There is a special kind of weird behavior that humans engage in during civil and religious holidays. Especially, it seems American humans. We develop the need to put each other through a particularly self-centered sort of torture in order to enjoy our sunshiny little window of hope known as the “three-day weekend.” Nowhere is this more true than at the big box supermarket. I had to make the short trek out to the giant grocery warehouse of doom today, knowing full well that I’d have to have sharp elbows at the ready. Thankfully, I came back in one (or less) pieces.
Most weekends, I enjoy the getting of groceries. On Saturday afternoons, my daughter and I go out and get the various foods that will sustain our lives until the cholesterol and sodium they contain kill us. Anna, ever the one to entertain herself, likes to walk around repeating bits from The Brady Bunch. A fun hour or so of hearing her repeat “pork chops and applesauce” near dismayed strangers. Today, I wisely chose not to bring Anna along. There wasn’t any need to have her heels ground off by wicked old ladies on wicked old scooters. No, I went alone to score deals on butter, cheese and marshmallows. My family can’t go a week without our beloved butter, cheese and marshmallow casserole. A shopper must provide for his family.
The strangest aspect of my pre-holiday descent into the inferno of savings is the interaction, or sad lack of such, with teenage shoppers. I kept running into young grocery buyers in the most literal way. These people just don’t move in the same way that the motivated 39-year old does. The kids just shuffle along like a generation of work and war-weary citizens. The cares of life have fallen hard on the shoulders of our nation’s youth, I imagine. What strange creatures teenagers are. They don’t speak, but shuffle up and down the isles staring vacantly. These vacant souls aren’t even bothered by having their heels crushed at the hands of spinster scooter drivers. I started to wonder if all the local high schools had prescribed Thorazine as a way of coping with exam season.
I try to understand each person I come into contact with and empathize with their unique struggles. It’s hard to imagine being a teenager in today’s world. Equally difficult to imagine is having to deal with jumpy, cart-wielding shoppers like myself. The store really creeped me out more than normal and there was great relief in paying for my marshmallows and lard (and making like Moses i.e., getting the flock out of there). I ran into an old friend at the door and shared a smile. Ah, the pure joy of conversation and a friendly face. Never mind that the friendly face rammed me with a cart and stole the wallet out of my pocket. The smile and humanity made the world as sunshiny as any 3 day weekend.