NSFW – Language and social recklessness
You remember sometimes I can’t avoid shopping Senior Geezer Day, or cannot make the early dawn or late evening hours of the gala? Happened to me about two weeks ago. This particular day, successfully parking my truck, miles and miles away – not really, I know a secret spot by the dumpster in the back of the store – I reluctantly entered the store and the real adventure began. At once, I felt like Spartacus.
Just inside the outer door, I was greeted by a battle over possession of one of the motorized carts. Neither contestant required support while they flailed their arms about emphasizing their superior claim. I left the debaters to their discussion.
Fortunately, the third cart I pulled from the row of waiting carts was not covered in some unimaginable slime, belying the fact that it was still loaded with lethal microbes, viruses, and evil fluids like every other cart there. At least I couldn’t see the evil it held. (No, on my walk from my secret truck parking spot to the front door, there were no stray carts.) I found a cart with four working wheels. One was questionable, but for the moment looked like it would last. My cart and I headed from the entryway into the store.
Inside, having wrapped-up their front-of-store battles, handicap-carters continued to be entertaining. An empty HC cart idled (I guess) in the canned-vegetables aisle. Threw its rider, I suppose. A reasonably old geezer, looking every bit entitled, tottered up to the abandoned cart, stared at it briefly, shrugged his shoulders (no mean feat) and started to twist his weary body into the driver’s seat. Suddenly, from ten yards down the aisle, a man much the first man’s junior, screamed and brandishing his cane, every bit as spry as Terry Bradshaw on his best day, charged the cart yelling, “that’s my cart, you get the hell out!” These seniors can be feisty. The older gent yielded.
Earlier instances come to mind. Once a three-hundred and fifty pound ballerina left her cart, walked first to the cooking spices shelf, tip-toed a can of sage from the topmost shelf, pirouetted to the freezer case across the aisle, hoisted a thirty pound turkey and chunked it into the cart with the finesse but not the accuracy of Michael Jordan. One of the pneumatic wheels exploded. I did not wait to see what came next.
Blocked aisles are a constant hazard on Senior Geezer day. Two old farts who had discovered they’d not seen each other since high school graduation sixty years ago, picked the narrowest aisle-end in the whole store to park their carts and discuss all the girls from “back then” they dated. These two gents, Harve and ‘Loopy,’ surely were studs because the list was long, and they were so determined to out-lie each other that they were oblivious to the jam of carts they’d created.
“Yeah, that Imogene she was a looker!”
“I’ll say! Prettiest blonde in the senior class.”
“Naw, she was blonde.”
“Who was blonde?”
“Oh, there was lots of’m. Like Lacy, Joan, Emily. Wow, that Emily! I mean she sure had a set of boomers, eh?”
“Yeah, and Imogene, too.”
“Sure did! But not like that Lucille. Man, what a set of jugs! But ugly, damn that girl was ugly!”
“Lucille. Ugly. Ugly as sin.”
“Lucille is my wife, you clown!”
All of the carts in the growing cart-jam hoped the wife of either would arrive to terminate the man talk. Or keep them from beating each other to death with their canes. It was possible, either a wife arriving, or the EMTs when one of them cold-cocked the other, but I never found out. All of us in the jam, rather than deprive these two gents of their reverie but with shopping to do, reversed course and backtracked the aisle to resume in the next aisle.
This meant we’d head against the flow in the next aisle. There is a pattern, a correct direction for each aisle, you see. Violate that pattern and you get the most vicious looks from the older ladies. There are no arrows, it’s just known by all the real shoppers. Harve and Loopy and their senior class reunion would have caused me to travel the wrong way in the adjacent aisle if I followed normal male instincts. So, whenever I encounter a Harve and Loopy, forced to backtrack at the bottom end of the aisle, no mean feat, as that’s against the flow too, I’ve learned to skip two aisles over and head correctly with the flow, two aisles over. Meaning of course at the end of the aisle, I’d have to go right instead of left to travel the aisle I skipped. That’s a brief flow violation itself, but much easier to get away with. It does mean I’d have to either shop the aisle I just finished (the first out-of-sequence) again, or again skip two aisles to stay synchronized. Confusing, isn’t it? But it’s law.
Got to watch a rerun of a ritual I’ve not completely figured out. On almost every Senior Geezer Day trip down HBA (that’s Health and Beauty Aids) I encounter a great-granny shopping for men’s deodorant. Okay, that particular day she was Harve’s mate or Loopy’s and she was working from a list. Here’s the deal – for a particular brand, Martha pulled the cap of every one of that brand and fragrance and took a sniff. One? Okay. It’s a fragrance Harve (or Loopy) has never tried – maybe hubby’s favorite was not stocked or was discontinued or in the wrong size. But why smell every one of the same brand and fragrance? Does deodorant spoil? Can you tell by sniffing it? What should I be cautious of? Fantastically, determining the brand and fragrance would be okay for Harve, Martha will put the last one she opened back nearly in the correct spot on the shelf, and select the only one she didn’t open to toss into her basket – not wanting, obviously, a package that had been opened.
If memory serves me, for any given occurrence of this ritual, this is usually the same woman I saw earlier ten aisles over in bakery, squeezing every loaf of white bread. Every loaf of white bread. Squeezing maliciously. Is it by luck alone that I’ve never bought a loaf of white bread with bones? Or a squeaky toy inside? Oh, of interest, she’ll buy a loaf of pumpernickel. Or no bread at all.
There are two other individual personalities unique to Senior Geezer Day. The first is the reader. Usually a woman. Saw one that day. She picked up a store brand can of crushed tomatoes and spent ten minutes reading the label. Why? “Net weight 14 oz. Ingredients: tomatoes, water, salt.” Don’t ask me to explain why, but I watched. The reader finished the “Crushed Tomatoes” novella; put it back on the shelf and immediately pulled a different can of the same size/variety/brand from the shelf and began a re-read. Nope. I do not make this stuff up. This is Senior Geezer Day. A movie costs ten bucks. This is free.
Then there’s the leaner. He’s usually an old guy. This particular day, a really old guy. I was sure he was alive. I was just as sure he was not in distress. I’d considered it one day on a previous Senior Geezer Day and asked the gent just to make sure there was no need to call the paramedics. I was not politely rewarded for my concern. I was berated for interfering with his shopping. That’s what he called it: shopping. He was just standing there; not reading; not lifting, smelling and putting back; he was not picking, squeezing and putting back. Had he been in the produce section, he might have been sampling fruit, determining it foul and waiting for an opportunity with no one watching so he could spit whatever out. But he wasn’t doing any of that requiring movement. Just leaning.
“Leaner?” Yeah, not standing straight-up, but listing oddly to one side. Like a shade-tree mechanic listening to a skipping eight cylinder. Motionless, not a single bit of teeter or totter. I did not interrupt his ‘shopping.’ Actually, this leaner was so good, he might have been there since last week.
I said two personalities? Make that three. There are blockers. Blockers are usually also readers, but with advanced skills. Blockers can be men, but most often they are women. Whether intent on reading (and re-reading) packaging, or simply staring blankly at items on a shelf, they are adroit at parking their carts strategically in the aisle leaving no room for another shopper to overtake either side of their cart. Successful blockers position themselves close to their cart to preclude another shopper’s foolhardy efforts to politely move the blocking cart to one side or another. For correct blocking, the blocker must be able to be oblivious to anyone, anywhere, waiting to pass through, and must maintain the block long enough to seriously agitate other shoppers. True professionals, those I openly admire, also master righteous indignation and scathing scowls should another shopper politely ask the blocker to yield a path.
Finally, this particular Senior Geezer Day, I was close to being done. A quick check of my list was in order. Um-hmm. Um-hmm. Yup. Everything seemed to be crossed-off. I wrestled my cart, its left front wheel suddenly wobbling like a gyroscope finally running down. I passed a gent considering the kitty food. Snooty-Kitty cans, two-dollars and five cents. Generic synthetic tuna cans, one dollar and twenty-five cents. I had to wonder: does this guy own a cat? He didn’t look like a cat guy. If he does own a cat, does the cat really care… Ah, never mind… Incidentally, at the time, real tuna was one dollar and fifteen cents a can. Over in the human foods aisles.
I pointed my cart, gyro-wobble and all, toward the checkouts. One final look over the list before committing. Penalty! Penalty! I forgot chili powder. Go back five aisles. Lose ten minutes. There is the reader, still reading the label, now some 40 minutes into it. It is surely a riveting read – she has not moved a muscle. The leaner? Yup, still. I did not cruise over to check on Harve and Loopy. It would have been interesting, but time-consuming. And mostly against the flow.
Reaching the head of the spices and baking needs aisle for the second time, I watched as an old duffer, in the cross-aisle, all alone for the moment, put fifteen packages of frozen split chicken breasts into his cart. A quick scan of the rest of his goodies suggested that while the chicken was probably a stupendous deal, no one in his household actually knows how to thaw frozen chicken breast let alone fry, bake, stew or broil it. Everything else in his cart was instant this, peel and eat that, boil-in-bag, and eat-it-raw-from-the box. No veggies, fresh or canned. No fruits.
Chili powder. Back to the checkouts with my gyro-wobbler. I have suffered, but at last I have reached first-and-goal. At long last. No escaping it. I had all I could get from my list and could no longer put off the trip across the head aisle (the DMZ) into the checkout lines. Soon, soon, oh soon, I would be checked-out, bagged and on my way.
Episode 2 of 3
© SP Wilcenski 2020