Monday, November 19, 2012

Shopping Pain and Pleasure

On Tuesday night a full week before Thanksgiving, I went the Publix grocery store near the house ("Where shopping is a pleasure") to get the stuff for dinner. Armed with the sales flyer with all the buy-one-get-one-free items circled in highlighter, I rolled into the store on a mission. After arriving home and putting away my 11-pound bird,  broth and a bunch of other stuff, I checked my recipes. Granted, that should have been the first step, but, well, it wasn't. The Publix specials run Wednesday to Tuesday, so I was on a deadline and history has proven multiple times that going home first means chances are good I won't go back out to the store later, so I winged it.

The same way that dashing home before the grocery store means I probably won't actually get back out, dashing into Publix with the intention of getting out quickly is also a pipe dream. The staff there is super, super friendly. Beginning with the guy planted immediately inside the entrance at the edge of the produce department with samples of something I never want (usually deli ham), they all say "Hello" and ask if any help is required. It's nice the first time it happens, but after the 12th employee has run through the greeting /need help spiel requiring an acknowledgement of the speaker and then a response, the trip is no longer a quick event. The duration of the response sequence is generally just long enough for me to forget why I was in that aisle, which is not something the staff can help me with. After three or four aisles, I get tired of the chitchat and start scouting out the locations of the employees so I can avoid them.

A romp through the recipe box revealed a need for potatoes for the dressing /stuffing /whatever the heck it's called. And Kosher salt for brining the turkey. And a bag to hold the turkey and brining solution. And whipping cream for the chocolate bread pudding. In spite of the load just purchased, a lot of stuff was still missing.

There was every intention of fetching these things over the weekend but procrastination won out. Time was winding down and the schedule was filling up. A high school job as a grocery store cashier provided stressful memories of the crowds the day before major holidays and forecasted snowstorms and I didn't want to be part of a long checkout line. The night before Thanksgiving I want to be home exercising my options of either cooking or procrastinating. And maybe drinking beer. There is an event I want to attend after work on Tuesday, so that left Monday for getting it done.

Right before leaving the office, the current flyer was reviewed and the key buy-one-get-one free items highlighted. In the Publix parking lot, I reached for my phone, which happened to not be in the cup holder where I usually set it while driving. It also wasn't on the seat, on the floor or in my purse. Hopefully, it's still on my desk, from when I had everything in my hands to leave, and decided to sit back down and check the sale flyer. No point worrying about it. Unless I drive all the way back across town to the office to look for it, there isn't much I can do about it.

Inside Publix, the usual samples guy was not at his station, so I didn't get my customary immediate greeting. While debating potatoes -- loose or two five-pound bags for $5 -- a produce clerk asked if I needed any help, and I said, sort of smarting off, but not completely, "Only if you know how many potatoes I need to have two cups of mashed potatoes." She grabbed three loose potatoes and asked, "Skin on or off?" as she headed for the scale, talking about the loss of approximately two ounces when peeled. She handed me two of them and said they should be plenty. This young woman was a home economics dream. She knew all the stuff it seemed I should know after three semesters of junior high home ec, but the only thing I took away from those classes was the advice to "Always use a rubber scraper to get the last bit of mayonnaise out of the jar," and to polish furniture by wiping with the grain of the wood. I almost asked her to be my new best friend, but that seemed a bit creepy and I don't want to be banned from a really nice grocery store.

Mere seconds after the impressive display by the produce lady, an older guy wearing a hair net asked if he could help with anything. I said "No, thanks. I'm all set for now." The guy then says, "Oh, long day?" which made me totally paranoid thinking I must look like I've been run over by a bus or something. Thanks, old guy. Now I can add reflective surfaces to my list of things to avoid. The rest of the shopping trip was quiet and uneventful, as my employee dodging skills improve with each visit.

At the checkout, the cashier asked if I'd found everything and we conducted our transaction. The lady bagging the groceries, in Publix style, commandeered the shopping cart out to the car and loaded my three reusable bags and two plastic bags into the back. Consequently, it wasn't until I got home and nearly dislocated a shoulder picking up the first bag that I learned that the shopping may be a pleasure, but the sacking really stinks.

The first bag was crazy heavy. That's because it contained both five pound bags of potatoes, 1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes, a 30 ounce container of coffee and a pint of whippng cream. Seriously? I'm surprised the clerk didn't suffer a hernia hoisting it into the car. Another bag contained all the two-for-one canned goods -- two jars of gravy, two cans of diced tomatoes, two jars of Ragu sauce, plus a half gallon of half-and-half. One bag held exactly two rolls of paper towels and was light as a feather. Another had all the lightweight stuff -- like two packs of English muffins, a bag of a different stuffing mix than I got last week and a bag of frozen vegetables.

It appeared we were operating on the Garanimals system of packing, with all the "like items" together in the bag. It took five minutes in the driveway repacking some of the bags so I could carry them up the brick walkway and into the house without requiring a call I can't make for medical attention. The misplaced phone is making me weak and careful. And crankier.

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