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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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« Whining finally gets the respect it deserves. | Main | Today. »
Thursday
Jun082006

Yesterday--when all my troubles seemed right in my lap.

Remember when I was all depressed, that day? Boy, good thing I didn’t post to my blog, because really, who wants to read my pathetic, self-involved whining? It would be like watching a kitten with a wounded paw trying to climb some stairs. Am I right, about the kitten? Not even a cute kitten, let me add. One of those hairless types. With a bad eye.

(I just wrote “bad idea” instead of “eye,” which amused me. I like very much the image of a kitten with a bad idea. “I think I’ll mash up some Dexedrine and mix it with a Coke!” thought the kitten with the bad idea. “Kitties need uppers!”)

Yesterday I thought I was feeling better, and then I went to the supermarket. The suburban supermarket is a terrible place. I was so tired of the tiny, cramped supermarkets of Brooklyn, in which all of the aisles are designed to be exactly two inches narrower than the average stroller. Many a supermarket clerk heard the grunts and curses of a disheveled mom trying to hoist her stroller over boxes of yams and Depends in Aisle 6. And oh, I would think, how I would like a car! A car that one could load up with the many groceries, instead of hanging one’s grocery bags from one’s bodily parts and then attempting to drag one’s bag-laden self and one’s ornery child homeward!

But it turns out I was stupid to think these things, because the supermarkets here, they drive me even nutsier. First off, they’re way too big to find anything. You’re looking for some arugula and there are 57 arugula aisles, and the organic arugula is in one of them but you’ll never know which, and then you think SCREW THIS I’ll just grab some romaine hearts and the romaine hearts are 300 miles away, in the Romaine Wing (Hearts Aisle). So even if you’re going to the store for three items, it will still take you a day and a half. Pack a lunch.

And also during the day, the only other people in the supermarket are senior citizens. Not just senior citizens—ultra-seniors. The over-90 set wanders the many aisles all day long, looking for the bus back to their assisted living facility. They like to amble in front of your cart and demand that you help them located the roasted cashews.

Finally, starving and exhausted, I staggered to the cashier, who asked for my Super Value Savings Saver Plus Card, and I had to tell her I didn’t have one. She looked at me like I had just confided that all these groceries were for my satanic baby-eating feast. "I don’t understand," she said, and I said, “I—I just don’t have one“ and she said “You have to have one,” Shop-Rite must have your personal information before you can partake in the savings, which of course isn’t true, strictly speaking, but is true for these exceedingly concerned cashiers who just want you to get the savings! The sweet savings! So finally she got the special Newcomer Courtesy Card or whatever that enabled me to save 38 cents, and she let me go. But it still took me 45 minutes to get to my car because of all the old people who died on their way to the exits.

I finally got to my car, where I cried into my steering wheel, because I still couldn’t see the humor in any of it. Luckily it’s hitting me today. A little late, but it’s coming to me.

Reader Comments (113)

Don't worry, Alice - pretty soon you will be moving on to the next phase of suburban grocery shopping, where it starts to get competitive.

You will soon have your own little routine, and woe to anyone who gets in your way! How dare someone park in *your* preferred parking spot, the one at the back of the parking lot but close to the exit near the self-checkout and ATM? You'll be able to accomplish your shopping in one swooping, barely stopping sweep through the store, skipping aisles and grabbing cases of soda on the fly.

You will pluck your chosen items from the shelves without even slowing the cart down. In fact, Grasshopper, you will learn to use the cart's own weight to help navigate turns and slalom between seniors. And then you will have mastered the Zen of Grocery Shopping.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVelma
I spent so much time in line at Meijers once that my ice cream melted. Which sucked because by the time I was done there, all I wanted to do was get the spoon out and let B&J soothe me.

Is there a Trader Joe's near you?

http://www.traderjoes.com/locations/search/NEW+JERSEY.asp

I figure, as long as I have to drive to get the the #&!@#%! grocery store, I might as well drive to one I LIKE
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHaus
Have you heard of Wegman's? There is at least one in New Jersey. I'm not sure if it's near you. Probably not. But that's too bad, because I love Wegman's. It saved my life when I moved to rural/suburan Pennsylvania. We have three. It is an amazing place, where moms go with their strollers and meet other moms for coffee in the middle of the day, and business people go to get salmon and arugula salad with pecans and goat cheese that would cost $30 in a sit-down Big City restaurant but cost $6.95 at Wonderful Wegman's.

And yes indeed -- it is enormous. But who cares when you can pick from 238 kinds of cheese? And when there are 12 varieties of kosher smoked herring? In case you need your pick of pickled herring. And there is childcare and funny little shopping carts for people under three feet tall and carts that look like they merged with a plastic car that your child can "drive" while you push the cart through the store. And the prices, they are good! And low! What if you needed a $250 LeCrueset braiser to make the brisket? That's okay. Because they sell them too! An aisle over from the discounted 85-roll package of toilet paper.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwritergirl
I moved from beautiful Park Slope to Upstate New York almost 4 years ago. I arrived in my new home when my first child was 3 weeks old. I was so desolate and depressed. And she was a car screamer, and I had hardly driven in years with no sense of direction, so it felt like everyplace was a million miles away. So I've been feeling for you enough to delurk.

Supermarkets: Many chains have a "senior day" when buses run from the assisted living places and there's free coffee for the 65+ set. Find out if yours does, so you can avoid that day of the week. Also, what the heck is the rush? I mean, it's not like you're rushing off to meet friends (cruel but true). We eat our way through the store, smell stuff, say hello to the lobsters, and milk it for all it's worth.

For finding people, look for those free parenting magazines for a local moms' group, or check story hours at libraries/bookstores, or call your local hospital and see if the maternity center hands out a booklet to new moms about resources available. And find a church/synagogue if you are into that, and if you aren't, look for the closest Unitarian Universalists, because that will be where you find all the laid-back liberals. Or, if you're doing nursery school, find a co-op where you'll actually get to know people.

It is so hard and it takes so much freaking energy, but things will get better.

June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterksb
i LOVE the grocery superstore! it is magnificent! i LOVE it. you will love it too. once you get over the sheer shock of it. for it is shocking.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterhonestyrain
Dude! wendsday is senior day at the grocery here in the south, NEVER go to the store on wendsday or you won't be home till thursday. Good Luck
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermalin
Two things:1. The hairless kitten? With the bad eye? I HAVE TWO OF THOSE!!!! That was funny in a very personal way, girl. And what are the odds?!?!?!2. Holy shit. Surburban grocery stores. In your town it's old people; where I live it's college students, and I think those little fuckers are living and breeding at the local H.E.B. Because, ohmygod, you can go there at noon or 4pm or 3am, and the place is full of 'em. And it's tiring and depressing. And after 20 minutes, you just leave your cart and go home with a bag of Cheetos.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKelley
I have to say that when we moved to our new neighborhood, our "neighborhood" store was in the very early process of being built so we had to go to go to, what I like to call, the GHETTO to do any shopping or drive miles away to a nicer store. I nearly cried every time I had to go to "Ghetto-Store" because the entire store smelled like fish. Bad fish. Or maybe it was the smell of the dead old people, I can't be sure.

June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJP
The "kitten with the bad idea" line is so funny. I'm just laughing. What a perfect sense of humor!
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDana
OH THANK YOU! I feel that way EVERY time I go to the market and I have been living in an urban neighborhood for 15 years...I've cried so many times into my steering wheel it's cracked from the saline in my tears.

I laughed so hard at this I cried some more - I NEEDED this today...kitty with a bad idea and all! Bless You so much - and hang in there it WILL get better - especially if you keep finding the humor....I am still laughing at the savings cards - oh bless you - you just don't know how your horrible day has made my horrendous one SO much more bearable!
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa M.
Hugs to you! I sure hope it gets better. I remember when I moved from Dallas/Ft. Worth to this beachside community. I wanted to make Minestrone Soup and went looking for Swiss Chard. I tried everywhere to no avail. I found the local PRODUCE MARKET and stopped in to inquire if they had any swiss chard. The lady behind the counter looked at me all funny and said, "Honey, we don't have any dairy products here, we are a produce market....you might try the grocery up the street." It was culture shock, but eventually I learned to slow down and enjoy....I pray you will too.....
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJudi
Oh Finslippy, we could not be any more different. I hated MetFoods almost more than I hate mosquitos and I luuuurve those suburban grocery stores where you find 26 different kinds of organic almond butter. I always try to buy one bizarre food that I don't need, like guava paste because stuff like that amuses me.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkim
Oh dear, I'm sorry.

Oh oh oh.

I'm a little worried about this whole New Jersey thing. It will probably get better when H goes to kindergarten.

Oh.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Wait till you scan your cranium for humor while wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart. Oh, comedy will be spilling from the rafters in boundless quantities, but how will you stomach the toothless smiles of the patrons there?!

Happy (non-urban) shopping. :-)
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPlanet Mom
Oh, Alice. I adore you. I'm de-lurking long enough to confess I am nearly a senior citizen myself. I turned 50 this year and the damned AARP is stalking me!!! EIGHTEEN years ago I made a similar move to the suburbs and I STILL bitch about it on a regular basis. Just this morning I was in the grocery store,cursing the person who decided what goes where; wishing to be back in my old in-town 'hood. Thank you for once again making me laugh out loud - you are wonderful medicine for mundane living.xxoo
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPlanetAnnie
That's funny, because I have a friend who moved from Atlanta to NY and had the reverse experience -- one night she refused to leave the big K-Mart in Astor Place because it was the only place that was spacious enough to remind her of what being out of NY was like.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Grocery shopping will suck for a while, but you will get better at this. Much better, in fact. First, I imagine, you will pick up on the locations of your preferred items (ie arugula, organic). Then, the cashiers will start to RECOGNIZE you, which is totally awesome if you're a lonely freak like me. (A cashier at a store once had a dream about me. I felt so special. Yes, this is why I have a blog. Why do you ask?)Finally, you will learn the rhythm of the store. This means that you will know when the senior busses come in with the s-l-o-w walkers.Trust me, you'll be awesome!
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEuropean
Almost every town/city has a produce store - go there for your Romanian Romaine etc. I'm not talking about organic, yuppie stores - I'm talking about the funky, non-chain store that stocks all the "odd" fruits and veggies like the above-mentioned lemongrass and 3000 different chilis and 26 kinds of mushrooms. Visit the supermarket for your canned and jarred goods, but try to find that produce place. Plus the folks there are generally much more down-to-earh and un-corporate.

I've moved a bit over the years and have discovered that once I find where the good food is bought and sold, the place feels like home. Because I live through my stomach.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOogleboogle
You are so right. Suburban grocery stores are evil. Once you learn your way around, they'll probably remodel. They do this every so often to mess with the alpha-shoppers. I prefer stealth shopping myself because the check out lines are really short at 2am! You know the absolute best time to shop? Superbowl Sunday. It only happens once a year but it is sooo worth it just to see the store empty!
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeth in Michigan
I needed to read this again - I needed a laugh so badly. (had to stay home while hubman & kids went to Zoo without me - I've got sinus/allergy ick) I laughed just as much the second time - and have to say (wink wink) don't you feel SO much better knowing that you are 38 cents richer? Call your accountant - have chocolate. (Smiles & many thanks again today!)
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa Mattimore
You should go to Costco, Trader Joes or Whole Paycheck instead. They offer samples to get you through the mini-town sized stores, and are generally filled with yuppies, who tend to be more interesting to watch and hate (said the yuppie).

Actually Whole Paycheck on Saturdays, you don't even have to have lunch.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermonkey
I'm so sorry you seem so unhappy. You have described my life..no wonder my blog is slow...I don't see the humor in much around me anymore...I'll try thinking about it 24 hours later or more and see if it turns funny, lol! Good luck getting accustom to your new surroundings.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJerri Ann
Sister, keep fighting the good fight. Down with the megastores!

Seriously, it's a quality of life issue. We live in a rural area, but close to a funky, independent natural food store. I gladly pay the high prices in exchange for (a) not having to make so many goddamn decisions (b) the only old folks around are aging hippies in tie-dye and best of all (c) no supermegasavings card.

May you find your very own funky grocery store in the heart of suburbia. Write home and tell us about it :)
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
The romaine wing. hahahha That cracks me up.

I grew up with these sorts of supermarkets, and I travel to NYC on business and get so frustrated with those little corner overcrowded places that can't possibly give a selection of goods that would be required for my family.

I sure hope you adjust! I will say that when I was 17 and 18, I would do grocery shopping for my mom. She would scribble out a list for me and it would be perfectly in order of the store, up and down the aisles. I always thought that was so cool. My mom knew the store inside and out.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJustLinda
Shop Rite rocks. My mother used to be able to shop for a family of nine (filling two carts and lugging along a veritable file cabinet full of coupons) in two hours.

I think you're being dramatic. Though I'm feeling you about the old people. I was once told by a rather elderly woman at Shop Rite that I just needed to be patient as she and her husband practically straddled the aisle with their two carts and walkers. I replied that, actually, I didn't have to, but have a nice day, and then proceeded to turn around and take a fast-paced detour through the gourmet cheese maze. It took me just as long but at least I was moving.

Alice, seriously, it's New Jersey, not Kansas.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnne in New Jersey

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