Of all the things that I dread having to do, a visit to the supermarket easily ranks at the very top – well above the unpleasant but equally unavoidable visit to the dentist. There is a kind of panic, akin to jumping off a cliff and realizing that you forgot to take the parachute with you, that sets in as soon as I am told that it is that time of the day/week/month when I am required to head in a certain direction.
The first obstacle to overcome in the adventure is to find a parking spot that is free from risks such as damage to your car from freewheeling trolleys, decoration from ice-creams and pies that kids getting into cars in adjacent parking spots are likely to be spraying, I mean eating, or simply being a spot that is impossible to locate when returning with your shopping bags.
Entering the supermarket feels like entering a traffic junction where dozens of roads meet with the proverbial infinite paths to choose from, the only certainty being that I would head down the wrong road/aisle to start my journey. I customarily take a shopping basket instead of the more convenient trolley on the assumption that I am buying only ‘a few things’ as my folks at home had indicated by way of encouragement. The result is that, halfway through my shopping escapade, I feel like I am working out in a gym carrying impossible weights up and down aisles.
To avoid a second trip to the dreaded place in the not-too-distant future, I usually carry a list of items I am expected to return home with. The only problem is that this list, similar to the announcement of finalists in a beauty pageant, is truly in a random order, which in turn results in my traversing the full length of the store to pick up successive items which seem to be mysteriously arranged in exact opposite corners.
I wonder if I am the only one challenged with the ability to pick up even mundane items like bread and milk amidst the bewildering variety of descriptions, more like computer technical specifications, that accompany the myriad of choices available for each of these – hardly what our forefathers were thinking when they coined the phrase, ‘bread and butter’. What is the difference between ‘free range’ eggs and ‘cage free’ eggs? How low is the fat content in a ‘low fat’ milk can? How many more types of grains are there in a ‘multi-grain’ bread as compared to a ‘seven grain’ loaf?
After completing the equivalent of a two-hour workout in a gym, I triumphantly head to the cash register with the least number of customers ahead of me and, of course, end up spending the maximum amount of time to actually get to the cashier, silently watching the queue in adjacent counters melt like fresh snow in the midday sun. After I am made aware of several stupid mistakes such as carrying the wrong coupon with an invalid date and picking up the wrong buy-one-get-one-free fruit basket, I am ready to jump off the cliff – yes, without the parachute. I am in some sort of a trance as I pay the cashier, lug the shopping bags to the car and wriggle out of the parking lot without hitting anything or anyone – until the cell phone rings …..”Hi, we forgot to add cheese to the list……”.