Crazy folks you meet in Safeway
I figure that in the weeks before Christmas and up until New Year's, I visited my local Safeway about 137 times. Sometimes I was there eight or nine times a day, especially on the run up to Christmas Day, when we hosted a small group of only 100 or so friends and family for the annual Feast of St. Large Poultry and Other Curious Dishes. After the first dozen assaults on Safeway, I began to understand what it must have been like to be a Viking, raiding coastal villages and carrying away livestock, comestibles and lusty wenches. (Well, I only carried away one lusty wench from Safeway, but my wife made me take her back.)
I was like Eric the Red, except instead of battle-ax and shield, I was armed with a dangerously honed Safeway club card in one hand and a flaming debit card in the other as I battled my way through the teeming indigenous population clogging the aisles in my quest to capture that most dangerous of supermarket creatures, the seven-boned prime rib. And it was dangerous. Do you know how expensive a slab of meat has to be for you to receive a $69 club-card discount? My poor bank account was drenched in red after that grisly rib-roast clash.
The hardest part of these invasions was the escape. Time and again my getaway would be stymied at the checkout line by clever agents masquerading as senior citizens of obscure countries trying to pay for their foodstuffs with Russian rubles, Spanish pesetas or, in one case, what clearly was Monopoly money. These transactions usually took place in the nine-items-or-less aisle, wherein the offender often had enough groceries to feed a small army (the Belgian National Defense Force, judging from the 28 boxes of frozen waffles in the case of a strange Hercule Poirot-looking specimen blissfully flaunting the nine-item rule.)
Inevitably, my chosen exit line would come to a standstill while cashier and customer engaged in a prolonged debate over the price of an ancient, dusty jar of capers whose computerized bar code mysteriously identified it as a 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. Almost faster than it took to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, the capers controversy would be resolved only so the next shopper could whip out an exotic purplish piece of produce of indeterminable genus necessitating consultation with the store's in-house horticultural expert. He, in a flash of several hours, was able to deduce that the inscrutable object was not vegetable or fruit at all, but an errant shopping-cart wheel apparently inadvertently propelled into a bin of eggplants. Everyone had a good laugh over this while the customer leisurely filled out the eight-page club-card application on the spot and an employment application just for kicks.
After too many of these paralyzing checkout-line episodes, I began to realize why the Age of Vikings came to an end and Red, Lars, Leif and Olaf just decided to stay home. If I never go grocery shopping again, it will be too soon. Which, according to my wife, who says we're out of milk, will be in about 15 minutes.
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