agape at the audacity of this woman. I took mental note of her name and the location of this incident and I started off for the nearest manager. I am not sure what became of this woman but my recommendation to the manager was for her to be drawn and quartered. I simply cannot abide poor customer service. Once I had gathered all the items, I made my way to the front of the store with my bounty to check out. I made one stop on my way at the discount carts. There is rarely anything in them that I could use or want but there is just some attraction to seeing items which prices have been literally slashed with a sharpie and lowered to a more reasonable price. This stop was fruitless, and I continued my way to the front to do the checkout line shuffle. This is my least favorite part of the entire task-finding the perfect line that is moving smoothly and with a minimal number of people in it. There are several things to be wary of as you choose your line. You want to watch out for people with two shopping carts. This usually means that they have a hard time deciding what exactly to get, and on the off-chance they don’t have enough money to cover their bill, you will be forced to wait as they determine which items to set aside, which is a major fail for you. You also need to be wary of the person standing in line with just a few items, but who continually looks back over their shoulder. This can be deceptive, as you think that they should be quick since it appears that they are just picking up a couple of things. However, they are looking over their shoulder because they are holding the place in the line for the rest of their family who are getting the rest of the items on their list. Stand behind them if you wish, but you do so at your own peril, knowing that at any moment a number of their family members will burst forth from different parts of the store, all with their own shopping carts filled to the brim with a plethora of items and a coupon for each one. Don’t be roped into getting in the line that may have more people but each of those people have just a handful of items. The more people in the line, the greater the chance that the light above the register starts to blink and you are forced to wait for the manager to return from their ten minute break in Outer Mongolia to approve a transaction. I have learned that it is best to pick a lane next to a vacant one. This increases the chances of a thoughtful cashier (which is almost as elusive as the North American Sasquatch) who may take it upon themselves to open their lane and utter those most sacred of words, “I can help you now on register 3.” Which was the case for me last night. I almost hugged her until I realized that it was the same employee whose customer service skills had been in question earlier. Whatever her boss said to her, it worked. She was as sweet as apple pie (golden delicious, not granny smith.) I exited the store and returned home, thankful to have survived the ordeal of shopping, pleased with myself for being so efficient, and down right proud of the $5 I had saved. It is not important how much I spent, only that I saved money. I have vanquished you grocery store and will stand in triumph… until the next time we meet. (shudder)