Ode to the Grocery Store

1:50 PM


First, let me begin by saying that this is not really an ode. I just like the way the title sounds.

SECOND: I made a pizza last night. And I did more than just open a Red Baron box and set my oven timer for 20 minutes. Granted, I discovered that making my own pizza is really easy, especially when pizza dough and pizza sauce all comes in ready-to-use packaging. But we won't let that ruin the joy that I've acquired from my first Italian pie-making adventure, will we? I think not.

To my surprise, I found shopping for ingredients to be much more of a pain than actually cooking my (say it with me in an Italian voice) pizza pie. Granted, I did decide to run my dinner errands at Wal-Mart, but any grocer should carry green peppers. And more than one package of pepperoni.

Then, we have check-out lines. Now, I'm a proponent of self-scan aisles--in moderation. It's the point where there are six out of fifty-seven lines open, four of them self-scan, backed up into the clothing section to the point where there's a barricade across half of the store, that I start to get irritated. And, of course, no one seems to know how to ring up their own items.

So, I'm standing in line, grumbling under my breath at the old ladies and people on their cell phones who obviously have no regard for humanity because they're taking their sweet time and don't have the common decency to learn how to bag their own bread and shampoo. I'll show them how it's done when I get to the front of the line, I vow, and glide to a register when it's my turn to set a shining example of what a courteous, self-scanning-patron should look like.

Then, like a bad dream, time slows down and everything goes horribly wrong. All bar codes disappear into the folds of inferior packaging, and I wave items all over the scanner, wondering why the computer can't recognize a single thing I swipe over that red light. The electronic produce inventory doesn't know what a zucchini is, so I start pushing random vegetables on-screen so I can just be charged for something and get on with my life. Next, I wrestle with a defective batch of plastic bags as I try desperately to open just one. I mentally promise to shove everything in the same sack if I manage to conquer static electricity, then commend myself for being environmentally-friendly in the process. Fewer bags is better, right?

Meanwhile, a very loud, Russian woman is yelling into her Bluetooth headset, something about . . . eh, I don't know what it's about, because it's in Russian. This happens more often than you might think.

Then, the card swiper. It's easy enough to get used to, particularly if you've grown accustomed to regularly buying food, clothes, etc. in public places . . . you know, things to help ensure your survival. I have yet, however, to meet a card swipe machine that is exactly the same as one in another store. Signature or no signature, credit button or cancel/enter, buttons and screens and digital prompts telling you to get help from the cashier when there's clearly none around. When there is a cashier/moderator available at a self-scan, that's the time when you start to wonder: "Wouldn't this have been a lot faster if you were helping me out from the beginning?"

Miraculously, after five minutes of arguing with the computer and wondering how I actually got to the point where my receipt rolls out of the machine, I grab my things and go. No goodbye from store employees, and only a 80-percent confidence level as to whether or not I correctly paid for everything I'm leaving with. But if an automated voice thanks me and I have a lady pushing me out of the way with her cart to be next in line, I'm going to assume that I'm done. Adios, supercenter. Time to dodge all the bad parking-lot-drivers and go home.

And that . . . is how I made pizza.


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