Only one "must buy" item on my list: tampons. That's why I'm here on this hot summer day, striving to nab the last shady space in the grocery store parking lot.
Oh, crumb! Some bandit in a punch buggy just snatched it. Now I'll have to park by the restaurant next door, in a spot designated "Patrons only. All others towed at owner's expense."
Oh well, who cares? I'll just be a minute.
I breeze into the freezing edifice dressed in shorts, tank top and sandals, only to discover all the carts are outside, locked in an intimidating chain. With much elbow grease and a few tasteless twists of the tongue, I un-jam one with a wobbly wheel.
Its squeaking grates on my nerves almost as much as this unforeseen lemon dilemma I now face. I mean, get real, people. Don't you know Susan's meringue recipe calls for two reasonably priced mediums, not these one-per-dollar giants with the quarter-inch-thick rinds? I guess this three-dollar bag of eight shriveled dwarves will have to do.
Teeth chattering, I zoom ahead to plums. (Thanks a lot, Alex, for demanding perfectly crunchy.) After squeeze-testing twelve, I pick the middle one, instantly dislodging an avalanche of rejects.
A sour-looking clerk shakes his head at me. "Nice job bruising the best fruit."
I sheepishly squeak past him to the bread section, where more questions arise. Do I want shelf or fresh baked? White, whole wheat, or whole grain? Most loaves made with unbleached flour are riddled with high fructose corn syrup. Potato then.
Cereals present another trial. I see a hundred varieties, but Christine's favorite must be hiding at a different store.
Moving on to meats, did you know there's such a thing as 99% fat free ground turkey? I found that out when I bought 97% fat free and my son refused to eat it. Same thing with beef reduced for quick sale, a blood bath in the packet. Fish with a one-half off sticker? Never again.
My ego takes a beating in the egg department, where some troublemaker tries to wrest from me the last box of organic browns (triple the price of ordinary white).
"Fine, take it," I say, and let her have it - literally. Soon she's on the floor, bathed in spilled yokes and gooey albumen. I duck behind a wall of paper towels, hoping to avoid the lens of any surveillance cameras aimed at blaming that sticky mess on me.
From there I wheel my loudmouth cart toward the milk. Let's see: Skim, two percent, whole, soy, or almond? Never mind. How about orange juice? We can have "no pulp," "some pulp," "much pulp," or "calcium added." Wait a minute. Don't I have a jug at home gathering freezer burn in the back of my fridge?
As for bottled tea, Lou's diabetes requires sugarless, but my kids love the sweet stuff. What to do?
Forget prepackaged dinners and salad dressings. Too many additives to decode. Besides, it's high time I guided this embarrassing cart to the checkout.
"Well, if it isn't Miss Clumsy," snickers an annoying voice. I turn to see the parking space bandit laughing at me as he scoots toward the short line. With quick legs I barge ahead of him (ha, ha, revenge!), then wait half an hour for the lady before me to get a price check on a "discontinued" brand of tuna fish.
Finally, my turn. I hand the tired cashier my reusable bags, proud that I actually remembered to bring them. She stuffs them to the max (adding in a plastic one to catch the overflow), scans my coupons (even the ones from which brilliant hubby clipped the expiration date), and sends me on my way.
Receipt in hand, I triumphantly head out the door, just in time to see a tow truck pulling up next to my vehicle. I offer the driver a bag of marshmallows (great for smores) and a gallon of melting ice cream, in exchange for my car's amnesty. He laughs and says he's there for lunch, but gladly accepts my gifts.
Feeling foolish, I drive home, only to hear, "So where are the tampons?" My four girls want to know what happened to the only "must get" item on my list, left sitting in a plastic bag at the end of the counter in the grocery store.
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