There are people who make entire careers out of developing conspiracy theories. Who shot JFK, did aliens build the pyramids, was Blue Ivy Carter not actually borne of the holy womb of Beyonce…you know, important stuff. In the years since having kids, I have been working out the kinks in my belief that the threshold of each and every grocery store is in fact rigged with a silent device that causes children to act like they’ve been raised by drunk leprechauns. And in on the guaranteed debauchery is the grocery store itself. You have been set up to fail.
Things may start fine as you pull into the parking lot. Everyone is fed. Those for whom naps are applicable have been sufficiently rested. It seems reasonable to believe you’ll make it out unscathed. WRONG.
As you walk through the doors of what can now only be described as purgatory, you amble past what one might consider the parent shoppers peace offering- The dreaded truck cart. DO NOT BE FOOLED. These are provided only as a ruse. Above the shopping area, disguised as a “break room”, is a gathering place of sorts where surveillance cameras are trained on any weary parent foolish enough to fall for their trick. Because you’re not going to make it out of produce with that behemoth of a cart before the child who initially jumped in with glee, bolts out of the god forsaken thing and tears off toward the lobster tank. Not accounting for their complete lack of turning radius (the cart, not the kid. Kids can move from 3 blocks away to RIGHT IN YOUR BLIND SPOT in 4.5 seconds, as if you may have birthed Usain Bolt’s love child, causing you to send them flying and instantly looking like an ass) you’re guaranteed to take out at least a display of oranges before you catch up and plead with them to JUST GET IN THE DAMN THING SO I CAN THROW A BOX OF WINE IN THIS BEAST AND GO.
You’re now doubly handicapped. The kid is on the lam and the cart is taking no prisoners. Look at all the people with normal carts and (GASP!) baskets! Shopping so foot loose and fancy free. Dignified even. The folks upstairs are knee slapping to beat the band. THE ENTERTAINMENT!
Clumsily making your way through only the most essential aisles, the child lays sideways across the bench of the turd truck cart simultaneously jabbing their chubby hand out one end at the shelves and kicking unsuspecting shoppers out the other as they flail about. In an added attempt to make your trip as brain melting as possible, all the things you wouldn’t accept for free, let alone purchase are placed EXACTLY AT THEIR LEVEL. Hello Kitty “fruit snacks” made with cherry flavored gasoline and lead shavings? 15 inches off the ground. The raisins however-unreachable until middle school at which time who in their right mind would pick raisins?
Twenty feet above you in Hilarity Headquarters, they see you’re preparing to make your way to the check out. A Code MD (short for meltdown) is called out (which to the lay person, means “shut down every check out aisle except for the one with the cashier in training and an express aisle”). The express is just for show since the few things you actually came for are crushed under a pile of shit your kids begged for/promise to eat as a compromise for the shit.
On the way to the aisle, you swing through the magazines and toss in a copy of the New Yorker because the one that sat around since last month (unread) got dropped in the toilet and a US weekly, because well, PRIORITIES.
Once you’re in the check out line, now 3 belt -fulls deep, things are really starting to get ugly. You’re approaching the seventh circle of hell. The candy. It’s like that scene in the Wizard of Oz where the clan has the Emerald City in their sights and the field is full of flowers that knock them out cold while the Wicked Witch watches in her crystal ball cackling at her genius. Except the kids don’t get knocked out. Instead they sprout 6 tentacles and reach for every blasted piece of crap at once attempting to open as many as possible. And the cameras are trained on the action. Blocked completely by the cart of doom, you choose to dive over the top of the truck hood instead of plowing your kid out of the way with it like you’re clearing snow.
So close. You can see the doors opening and closing. Freedom.
“Do you have your reusable bags, maam?”
You wait for a moment to decide between throwing a glare for the obviously patronizing question because I’M PRETTY SURE I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT I EVEN CAME HERE FOR HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REMEMBER BAGS AND ALSO DO YOU SEE ANY? or the “maam’. You instead, exhausted and defeated murmur with a sigh, “no”, because now you feel bad for yourself AND the dolphins.
Finally, the doors open once more, and with the faint sound of applause above you, you exit. And drive that shit cart to the parking lot, contemplating backing into it with your car…until next time.
True story: I teach yoga. One day at class a regular student informed me, “I saw you at the grocery store this weekend. I was going to say hi but then you ran your son over with the cart and looked sort of mad, so I didn’t.”