Some people arrive early so they can to smoothly navigate their way through a food shopping expedition. Others hold back until moments before closing, joining the last trickle of people making their way towards the cash registers. Then there are those, the many, who arrive haphazardly smack in the middle of the supermarket rush hour, in denial of what awaits them – and they risk the nightmare of packed aisles, congested by those who merrily roll along in a world of their own, unaware of their surroundings – or for that matter, themselves. If you find yourself caught in this conundrum, here some ways you might consider in order to survive the experience.
THE SHOPPING LIST: Do not arrive unprepared. Even if you know exactly what you need before you enter the supermarket there is a high probability your mind will go blank once you face the onslaught of others twisting and turning their way through the aisles – and you might come home with four jars of pickled herring instead of four jars of spaghetti sauce. Your children will hate you.
THE CARRIAGE: Make sure the wheels on the carriage all roll smoothly. Take the time to test roll a few until you find the best one. Choosing one with an unbalanced wheel can cause your navigation system to fail. Wanting to turn right and being forced to turn left can lead you into dangerous places.
MAPPING OUT YOUR ROUTE: Although you might be tempted to start in the fruit and vegetable section, as most supermarkets often have them near the entrance, it is advised you choose an area where they is less congestion, like the cleaning products and toilet paper aisles. You can take your time choosing between one-ply, two-ply, ultra-ply or super-duper mega-ply (for those with unusual needs). Or try starting at the last section just before the frozen foods and work your way back. You can come back for the ice cream later.
THE AISLES – TAKING THE PLUNGE: Secure your wallets and purses. Keep your shopping list well within view. Take in several deep breaths while visualizing yourself floating above the masses before you face the inevitable. Turn slowly into the first aisle and scan the situation. If it is bumper to bumper with traffic, but slowly moving forward, make your move. Keep close to one side if you can, efficiently grabbing what you need off the shelves. Without changing direction and going against the flow, try to craftily reach over to the other side and grab what you need. Once out of the aisle, breathe again before heading into the next one. But then you come face-to-face with the SNEEZER and the COUGHER. This can ruin any well thought out plan. There is nothing you can do but run.
THE DREADED CROSS-PARKER: They come in all sizes, shapes and consciousness levels: the slow-motion lady, the family with kids, the alien from outer space. All oblivious to their surroundings, they calmly block the aisles with nary a care. You can be polite at first, cough and say ‘excuse me/excusez moi’ or use a universal translator. You want to pull you hair out, you can’t go backward or forward, you think of climbing over them or moving their carriage while grunting curse words under your breath. And the last resort – a gentle Achilles tendon bonk at the back of their foot. That usually gets their attention – but it can also get you a lawsuit.
THE CASH REGISTER: Finding the shortest line is an imperfect art. It is the time of reckoning, the time your wallet or debit card will lose some weight – to balance out the weight you will gain from the box of sugar donuts you grabbed in a moment of anxiety. The lines are long, you see one with only two carriages just three registers away. You make your move, expertly guiding your carriage through the madding crowd, but so did a half a dozen other people and the dream is gone. You concede defeat and settle into the line in front of you. You wait patiently, hands gripping the carriage handles with enough force to crack your knuckles – and then suddenly you are there. A bar is placed and the conveyor belt moves forward allowing you to start placing your goods. You remember to breathe again and almost cry with delight as everything is slowly scanned and finally packed up. As you roll your carriage out of the supermarket your body begins to relax, until you get to the parking lot and have to face a new dilemma – the lineup of cars all vying for the quickest way out.