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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: March 28, 2022

Grocery Shopping

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,




**********

I just got back from my every-ten-days grocery shopping trip. This time it landed on a Monday, my favorite day to shop. I arrive between 9-9:30 a.m. and almost always find an uncrowded store. The people just sprinting in and out before work are gone, and the early birds who share the aisles tend to be a lot like me ?? doing a big shopping, older, and in less of a hurry.

Today I was in a good mood on the drive home and started to think about why. Not having to rush is a big part of it, certainly. I think my habit of only going to the store every ten days helps too. I started that habit to reduce my exposure when the pandemic started, and I actually prefer this schedule and will keep it indefinitely. But I decided the biggest contributor to my relaxed mood is the fellow shoppers I encounter at that time of day.

There are older people like me ?? and much older yet people. Sometimes I notice a senior (like me!) standing in one place for an extended period, as I make my way down an aisle. They are looking up and down. I like to stop and ask if they need help, since I am in no hurry. About half the time, they do. They can't reach something up high, can't bend down to get something low, can't pick up something heavy or can't find what they are looking for. If so, I help if I can. It only takes a minute, and in the blink of an eye, I know that I myself will be the person who needs help. The other half the time they don't need help, they are just thinking something over. But either way, they almost always appreciate my offer. (The wittiest and most enjoyable people to help, in my opinion, are those who are "vertically challenged." They seem to have such good attitudes about their struggle.)

I spend a lot of time in the produce section and there I encountered a woman who was probably 90, shopping with the help of a somewhat younger woman, maybe a daughter. They were moving slowly, so the younger woman apologized to me. "No worries!" I said. I actually was enjoying their interaction. The senior was a bit picky, and shocked at the prices. She made some entertainingly pithy comments about it. The younger woman cheerfully and patiently searched the bin for just the right rutabaga, and the best bananas. They did some laughing, and it looked to me like they'd be in the store for at least an hour, but neither of them seemed concerned about time. I can't help but feel optimistic when I see situations like this.

Another frequent Monday morning encounter is a group home outing, for special needs adults. There are two "helpers" along, and the team works together to locate items on their list, which they will use to cook the meals in their group home. There is some good natured bantering about some of the choices, and once in a while they need a bit of help sorting something out, but again, the overall "vibe" from them is one of an enjoyable outing. Such a sight, a group like this out doing their own meal planning and shopping, would be unthinkable 50 years ago. Some of them likely would have been in institutions where they'd have no choice in what they ate; and would probably not get to help in preparing meals, much less shopping for food. How far we have come in our accommodation and respect of such people; how much better things are for them now than they were in my decades-old memories. Sometimes I pause at a distance to avoid pressuring them to move on or clear the aisle, and just listen. They are having fun, and their two helpers are relaxed, very patient and engaged. God bless people who work as helpers and facilitators. It takes a really special person to do that job like these two were.

While looking at some dark bread in the store bakery I find a loaf with mold on it, and take it to a bakery employee. "Looks like this one needs time off!" I said. The employee began a lengthy apology and I said not to worry, just didn't want to leave it out after I noticed it. "Thanks for not being cranky about it," he said. I love the word choice "cranky," and I think most of us have felt cranky the last few years. But there are a lot of BIG problems in the world right now, a moldy loaf of bread isn't one of them. It is part of the risk that goes with bakery not treated with preservatives, right?

Yes, prices are very high right now. Yes some items are still hard to find. (Canned cat food for one"that one puzzles my fellow cat lovers and me.) But access to food in this country overall is very good, not perfect but very good, a luxury a lot of people across the globe do not enjoy. Some don't have food, at all.

Probably the worst trip I ever made to a grocery store was one where I got halfway through the store with a loaded cart and my infant daughter decided she'd had enough. Not ten more minutes, not two more minutes in the store would be tolerated. She wasn't just fussing, she was full-on screaming, and I felt like a spectacle. I ended up abandoning the cart and fleeing out of the store. I had to go back later without her to redo my shopping, so a one hour errand turned into two plus hours. Another rough memory was going into a grocery store the morning before I returned to work after having our son. I had just dropped him off at his first child care at six weeks old, and I stood bawling in the meat department.

I didn't enjoy grocery shopping during my working years. When I see someone who reminds me of the wife, mother and working woman on an insane schedule I was for a long time rushing down an aisle like her hair was on fire, I try to stay out of their way. I know the feeling. Been there, done that. I am very fortunate I can slow down and breathe while shopping now.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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