When I was a kid I used to think it was both humorous and pathetic to watch old couples shop. The woman typically leads the way with the poor old dude pushing the cart slowly while in a semi-comatose state. His only function is to avoid knocking over the potato chip display or running into his wife’s heels with the cart.
Other than that, he is a useless appendage to the little lady as she checks her shopping list and moves quickly from shelf to shelf; her eyes darting here and there. The poor guy in the stupor is just wondering what she’s going to feed him this week.
Even worse is the poor old dude whose wife has taken over his last vestige of masculinity by driving the cart herself. This leaves the guy to shuffle slowly behind her, looking at the colorful displays as though he has any control over the purchasing process.
Yep. It was amusing back then, but now I find myself doing the same thing. I lean on the cart with glassy eyes until I see peanut butter or an attractive woman. It used to be women first, then peanut butter. Just something to snap me out of the trance.
If I sneak something in the cart that I want to buy, nine times out of ten, Gayle says, “You don’t need that” and puts it back. Sometimes I think I’ve come full circle and I’m a child again. I’ve been known to hide a candy bar under a head of lettuce when my wife is grinding coffee. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Just leaving home and getting to the grocery store is an experience in itself. When we’re two miles down the road, Gayle remembers that she forgot to go to the bathroom before we left. But we’ve already left and we’re half way there. So I turn around and head back home.
I wait patiently and then we’re on the road again. This time it’s a question, “Did you close the garage door? Someone is going to steal your motorcycles.” I’m not about to turn around and go back again, so I take a leap of faith and tell her that I saw the garage door go down. It’s not really a lie, because at some time in the past, I really did see the garage door go down.
The drive to town is usually in silence as I weigh the pros and cons of questioning why a woman’s bladder is only the size of a golf ball. I know I’ll get feedback on that one. Sometimes silence is better. I remember the guy who was pulled over by the highway patrol on Highway 17 just out of
Los Gatos. The cop was beside himself and asked the guy,
“Sir, do you know your wife fell out of your car about five miles back?” The guy looked at the cop and said, “Oh,
thank God. I thought I was going
deaf.” Our trips aren’t quite that bad.
Somehow my self-concept improves as a shoppers apprentice when I realize that I really do have a greater purpose in life. I get to fill the plastic bags and work the magic belt that feeds me the groceries. Now there’s a feeling of power. I can block up that cashier at any time I choose. If he’s a jerk, I can let the groceries back up and make him apologize to the people waiting in line. No one expects an old guy to move fast anyway, especially if he acts confused. And that ploy is getting easier for me all the time.
After regaining my self worth by packing the plastic bags, I take the initiative by loading the bags in the car trunk. But then my last hope for a semblance of pride is quickly extinguished. I have to unload the trunk of the groceries, because Gayle doesn’t like the way I load things. I might tip over the milk, crush the bread, or let the oranges roll around. Gayle has a degree in “trunk loading,” among her many credentials. So I stand there like a moron and when the trunk is loaded properly, I get to take the empty cart back to the store. That’s my reward for being a good boy. It’s also a form of closure.
Now it’s finally over. I ask her if she needs to use the restroom before we leave the store and then we’re on our way. That’s when I begin to pray that I don’t find the garage door open when I get home.