The Certified and the Certifiable at the Supermarket| December 27, 2022
After the Great Parking Space Hunt begins the Empty Shopping Cart Search
Armed with a pocketbook over your arm and a sincere tefillas haderech on your lips, you sally forth on your weekly grocery shop pantry restock hardy expedition to your neighborhood supermarket.
Seeing that you did not go on Tuesday at 11 a.m. so as to enjoy a quiet supermarket post Beginning-of-the-Week Shoppers and pre End-of-the-Week Shoppers (Neighbor across the Block, that’s you — I’ve seen you unloading your car. But you also have your son’s bar mitzvah menu planned and I remember his upsheren bash a few months ago. Don’t deny it, I know the type.), your first hurdle is The Great Parking Space Hunt.
On your fifth round of the parking lot, you see an innocent young man heading out of the store with two bags in hand (two bags? Must be a bachelor, invite for Shabbos?) and shadow him slowly in your car, taking great care not to be seen by other participants in The Hunt. The FBI would do well to recruit you. Aha! He gets into his car, no messing around with carts and the trunk, and backs out. Prime real estate! No matter that your family-friendly van is double the size of his mini Mini. You maneuver deftly into the parking spot. After some nifty calisthenics that involve you scooching over to the passenger side and holding your breath till you turn purple, you manage to squeeze out.
(You’re also ready to go home by now.)
Now for the Empty Shopping Cart Search.
You catch sight of a telltale open trunk above the sea of cars and hoof it. More shadowing as the frazzled woman with two screeching kids empties her cart, at one point putting the baby in the trunk and the meat in the car seat by mistake. Discreetly, you wait impatiently until she gets her act together and closes the trunk with a slam. Nary a nanosecond elapses and your hands clamp firmly around the cart handle. You level a death glare at the woman panting behind you after emerging from behind the car to the right (don’t even think about it, lady. Move faster next time), and sail into the air-conditioned supermarket at last. Hopefully the sheitel strands sticking to your sweaty forehead will come free in the refrigerator aisle.
You reach into your pocketbook for your list, and come up empty handed. Oh. Your list is on the refrigerator at home under an IYIsrael magnet. No worries, you remember at least half of what was on it.
You manage to join a stream of shoppers heading in the right direction, and land in the grocery section, where there’s a minor altercation going on over a single head of cabbage. You cast a supercilious glance at the two fighters who will need Shlomo Hamelech’s wisdom and a sharp knife to end up with a tiny bowl of coleslaw each, and swoop down to rescue the last package of celery from the reaching fingers of a panicking middle-aged man. Sorry, sir. The wife will have to manage with celery root this week.
You place the celery gently in your cart and wonder if it needs a babysitter because you have to leave your cart where it is, as it’s been hemmed in by two people who need a driver’s license. You walk-run to check out the sliced watermelon (13 bucks a box — no way) and come back to find someone placing their goods on top of your celery.
“Excuse me, that’s my shopping cart.”
“No, this is an empty cart. Mine.”
You point at the celery.
“See that? It’s mine, I put it there.”
He looks at you like he’s the sane one.
“Oh. Yeah. I didn’t think people actually eat that.”
Proud of your self-control (the perfect weapons in the shape of sweet potatoes are right next to you), you move over to the fruit. Some sweet old lady is tasting the grapes. One from every bunch. You can’t get in there while she smacks her lips and deliberates over three rows of identical boxes, so you’ll have to settle for pulling leaves out of pineapple crowns to see if they’re ripe. Some other genius is doing the same, only in the air over your foot. Ouch.
Next, you let yourself get swept away with the tide to the canned goods section. They don’t build pyramids anymore, but you still manage to get the toes of your other foot crushed when some eager beaver burrows her way to the back of the shelf because the cans in front are obviously less fresh. (Lady, these are peas. The best before date is around 2037.)
At the baking section you pretend not to overhear the clueless teenager lost amid flour options.
“The spelt flour? Is it white with red lines? No? It says spelt... 80 percent? Is 100 percent okay?”
You debate between helping her find the yeast that her mother likes to use and not being a kochleffel. No judging, but at that age you’d been baking challos for five years. On the other hand, your choices were white flour. Or brown flour.
Your energy flagging, you extricate yourself from a snarl involving three carts and possible road rage at the end of the paper goods aisle and limp toward checkout, fighting your top-heavy cart that wants to go the other way. Into a scrambled eggs pool created by an unsupervised toddler.
A package of tissues later, you’re in line. B’shaah tovah. Now’s the time to catch up on your daily Tehillim and maybe your husband’s daf yomi because the line is six, nine, 13 deep. Approximately an hour, depending on variables such as rejected credit cards (may it not be yours, please, Hashem), ripped shopping bags, and receipt roll changes. No, you’re NOT trying self-checkout. Visions of last week’s fiasco
Whatever, you’re not.
The man in front of you is a wannabe shadchan with a foghorn for a voice. You take notes, for the greater good. Six foot, easy. Maybe five ten. Nine, for sure. Platform shoes? Okay, I’ll check it out.
You look around and do some shidduch scouting of your own. Is it appropriate to ask the girl behind you for her contact details? After all this time together, you’re practically family.
Now’s the time to catch up on your daily Tehillim and maybe your husband’s daf yomi because the line is six, nine, 13 deep
Three…two…one. You unload your packages and bottles at the speed of light and pile them onto the conveyor belt with practiced precision. Wait, wait — run back to the freezer section for ice cream (Sister-in-Law never has to know). Huff, puff, and slide back into place just in time for the final beep. Home run.
Uh. Shadchan hasn’t bagged his stuff yet. No, boxed. He’s placing stuff inside like it’s a big game of Tetris. This box of cookies? Too big. Bar of chocolate? Too small.
Okay, forget it — you’ll bag everything outside. You load your shopping haphazardly back into the cart, stuff some bags on top, and struggle out.
Where did you park, again? Three amar Rabi Binyamins and 20 minutes later you find your van — you and the ice cream, inelegant puddles of melted mess.
You throw a warning look at the two hounds potential shoppers sniffing round your cart and make sure everything is safely in the trunk.
“Um, excuse me? Do you mind closing the trunk behind me? Yeah, I just can’t get in through the side doors.”
Your seatbelt clicks, you back out, and put the phone on speaker.
The sweet sound of your son’s voice fills the car.
“Mommy? Did you remember the 25 lollipops for my Shabbos party tomorrow?”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 824)
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