The Travails of Friday Afternoon Shopping

I had to see my physical therapist today, so my wife asked if I would do some shopping for her since the supermarket was in that general direction.  “Sure”, I said, thinking I could contribute to the plans we made for the weekend.  Little did I know,

My physical therapist was as expected.  Jeff is a really smart guy with strong opinions on just about everything.  I’m a captive audience.  I don’t always agree with Jeff, but I’ve learned silence is golden when your dilapidated knees are in someone else’s hands.  Today Jeff sang out loud to all the songs that played on Sirius radio’s 70’s on 7.  He told another patient that he really hated the Bee Gees – he just couldn’t take listening to falsetto voices all the time.  I can’t say I disagreed with that.  Bono, he thought, was a sham.  “Even though he raised a lot of money after Hurricane Sandy for New Jersey, he should have used his celebrity status to get on the government to help people.”  He went on, “after all, what FEMA and those insurance companies are doing is disgraceful.”  I’m not sure I agree with him on Bono.  In fact, I kind of like Bono.  But I think he really meant Bon Jovi, who I like as well.  I do agree with him on FEMA and the insurance companies, however.

After leaving Jeff, I made a quick stop at CVS to pick up my Plavix (a daily requirement after four heart procedures and seven cardiovascular stents), and ambien.  I don’t sleep well, so if I’m going to have a heart attack, I want to increase the odds that I’ll go peacefully in my sleep.  CVS was a snap, and if I was smart, I would have stopped there.  But no, Debbie sent me to Shop Rite.

Driving into the Shop Rite parking lot on a Friday afternoon in a area where many city people come for the weekend is a task in itself.  And it only gets worse inside the supermarket.  To complicate matters, I didn’t know where to start, as Deb had given me a list, then texted me additional items when I was on the Physical therapist’s table, and then called me with a few more items.  Pulling all of this together required all of the project management skills I had developed over the years, as each list – the paper, the text, and the call – each had items in the meat department, the milk and OJ department, the produce department, and the bread crumbs and spice department.  I tried desperately not to roll my cart back and forth repeatedly, but this caused some grief.  While standing in the meat department, I became really confused.  Debbie didn’t just want ground round, she wanted Angus Beef ground round.  I couldn’t remember this, so I stopped and called her.  Well, this caused a major traffic jam in the meat aisle, especially since a stock boy was loading the refrigerator.

Now, dozens of women with their shopping carts were behind the stock boy, and a big, angry, 60 some odd year old man was behind me.  The 60 year old man (who I’ll call Ralph for lack of knowing his name) started making really nasty comments, and I decided, since I’m almost 60 myself, to give it back to him.  Even though I haven’t lived in New York City for over a year, Ralph brought out my Brooklyn.  So, like children we went back and forth.  After a short period of listening to this, the women on the other side of the stock boy, started complaining that we were, “holding up the aisle.”  Ralph decided to move on, Debbie confirmed that it was indeed Angus Beef, and the stock boy told me I had really handed Ralph well.  He told me that he had to deal with people like Ralph all the time, and I commiserated with him.  Little did I know, however, that Ralph was stalking me at the other end of the meat aisle.  Just when i thought all had calmed down, Ralph came walking toward me, and holding out his hand with a business card in it, he said, “here, you need this more than me.”  The business card read, “I occasionally like to bullshit, but You’re a Professional.  Please continue on.”  I really thought this was funny, but I couldn’t let Ralph know it.  So I said to him, “I guess you must have this problem at the supermarket all the time, if you’ve gone to such lengths to make cards like this.”  I took my Angus Beef and walked on.

However, it didn’t end there.  When I reached the bread section, a woman was walking full steam while reading her list, and heading right in my direction.  I just stopped, waiting for impact, saying, “excuse me Miss, excuse me Miss.”  Just in the nick of time, she heard me and came to a screeching halt (actually she screeched, not the cart).  As she passed, another old man who was in his late 60’s, whom I’ll call Mike, witnessed the near collision and felt the need to tell me about his own experiences.  To make it worse, he was one of those close talkers.  He said I was lucky this happened in the supermarket, because he had three automobile accidents, and they were, “all with women.”  For the next five minutes, while my Angus Beef began to get warm, he told me about each of the accidents in painful detail.  It was impossible to break away.  I began to wonder if I was on a game show.  I decided afterward, that Mike was a little off and probably shouldn’t have a license.

Now it’s time to pay.  I always pick the wrong line, so today I picked one, and then went to another.  That was a mistake.  What I realized in retrospect is that when you pick the wrong line, it really doesn’t matter what the reason is.  You can pick the wrong line because you think its the shortest; you can pick the wrong line because it’s the first one you come to; or, you can pick the wrong line because you think you pick the wrong line, and decide to change to another.  That’s what I did.  I thought I made the right decision, since there was only one woman on the line that I changed to.  But, what a woman.  She had loaded up her shopping cart so that it was at least a foot over the top, and then told the cashier that she didn’t know if she had enough money so he should, “rings things up slowly.”  I was stuck. There were people now behind me and the other lanes were filling up.  After every fifteen items or so, she would make the cashier stop and give her a total.  She would then take something out of the cart and ask him to take it back.  This went on for a good ten minutes. Eventually, it became my turn.  I started putting my items on the belt and realized that one can of the Tuttorosso tomato puree that I picked up was dented.  Debbie would never use a dented can.  It would end up staying in our pantry until we could return it to Shop Rite. Taking the lead, and learning from the woman ahead of me, I asked the cashier to take the can back.  One less problem to deal with.

Finally, I finished paying and was on my way out when I spotted Ralph hanging out at the exit door.  He looked like he was reading the real estate brochures.  Was he stalking me again?  I doubted it, and walked by saying, “I left you card in the back thinking you needed it more than me.”  Ralph, just smiled.

When driving back home, I began to think about Ralph. Why had I continued to debate him? Why couldn’t I just let him pass.  Why was I so pissed when Ralph gave me a card saying I was a professional bullshitter?  And, then it dawned on me – for over thirty years, I was a commercial real estate developer.

5 thoughts on “The Travails of Friday Afternoon Shopping

  1. loved this ,entertaining and witty !Took me to a place when reading I wanted to be there to witness this event and that is what great writing is about.

  2. Funny story. I thought retirement was supposed to make people relax, at least that’s what I hope for. Jim, you have to be strategic in venturing out…retirees are all on the road, at 20 mph, between 10 AM and 3 PM (for a newspaper, visiting doctors, going to diners). I can’t imagine you going that speed though. You’ve certainly earned the right to avoid the Ralph types, so don’t get enmeshed with them…but I know that’s hasn’t been your style in life. All I can tell you is, you’ve made it this far…live longer by passing on public debates with Ralph, et. al. Stay well, Steve

      • Jim, at this point in my life as i’m about 5 years or so from calling it a day, I look back fondly to our time together on the CB and that critical point in the Island’s development. I recently bumped into Joe Manifold in PathMark, and told him something similar…I think it made his day that he was remembered.

        I was always in awe of your public confidence, and wanted to let you know that. My father was just killed tragically (you may recall), and you were amongst a group of people that helped fill that void. So many years later, thanks for that.

        And when I do retire, I certainly intend to volunteer up at Sloan Kettering to visit young men suffering the type of cancer (testicular) from which I survived…in the spirit of giving back.

        Best, your CB Transportation Committee Vice Chair, Steve

      • Steve, you are a kind and good man. I look forward to catching up. I’ll email you separately. I wish you all the best, Jim

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