Last week I found myself far from my comfort zone, a place a lifetime of survival skills were rendered useless.
I could starve in a grocery store.
My wife sent me to the store with a list of items for a family Labor Day cookout. Nothing particularly complicated but from experience, we both know anything beyond three items can be a challenge for me. Far from the keyboard or an occasional flat tire on my bike, my valuable skill set quickly runs shallow.
In a nod to technology, my wife discovered writing a list on paper and then texting it to me proved efficient, rending my absentmindedness less likely to leave the list on the top of the truck as I pull out of the driveway. This time was no exception.
Being a good steward, I grabbed a cart from the parking lot and pushed the four-wheeled buggy into the store, hoping the karma would help me on the rest of my journey.
Unfortunately, the karma gods must have been looking the other way as I entered the store naked of any useful intuitive wisdom or confidence.
Instantly questions began popping into my head, begging for answers that would help mask my insecurity. First of all, is there a designated direction to follow in the grocery store? Does everyone go, counter-clockwise? And do I have to go up and down each row or can I go rogue and jump around? If I do, am I risking creating havoc?
And is there a specific set of rules to navigate the lanes? This rule does not apply in the grocery store as I found myself in a twisted version of chicken – wondering who will blink first.
Speaking of eye contact, what a strange experience in the grocery store. What is the accepted social custom or doing so? Or are we supposed to keep our heads down unless scanning the shelves?
And speaking of shelves – why are olive oil and olives not next to each – let alone on the same row? Is that such a big logical leap? And similarly, shouldn’t peanut butter always be next to the jelly?
And does the world need an endless number of choices of pasta sauce? I grew up with one kind, my mom changing brands occasionally, but I stepped off a fifteen-foot by eight shelves high section of the store of nothing but pasta sauce. My brain nearly melted down on aisle eleven.
And why don’t they offer a loaner sweater when you enter the frozen food department? Put a big logo on it for all I care, help me not catch a cold while grabbing a pizza.
Finally, the biggest challenge is self-checkout. I rarely make it through without an employee coming over and helping me scan an item or two. Avocadoes or other fresh vegetables always trip me up.
In the end, I successfully made it out of the store will all the items, but unfortunately, not my dignity. Hello, sunshine, I’m back home.