Grocery store warrior
Gearing up for the holiday supermarket Grand Prix
Brothers, sisters, friends and enemies! Long have we battled, 12 months besieged by ceaseless holidays, each one requiring of us its own feast, each feast requiring of us yet another descent into madness. BBQs for the 4th of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Assorted snack-sized candies for Halloween. Butterball turkeys for Thanksgiving. The Christmas ham. Do the horrors ever end? How much torture can any man (or woman) endure? How many times can one plumb the depths of that foul realm of interminable suffering and return, their soul unscathed?
You know the ill place of which I speak.
THE GROCERY STORE!
Gods forbid, the grocery store! The very words are enough to strike fear into the heart of the bravest among us, and yet the terrors only deepen for those that live deep within the mountains. For there is no hell like that of a small-town supermarket.
Each week, we must face a choice: shop or starve. Each week, we must steel ourselves against fire and slaughter, fighting for a space in a parking lot that’s three sizes too small, dodging stray carts and bike racks that would shatter not only our spirits but also our insurance claims. We brawl for the regular sustenance of our families but also for inane office parties, birthdays and holidays, an endless hum of overhead fluorescents and the cries of self-checkout haunting our every step.
Soldiers, I know the war has left you battle-weary and broken, but you must hold fast and find courage, for the hour dawns on one last fight. One last holiday for which to shop. New Year’s Eve.
Take up arms! Ride, valiant warrior, astride your squeaky three-wheeled shopping cart, grocery list in hand. Fear not the shoppers who lack spatial awareness and dawdle in the center of every aisle. Fear not the store changing its layout for the third time in two months. Fear not the howl of pop stars that blare over speakers, their mass-produced music like the screams of banshees in your ears, their lyrics about Santa Claus growing increasingly sexual with each verse, for within you, you have a strength that cannot be vanquished!
The path to victory may be treacherous, but anything worth winning is seldom easily earned. Some of you may die, forced to come cart-to-cart with your ex spouse, your ex-boss, your ex-roommate, or worst of all, an acquaintance from high school, yet they say fortune favors the bold.
Fly! Fly to the shelves and take the bottles with which to drown the memories of awkward eye contact and stilted small talk! Let the bubblies consume you, then search the battlefield for the spoils of war – the soft cheeses and sliced salamis destined to adorn the charcuterie board that finally proclaims your adult-ness this New Year’s Eve. Suck on that, acquaintance from high school! And nevermind the dried apricots and figs and olives. They’re destined to perish anyway.
You’ve come far and fought with the strength of a thousand lions in your beating heart. But halt! The battle is not yet won, soldier. There is one more foe to vanquish.
When they sing songs of you, your fearless charge between the sliding glass doors of hell, the way you held fast to your shopping basket when the child in the cart beside you wouldn’t stop screaming and the age of man threatened to come crashing down, they will sing of your bravery. They will sing of the way you scanned all 12 items in your possession, stared the knee-buckling total in its red eyes, and pulled out your credit card like a young Arthur Pendragon removing Excalibur from the stone. Like a battle cry, your song will echo in the accursed halls of all the City Markets and Albertsons and Walmarts for centuries to come.
So, fair warrior, though the grocery store may take our mirth, our youthfulness, even our will to live, they will never take OUR FREEDOM!
For those about to grocery shop, we salute you.
(Oh, and don’t forget your reusable bags in the car.)