My husband, a coupon/rebate addict guru, has challenged me to take over his job of buying the household groceries while he stays home to fix a broken pipe. He actually enjoys shopping, triumphantly waving a cash register receipt sporting a zillion minus prices. (Never mind that many of his purchases are things we don’t need at the time, ignoring others he “can’t bear to pay regular price” for.) Fiddling around with a file box of coupons the size of Manhattan while maneuvering a cart with a bum, squeaky wheel is about as appealing to me as a trip to the dentist . . .
“Ma’am, you’re blocking the aisle and going the wrong way.”
“Sorry,” I say. Who knew there are shopping etiquette rules?
“They won’t double that one,” a perfect stranger peers over my shoulder at my coupon, “it’s not a manufacturer’s coupon. Looks like you got it off the Internet,” shaking her head.
A greenhorn, I watched as she expertly flicked a proper $1.00 off coupon into her pocket, putting the chosen item swiftly into her noiseless cart while simultaneously wiping her child’s runny nose and swatting an errant fly with her free foot.
“Wow!” I think, “she puts a whole new twist on the ‘I am woman’ thing.”
My cart now has a few carefully-couponed chosen products. I stare at another customer’s cart overflowing with enough food to feed us for a month.
“Having a party?” I conversationally ask as we stand together at the deli counter.
“No, this is just our regular weekly family shopping trip,” nodding her head to the bevy of kids in her wake, each one clutching a handful of coupons, “You can save a bundle by checking out separately with duplicate items.”
Critically eyeing my limited cache, she adds,
“Those two ketchups you have are a ‘limit one per customer’,” as she and her entourage wedge themselves into the next aisle, looking like a huge semi-tanker making a left turn in front of everyone.
Thinking bread, milk and Twinkies (on sale) and ketchup (now just one bottle), is not enough for a balanced diet, I now squeak back over to the dairy products for eggs. Small being the most inexpensive, I flip open the carton to see what must be white robin’s eggs, they’re so small! Mediums look tiny, large look medium, so I choose x-large—ignoring the price, hoping some of them will have double-yolks.
I shop in canned goods to get vegetables (on sale, 2 for $1) and yippee, I also have a fifty cent coupon, so I stock up on 10 cans of corn, green beans, carrots, peas and lima beans—each.
“I’m on a roll now. John won’t have to buy veggies for months!”
Prices more reasonable in the bulk food section, I pat myself on the back for finding the little bags and twist ties. A throbbing headache is threatening while I try to figure out percentages of saturated fat calories versus nutrition in the cereal section. Finally, I just grab a box that looks the most healthy and unappealing, wondering if I will be able to swallow the shredded wheat, which looks like it tastes like grass, without gagging.
(“No, honey, I’ve never literally tasted grass; but I know this is what it would taste like,” I assure my husband the next day at breakfast.
“You mean, like when you insist that Mountain Dew tastes exactly what you think mountain dew would taste like?” he retorts.)
I am out of time (and patience), so I scurry into the shortest check-out line. The guy behind me points to the sign: “12 Items or Less.”
“No problem, I’ll just go next door,” turning around to force--now ten--patrons behind me to back up.
“Who does she think she is, the Queen of England?”
I inauspiciously sidle up to the next lane, where there are a dozen carts ahead of mine . . .
“No, ma’am, your coupon only covers 2 of the vegetables. . . oh, my, you didn’t write the numbers on your bulk food twist ties . . .”
“MANAGER ASSISTANCE ON LANE TEN!” blares over the intercom while my face turns every shade of red in existence and a different shade altogether when I see the cash register receipt.
“Honey, let me see the receipt. I promise not to get mad.”
Instead, he laughs while I tell my tale of woe and assures me that next time we will hire a plumber.
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