Not long ago, I had a near-death experience in the grocery store. I was bending over to check out Mrs. Fields’ fat grams when a woman wielding a grocery cart like it was a runaway bumper car rounded the corner on two wheels. If it weren’t for quick thinking on my part, I might have required a trip to the Crisco aisle to disengage that buggy from my body. For a second I thought I saw a bright light, but it turned out to be Register Six calling for assistance.
Later, when I got lapped in frozen foods by a gray-haired granny with a number 5 pasted on the side of her grocery cart, I could see the need for a list of safety rules posted in a conspicuous place, perhaps tattooed on Little Debbie’s left cheek. With that thought in mind, I offer 8 Simple Rules for a Successful Supermarket Experience.
1. Show proper care for your vehicle. For the safety of everyone on the floor, do not select a buggy with uncooperative steering that can be guided only by a team of Iditarod sled dogs. Also, be on the lookout for features that may interrupt the aerodynamics of the cart such as toddlers left over from a previous shopper.
2. When perusing different item choices on the supermarket floor, please be sure to park only in traditionally acceptable parking areas. Nobody cares if you set up camp in front of internal organs in the meat department, but if you pause to check the fat content in the cookie aisle, we will forcibly transport you to the dairy case and secure you to the yogurt section with string cheese.
3. Please observe crowd-friendly speed limits. I know you’re in a hurry to rush home and get those tacos on the table, but don’t careen around the corners so fast that you initiate a forceful meeting between Betty Crocker and Orville Redenbacher.
4. Practice defensive shopping. Try to remember that there are people with immediate dietary concerns that may require them to effect a sudden stop in front of you to compare chocolate chip content on the cookie aisle. Likewise, you must understand that if you stop in the middle of the aisle while trying to decide between creamy and crunchy, you are likely to become a temporary member of the fresh fruit display. Take heart in the fact that kumquats should not do any permanent damage to your complexion.
5. Please show concern for the safety of other shoppers. Do not execute a sudden lane change without at least warning the gentleman who is presently rolling his cart over the heels of your Reeboks that he may suddenly find himself neck deep in summer squash. Likewise, don’t speed up suddenly, causing the six-year-old boy who is riding below the cart in front of you like a mudflap on an tractor-trailer to wrap around your front wheel like freshly chewed bubblegum.
6. Do not accelerate like Richard Petty on the straightaway at Talledega to beat me to the Express Lane, especially if your buggy is loaded like a Conastoga and you’re counting all 24 cans of Little Friskies as one item to make the 10-item limit, and all I’m carrying is a gallon of milk, two packs of Ho Ho’s, and a box of Ben & Jerry’s that has created a layer of freezer burn up to my elbow. I have killed for less than that.
7. Remember to return your buggy to the cart corral after you load your car. You may feel justified in aiming it toward the gate and assuming it will roll downhill to the target by itself, but let me assure you that grocery carts are not domesticated animals and will take every opportunity to separate from the pack and make a break for freedom. Lassie is not available to pull the buggy from quicksand, a well, or the tailpipe of a new Jaguar that happens to be in its path. The aftermath of the ensuing chaos will involve your insurance, and this is one case when the term “deductible” might be unsetttling.
8. Most importantly, steer clear of the lady dressed in a New York Yankees T-Shirt, stretch pants, and flip flops, who is wringing her hands and doing laps with a cart that contains two boxes of Ding Dongs and a frozen pizza. It’s me and I can’t decide what to have for supper.