Monday, April 11, 2011

The Greatest Show on Earth

I was not a happy camper. All morning long I had been looking forward to this little break in my day only to have it stolen by a poor economy. Too say I was pissed is like saying Liberace was a casual dresser. You see, the girls had to go grocery shopping for the week and located conveniently next door to Publix was nestled this quaint little coffee shop with an outdoor patio. The plan was to take my notebook and enjoy a cigar and coffee while the girls replenished the sustenance at home. It was the only reason I offered to drive them over the bridge to the store in the first place.

But it was closed, out of business, painted windows. They even took the tables and chairs from the sidewalk! I could have at least snatched my free coffee from Publix and still had a quiet and productive hour, but no, those selfish bastards took the chairs as well. Now there was no coffee and no place to park my backside. The day had turned sour faster than the girls can swipe the credit card.

"Looks like I get to push the cart," I said as I gave my fake little smile. The girls weren't fooled, of course, probably because I had just finished screaming, "This frickin' sucks!" across the parking lot. Still, they did promise to go as fast as possible, which meant instead of two hours it would only take an hour and forty-five minutes.

Pushing the cart is the only job I'm qualified for when we go shopping. I don't know the menu they have laid out and even if I did I'd merely walk down the aisles picking the cheapest generic substitute for each thing on the list. Store brands are just as good as name brands as far as I'm concerned, except for ice cream. Ice cream has to be the good stuff and not that ice milk junk they try to pass off as just as tasty. That's like eating sugar-free candy. Really, what's the point?

The Great Hunt for food is usually not done as a joint venture due to the fact that it takes twice as long. Each purchase has to be discussed and negotiated and sometimes it's worse than listening to a Congressional session. However, the few times that a field trip is in order the girls now make separate lists and get the things they are responsible for. My job is merely to stand in the middle of each aisle with the cart and guard their purses.

But I people watch.

I can’t help it. There’s quite a bit to see and my eyes marvel at all the sights to behold. When you open your eyes to your surroundings you can understand Shakespeare saying, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” Only I think the world's a circus and people are the side shows. I've never actually seen a side show myself, except on television, but I know they have fascinations like the bearded lady and the world's smallest man. The side shows at the grocery are about as spectacular.

First, there are the clowns. These are the people who really don't care what they wear shopping. They just want to get it done. There was a guy that used to go into Wal-Mart wearing nothing but his whitie tighties in order to grab his six pack of discount beer. Women were walking around in pajama bottoms and fuzzy slippers, hair thrown up in a rats nest. Some weren't wearing make-up and really should have been. One even had a funny car, you know, that nefarious cart that one wheel always shimmies and makes the whole thing rattle and squeal. Still, they picked it and were determined to see it through.

The next act I was privy too was the juggler. My dad was a juggler once and I've even tried my hand at it some. I can do oranges and golf balls and such but have never ventured into bowling pins or chain saws. At the grocers though, they juggle everything from bread to ketchup bottles to canned vegetables. It's amazing to watch really and I'm quite surprised someone hasn't broken a toe or sprained a pinky as they dangled a gallon of milk from it. Okay, they are not really juggling, just trying to keep their gathered spoil from hitting the grungy linoleum floor.

I know what they thought as they rushed in and decided against the unpredictable carts. In their head they assumed twenty items were really small and why bother weaving a cart in and out of shopper traffic. What's worse is, being the one in charge of the cart, I get it. Steering a cart through a grocery store is like holiday traffic during rush hour, except there are no traffic laws. And there really needs to be. I mean, who has the right of way when you're pulling out from one row to turn into another? I would assume the main aisle does but those blue-haired old ladies sideswipe my cart every time. Grocers need to put yellow stripes down the lanes and tell people to stay on their side and you can only pass in the frozen food section. Forget the Health Care Bill; let's push for traffic lights in grocery stores. There will be less damaged carts that way and my teeth will not get rattled.

Throughout the rest of our tour de circus I watch as The Strongest Man Alive tries to carry all of his purchases to his car while the Fire Breather wishes he hadn't sampled the hot sauce that sweet old lady was pushing. They are all there under the concrete Big Top performing for any who will stand idly by and witness the Greatest Show on Earth. I even saw the bearded lady.

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