After a long day of teaching and yet another sinus headache I willed myself into the local Harris Teeter. Originally I thought I would head home first, change clothes, and maybe even take a walk- and then head to the market. Yeah, that didn’t happen. As soon as I stepped outside and ran smack into the humidity hanging in the September air I knew if I went home first I would surely never leave. So even though it was the last place I wanted to go I pushed my aching feet through the electronic doors with the hope that my short list of must-buy items wouldn’t take too long.
That didn’t happen either. Can I just say I don’t know what has happened to grocery stores lately? The aisles look and feel much smaller than in the past, making it difficult to maneuver a cart through the store. With only 6 or 7 things on my list I really didn’t need a cart but I’ve recently taken a page from my mother’s book and found that sometimes it’s nice to have something to lean on when shopping. Just to be clear, I don’t need cart assistance every time I shop but after 10 hours at work my feet were killing me.
Did I mention it was about 5:30? Yes, that can only mean the after work crowds- along with the after daycare parent and child group- had arrived. Suits and skirts were scurrying through the store in search of fruit, salad items, milk and wine. The parent/child groups were all over the place. Kids were crying as parents searched every ounce of their souls for the patience they needed to keep it together until everyone was home and happier.
This particular Teeter also has a second floor which means that in addition to rolling large carts down narrow aisles, it may also be necessary to move into the elevator along with a few others for items not found on the first floor. I often skip the elevator altogether, preferring to park my cart out of the way downstairs and take care of my second floor shopping by hand. On this trip I found myself in the elevator not once, but twice.
The first time I returned to the first floor I noted there was quite a traffic jam in front of the elevator. I silently cursed the couple who walked out of the doors first only to stop three steps later. This ridiculous move is just about as annoying as the people who insist on walking off an escalator and then suddenly coming to a stop. I was stuck halfway in and halfway out of the doors, with a line of frustrated people trying to push their way inside so they could get to the wine or whatever else upstairs.
With a shake of my head I thought, I need to get the hell out of here.
Fortunately, there were only three more things to grab- Graham Crackers, heavy whipping cream and Key Lime Juice. After a quick mental mapping activity I swung right and headed for the dairy aisle. Getting to the cream was like running a short obstacle course. First there was the long line at the self check out, then after successfully managing that hurdle I ran into a mass of shoppers crowded around the dairy cases. A pallet of un-stocked groceries blocked my way. I was too close to finishing to give up so easily. With a quick back pedal I turned around and created a detour to my heavy whipping cream destination.
And then I was stuck. Where was the Key Lime juice? I had been up and down just about every aisle downstairs and it was nowhere to be found. Figuring I must have missed it on my first trip to the second floor baking aisle I took a deep breath and headed back to the dreaded elevator.
Once again I was greeted by a mob of carts. Unfortunately, this time one of the carts was being driven by a clearly inexperienced preteen and her sister. I watched as their mother took the stairs with a rather bratty sibling. The teen moved closer and closer to the elevator door. A bad decision on her part- experience would have allowed her to recognize that her cart placement was going to create yet another traffic jam. It did, but eventually we all made our way in and up. Hoping to miss any sort of jam on the way down I moved with purpose in search of my last item. (Although I should mention that the very same inexperienced preteen rammed my cart back near the chip aisle and then looked at me like it was my fault.) Before long it was easy to see that lime juice was not to be found on the second floor after all, so I headed back to the elevator only to be met by the same two gals.
This time I tried to model proper elevator behavior by positioning my cart in a way that would allow others to “deplane” before we boarded. It worked pretty well and I was happy to see that three carts glided into the elevator without much of a hitch. Well, except the girls, who got in last, and didn’t realize they needed to push a button to begin the descent- I leaned forward and selected GF.
Just as the doors began to close I could see an older woman trying to make her way inside. The girls stood motionless, not really knowing what to do, as the doors slowly moved. I heard a “Don’t close the door!” and reacted with a quick lunge to the open door button. It wasn’t pretty, but somehow she made it in with a rather annoyed and frustrated look on her face. One of the girls let out a soft giggle- an innocent reaction to seeing the older woman practically shut between the two large walls of steel.
Unfortunately, the victim wasn’t laughing at all. In fact, when I looked at her I saw that her eyes were half-closed and her breathing was labored. She steadied herself against the wall and leaned her head back. Everyone else knew pretty quickly she wasn’t feeling well.
“I will never come to this store again,” she barked.
“Certainly, not at this time of day,” I responded with a friendly chuckle, “It’s crazy!”
“Not when you’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer!”
Okay, no one was expecting that. The rest of the ride was one of uncomfortable silence. The girls clearly didn’t know what to do, although they did know enough to let her out first.
I was the last to exit the elevator-giving way to a younger woman in front of me who was sporting a brace on her arm. We both just kind of shook our heads in recognition of the moment that had occurred.
“Wow,” she said, “some bad days really are worse than others.”