Senior Day – 1: Getting There

NSFW – Language and social recklessness

Twice a month here in town, a local store has “Senior Day.”

It should be “Senior Geezer Day.”  It affords folks over sixty years old five percent off their total purchase price. (Tobacco and alcohol sales excluded, before local and state taxes).  I hate grocery shopping.  I certainly do.  Especially on Senior Geezer Day.  I avoid it whenever I can.

Forced by a complete out-of-stock situation of one or more kitchen essentials, there are times I cannot avoid shopping Senior Geezer Day.  For example, panic-mode for an item necessary for the evening meal makes a trip an unavoidable evil.  It is my hope, my foolish hope, that any time I’m part of Senior Geezer Day in emergency mode, it will be an exception and I can get in, get my groceries, get checked-out, and make my retreat quickly with minimum fuss.  

Certainly, I might hazard a trip to one of the local drugstores selling grocery items.  Um.  No.  First, drugstores (and gasoline, bait, and lottery convenience stores) have a limited number of items, very unlikely they will have Spanish Saffron or Insta-cook Quinoa.  Second, their milk in spite of what looks like a safe sell-by date, probably is rotated out for freshness less frequently than the pharmacy’s stock of Pookie Bear slow-release dengue patches.  Finally, on a lucky day, say I find Purple Rooster eggs at a buck fifty-nine a dozen at the drugstore, that’s the same week the real grocery is hawking Left-handed Leghorn eggs at seventy-nine cents a dozen.  I understand some people will with some justification take me to court on this last one, arguing price-to-convenience ratio. That’s a metric almost impossible to quantify, and there is the matter of economic principle.  The iffy metric makes their argument dismissible; principle is undeniable.

Shopping for me is fraught with trials and tribulations.  Check-out comes after careful selection of as many items on my list as I can find before my legs give out and I’ve missed two meals.  I do come with a list.  And a full stomach, knowing that could be a matter of survival, not necessarily to protect against impulse purchases.  The “list” has usually been co-authored by my wife.  This list of course, comes with explicit instructions for proper selection of some items:

“Not the regular size can, that’s the three-oh-three can, you want the larger can, you know, like the jumbo size can some non-condensed soups come in.  Oh, and make sure it’s low salt.  If they don’t have low salt, even if it’s the right can, don’t get it, get the smaller can instead.  Unless the regular size can is not low-salt.” 

Yes, there are inevitable heart-wrenching decisions required of almost every trip.  Whatever my decision in a particular quandary, it will be incorrect.  Then there’s my second-favorite list disclaimer:

“For this, get the store brand, you know we’ve tried the national brands and the store brand is better.  Unless, of course the national brand is cheaper.  Well, if it’s a lot cheaper, get the national brand.  You know.” 

Uh.  No, I don’t.  After twenty years, I still do not know.  Do you, like me, get the germ of an idea that effective grocery shopping requires a degree in Quantum Physics?

Solo shopping escapades are the rule because my wife hates grocery shopping as much as I do.  She convinces me there is no need for both of us to suffer the ordeal.  Two people racing through aisles doing per-ounce, per-unit, per-dozen calculations, properly weighing store-against-national brand decisions when price or producer isn’t clearly conclusive, will not make the trip any faster or more comfortable, profitable, or agreeable.  We settled that long ago.  Let’s save “natural,” “organic,” “fat- sodium- gluten- or petrochemical-free” considerations for another lament.  Neither would tandem-shopping save time.  Check-out lines would void any time saved.

Soloing on Senior Geezer Day, while I am off struggling through the process, my wife will have time to clean the house, redirect our investment portfolio, mow the yard, and write a three-hundred-page novel.  She of course can’t go alone, leaving me home to take a nap, because I married a younger woman, and I, after all, am the official Senior Geezer.

Senior Geezer Day has its own unique, added frustrations.  First you have to park.  It seems everyone over sixty is shopping this store at precisely the same time I need to fit it into my schedule.  Or when I want to.  Some days, I just suck it up and prepare to tell the Missus we are dining out of the freezer for a couple of weeks.  

The parking lot on Senior Geezer Day is jam-packed with Cadillacs, Mercedes, Kias and Hyundais.  There is no middle ground for retired folks.  Or near-retired folks.  They’ve either made out like bandits or have to take every opportunity to economize.   I’m not retired, but the wife and I do try to economize.  Five percent is five percent (tobacco and alcohol sales excluded) – even for a Rockefeller.  Normally I try for a pre-dawn sortie or furtively sneak in just before eleven PM to avoid the crunch.  But when the sun shines, it’s hell. 

The parking lot overflow problem is worsened by drive-through pharmacy customers, lined-up for miles in all directions, each vehicle burning at least a half-tank of fossil fuel waiting its turn for a shot at the beleaguered pharmacy tech manning the drive-up window.  I’m working on figuring out how good this is for the air these Senior Geezers breathe as they wait in line, engines running, air-conditioners screaming wide open.  Ah, but the time they’ve saved waiting in line outside instead of inside the store shopping while waiting for a lull in pharmacy counter traffic makes it all worthwhile.  Bullshit.  Anyway, congestion has been so bad on occasions I’ve heard bulletins on Public Radio that the governor considered declaring our county a disaster area.

If I make the grocery run before eight AM – it’s a twenty-four-hour store – or after six PM, I miss the assisted-living buses.  Otherwise, parking problems are further exacerbated by anywhere from two to five mega-vans or mini-buses, waiting while home residents do their two-hour monthly stocking-up.  Drivers of these buses are of one of two parking philosophies. 

There is the “park right in front” school of thought.  These drivers carefully avoid fire lanes, but park as close as possible to the front door, not in the lot proper, but in the lanes of travel closest to store entry.  This makes it difficult for vehicles needing to move in and out of the main lot throughway and for shoppers in and out of the store to see each other as they navigate past these buses.  

The other school of thought is the “park sideways” school.  These drivers use six normal parking spaces, usually very close to the store entrance.  Six normal vehicles then have to park in the next county and their passengers are forced to hike-in to the store.

Since these mini-bus drivers – of both philosophies – idle their time away reading, I don’t see why they can’t be the ones to park in the boondocks after dropping-off their clients at the front door.  They could give their passengers a short exit walk by having a flag-waver step out the front door when the first resident enters the checkout line.  Plenty of time to fire up the bus and run over shoppers coming and going as drivers maneuver their buses to the store front, then to block everyone’s vision for a much shorter time.

The festiveness of the day – and the significant savings possible keep the lot busy even when the assisted-living buses are not in evidence.  Non-bus shoppers exhibit a wide variety of parking methodologies too.  Almost half of Senior Geezer Day arrivals park normally – just like you and I imagine we do – straight-in, evenly spaced between the lines, not hanging out in the front or in the rear.  The rest of the shoppers park kitty-corner, covering two or three normal spaces.  Or fairly-well inside the lines, but with half their car hanging into the travel lane, front or rear.  Or make their own spots in travel lanes, even when plenty of real parking spots are available.

Not many Senior Geezer Day patrons drive SUVs.  Okay, maybe one or two of the Cadillac variety, but you normally see SUVs when you see the Beemers and Mercedes on non-Senior Geezer Days.  In which case, ah, never mind, that’s a different story.  This being a fairly rural area, you will see many pickup trucks, and to their credit, most of these drivers park with greater skill than do non-Senior Geezer Day regulars driving soccer-mom SUVs or downtown-cowboy pickups.

In direct competition with the assisted-living mini-buses there are those, fresh from the pharmacy drive-through, who insist on parking right at the front door, motor still running.  I’ve taken the time, otherwise trapped, to watch these people.  Many times, I’ve seen these normally sane (one hopes) people wait this way for twenty-minutes or more.  Longer than that I expect, but after fifteen to twenty minutes cursing the fact that I’m “shopping” on Senior Geezer Day, I muster-up the courage to go inside and get the ordeal started.

Walking to the front door from the boonies, a number of times, I have seen folks questionably using handicapped parking spaces.  What their handicap was, I’m not certain because these folks look as hale and hearty as I like to think I am.  If the sticker on the window is for Aunt Martha and her bum leg or her bum ticker, where the hell is Aunt Martha?  I’ve watched.  Yes, I have.  Aunt Martha never shows up – the same spry soul who walked into the store from the handicapped spot walks easily back from the store, gets into the vehicle and motors away.

Oh, and hey.  Obesity is not a handicap.  I curse the idiots in Motor Vehicles Departments everywhere who issue HC stickers to fat people.  MVD clerks never go grocery shopping on Senior Geezer Day.  Or any normal day for that matter.  I believe a policeman should be allowed to certify vehicle occupancy by the “handicapped” person for whom the sticker was issued.  No genuine handicapper in residence?  Thank you, here’s your one-thousand-dollar ticket to Municipal Court.  MVD clerks should be present and if they issued a sticker for reasons of obesity, they should also get a ticket.  Or be docked a full week’s pay.  Some of these “handicapped” obese people when they get inside, get real pissy if all the motorized assist carts are in use.  Hell, some of these folks need an industrial forklift, not a courtesy handicap cart. 

On occasion, there is some really cheap entertainment in the store parking lot.  For example, when two old farts vie for a parking spot near the front of the store.  It runs like this:

“Hey!  You asshole!  I was here first!”

“Go fuck yerself.  The spot was empty.  I took it.”

“I was letting my wife out at the door.”

“Too bad.  My spot now.  Go park in the fucking fire lane.”

“Yeah, a cop’ll come and gimme a ticket.”

“Damn straight, cause see this here Mo-bile phone?  Soon as you park, I’m callin the cops!”

“You juss wait, I’m gonna find a place to park and come whip yer ass!”

This is doubly interesting when the contested spot is “handicapped.”  I’m not entirely sure, but I do believe one of these well-spoken gents I observed one cursed trip I endured, was an elder at the Presbyterian Church.  The other a Deacon at Second Baptist.  Neither has the cojones or energy to whip the other’s ass, so it’s like watching two Bantam roosters strutting and eyeballing.  Neither has spurs, if you get my drift, just loud feathers.

There are those who take over the “Expectant Mommies” spots nicely reserved near the store front.  The ladies stepping out of these cars are no more pregnant than I am.  Maybe there’s small print clearly stating, “if you’ve ever have been pregnant,” or “are thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s fine to park here.”  For certain, some of the guys I’ve seen park there fit neither category, and they certainly weren’t actually pregnant.  Not at the time that I could determine.  Nope, no wife in evidence either.

The crowning glory of the parking lot circus is empty and abandoned shopping carts.  They are everywhere.  Everywhere except in the “cart corrals.”  I have watched shoppers come out and after unloading their groceries into their SUV, wheel their cart directly behind the vehicle parked beside theirs.  One sane day, not a Senior Geezer Day – sitting in the car waiting for the Missus to come out with the dozen eggs for special cake-baking contests or mushrooms to go with steak bought the day before yesterday – I contemplated getting out of my car, walking over to the car driven by that cart cowboy, grabbing their empty cart and re-parking it directly behind their trunk.  While it still smoked of their groceries.  I’d planned a smile into their rearview followed by a slow walk back to my car.  I figured to keep this up until they got the point or challenged me to a duel.  Haven’t executed my plan yet.  One day, properly incensed, I will. Yes, Senior Geezers are just as bad as otherwise able-bodied Yuppies.

Episode 1 of 3

© SP Wilcenski 2020

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