Food For Thought


by Robert Adcox

Grocery shopping is thought of by most as a boring, weekly trip involving plodding up and down eight or nine aisles in search of sustenance. Numbly trudging past countless rows of frozen pizzas, fish sticks, and carrots is something we’ve all become accustomed to approaching with fortified stoicism. The fact that we endure difficult parking situations, grocery bills, and long checkout lines evidences our drive for survival.

For me, that’s an entirely wrong approach to the experience. Shopping should be thought of as a competitive endeavor. The items on the shelves, the aisle space, and even the number of available shopping carts are all resources to be coveted at any cost – and there are limitless strategies to maximizing a shopping excursion in minimum time.

When you go shopping you might notice that the aisles can accommodate as many as three carts across. That comes in handy when you’re in a hurry and Mitzi wants to compare oven mitt prices with Buffy. Those lessons you learned in high performance driving school are about to pay off as you slalom deftly between their collections of artificial bacon, whole wheat bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, and wine en route to the spaghetti section in the next aisle.

And what a section it is! You’re glad to have finally made it here. In fact, you’ve just joined the other eighty-nine shoppers who seemingly predicted where you were headed so they could beat you there for the vermicelli you’ve been craving for the past five days. And to think you’ve already loaded your own cart with spaghetti sauce and that wonderful powdered cheese in the green can that we’ve loved all of our lives. Now, stuck with generic spaghetti – all seven boxes of it- you accept that small defeat smugly. After all, you did snag that last bag of corn-dusted deli rolls right between the greedy grab of both the software engineer and the second year medical student. Hey, you work for a living. You need your hamburgers to have taste texture.

Ah, but what good is having all of those carbohydrates when you’re lacking protein? Well, hamburger is only four aisles away. You’re an old pro at this, so you know that the dreaded coupon-clipper gang is laying for you at the endcaps of these aisles near the checkout lanes. You’re also aware of the kid who normally works in produce, but who’s busy schmoozing with that cute number who stocks soup in aisle nine. Those two have shoppers backed up all the way to the dairy section. Your goal now is to get to the checkout lanes before those other shoppers jam your attack en route to the self-serve registers. Those two years you spent over at that smaller grocery store training for just this type of situation are now going to pay off as you smoothly employ your evasion strategy – slipping out between the fish and the chicken freezers.

Ah, but now other shoppers are on to your strategy. You have to give the English teacher in aisle four credit: she really knows how to pack her cart for maximum effective handling around the turns. That proves to be the winning strategy as she barely slips past you into the nearest checkout lane. But that’s okay, because you manage a very respectable second place finish in spite of a sticking right rear wheel. And hey, you did beat out that nerdy cell phone rep who has been trying to get past you ever since you were back near the corn flakes.

I’ll admit it: shopping for groceries gives me food for thought.