A cellophane bag of fresh salad mix
Some kind of ready-to-eat corn stuff in a plastic cook bag and
An old school squeeze can, bright red and yellow, of Red Devil lighter fluid
Instantly I knew this was a girl that I really had to meet.’
A box of Slim Jim,
|Okay, everybody, let's go Krogering!|
Selection of the Kroger shopping cart to begin one's in-grocery adventure may seem mundane to its core. But I prefer to treat it as a crucial step in a successful food and drink acquisition process. I do not ever walk into a grocery store, if I can help it, empty-handed. I clutch a Starbucks iced tea or a grande cup of bold, smoky hot coffee in one hand. With the other hand I push a cart I've just wrangled from a lingering metal herd, like an out of shape cowpoke just arrived from the great American prairies, way out there in the store's danger-ridden parking lot. The Kroger people (as well as some of the Publix, Safeway, and Ralph's managers across the country) stock two basic models of shopping carts -- one is a standard, high sided and deep-bodied item on wheels (with no drink-cup holder, very bad!) and the other which is a truncated little contraption. It possesses a smallish holding basket for groceries, etc., on the top -- with a hole in the push bar convenient to insert your walkaround beverage, most excellent! -- and below is a flat rack that will also accommodate some miscellaneous items intended for purchase like a humongous bag of nutritious Science Diet dog food for aging Fido or a family sized gigantic tray of sale-priced, slightly graying beef steaks that will surely take to clogging up someone's heart arteries at supper in just a few hours or so.
Yes, this bad mommy was recently charged with
slipping NyQuil into her kids' juice boxes on Aisle 3
|Who says the bigger one is always better?|
What's the big deal? Well, someone is bound to ask the meaning of this question. Surely, as it's posed, a lonely mocking jay sounds its hollow call, decrying the materialistic and hungry horizon we all seek, just above the big DAIRY sign high up on the Kroger back wall.
********** ********** **********
But not very far.
"Excuse me, sir. Sir?," some female said behind me as I was fumbling to adjust my earbuds so I could listen to iPod tunes. "Sir, I think . . ."
I turned and saw that it was Katniss herself. She had stolen up near me like a silent stalker. "What's it? Oh," I spoke a little strangely.
"I think you've, you've got my shopping cart there," she said with puzzlement.
I looked closely. Geez, I did have her cart, her collection of groceries, my most recent acquisitions placed in it. It was all intermingled now. I felt confused by this upsetting observation. "Wow. I, I, I -- I've never pulled anything like this before. Really. Believe me." Momentarily, because she was a lawyer, I seriously wondered what the legal penalties might be for purloining someone's basket while shopping.
"Well, no problem," Katniss smiled shyly. I smiled sheepishly.
"Mine -- my cart -- was here too," I explained. Looking around, I scanned down the aisle and surmised that it was no longer in sight. "But . . . . now . . . it's gone. Who would take my cart? My stuff. I'm not that interesting. Really."
Katniss and few other listeners smiled lightly. She shook her head yes.
"Well. Thanks, so. I gotta go look for it" I said summarily. I wanted to just walk away and hide somewhere near the SEAFOOD counter. I was going to hunt down my shopping cart and the idle-minded thief or thieves who had stolen it. I figured the darn thing was big enough that I surely should spot it swiftly.
"You know people just up and go 'n walk off with stuff -- just like that," a helpful citizen with a family sized box of Velveeta in her hands chimed in. "They'll probably go 'n figure out what they done 'n just leave it be it somewheres around here."
"Yeah, guess so," I said. I began again to push and walk once more.
"Yes? What is it?," I asked absentmindedly.
"My cart. My cart. I need it. You've still got it. That's my cart you have there." Katniss pointed as if I were incapable of grasping her plain English.
"Oh yeah," I sighed dumbly. My hands rose briskly off her push bar. I worried that I was much more discombobulated deep down than I believed myself to be.
She grabbed at her cart. Her movement displayed that she was anxious to regain control of it. As she did, I admired some of Katniss' sensible but run of the mill purchases. Lots of raw and nutritious kinds of food. Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice brand boxes. Nothing dangerous or whimsical in that basket. Clearly, she was not, this budding young lawyer, a spendthrift, nor a big drinker, nor some Food Channel gourmet kitchen pretender. Iron Chef himself would be enthralled, I thought. Then I wondered out of the blue what Katniss would say about alcohol and marijuana use.
"Thank you. Yeah, well, I'm sure that this happens a lot. They all, the shopping baskets, kind of seem alike here if you don't look real hard," she added genially.
"Not if you get one of those great little carts they have here with the square top basket and the bottom rack for stuff like Science Diet dog food," I blurted with a little too much energy. This sounded really weird, off-kilter, maniacal.
Katniss held out her left arm as she said, "Hmmm. Well. I guess that's right." In her hand she loosely held the shiny black Smartphone.
"Well, thanks for the heads-up. I gotta go run mine down. So, are you trying to offer me your way cool Smartphone too?," I joked.
She laughed at that. Several other shoppers were watching. They looked mystified by the entire incident. I said, "Well, bye. Sorry."
"Sir? Sir? These would be yours. Don't you want your items? Here," She pointed down to the cheese slices, juice bars, and other things that I had dumped into her cart's child-ready little bin.
I know I turned red at that point. "Sure," I whispered. "Good idea." Thank you, Katniss -- and I'm outta here is what I thought to myself. Various onlookers rolled on to take care of their grocery chores.
|Hand over my shopping cart, mister, or I'm going to have to hurt you!|
As I walked over to snag a second bunch of basil leaves, I noticed the deep green vegetables arrayed together on the open dripping shelves. The cilantro packs seemed particularly fragrant. I saw a woman about 40 or 45 checking out Napa cabbages with an apparently trained eye. Again, just to lift my mood with (hopefully) humorous nonsense, I motioned to her to extract her white earphones, which were decorated little round buds with silver skulls and crossbones (soooo ladylike!), out of her ears.
"What's the problem, sir?," she inquired seriously.
Wow, sir again, I huffed to myself. "I was just wondering . . . here," I pointed to the vegetables. "What do you think was green, could really sing the blues, and could dance up a storm?," I said with a straight face.
"I dunno. Really. What?" She rolled her eyes ever so slightly.
"Okay. Okay. Give up? Give up? -- Elvis Parsley," I said gleefully.
"Oh," she said with a thin smile of exasperation. Then the lady shopper issued a slight groan then began to quickly stuff the buds with the crossbones in her ears.
"Whatcha listening to?" I asked off-handedly. The light echo from the earphones hinted at a Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera lineup of MP3 files.
"Parsley's greatest, dude," the shopper retorted. Her eyes sparkled with a gamer's feistiness.
"Ha. That's funny," I said. She fully inserted the earbuds. The gambit and games were over.
"I don't know how to thank you, ma'am. I really don't. Thank you. I really, really did not want to do all this over again. I was so upset. Melda you're great."
"What's her problem anyway," Melda snorted. "What was that she just done?"
|Now this is my drink for the day|
"Oh nothing much. A badass gesture. Admiration maybe. Like I said . . . . So . . . Wait!! You said no you weren't surprised to hear my tale of woe?"
She raised a wagging index finger. She smiled. I expected her to whisper, Testify!
Lupe Loew nodded seriously without further comment.
"Caught yo' another runaway did you eh, Mel?" Thurbert notes.
I blurted loud enough for all to hear: Senior citizens and other members of Kroger Nation in this District, beware and unite. For the good of us all! Tighten your bows and quiver your arrows as you forage about. So . . . stuff your baskets and your goods with care. Stock up on life's vitals and supplies. For we learned in The Hunger Games that stupid folks can be so very dangerous. And because. Because. The whole world will be watching. Go out now. And claw for survival. And may the odds be ever in your favor. You know?
"Word, my serious white brother," Darius cheered.
I looked over at the Velveeta Lady. Then at the stunned and speechless lawyer. A number of people (so it seemed) worried about when my semi-automatic pistol with the enormous clip of deadly bullets would commence the day's shootout.
An announcement boomed around us. "Attention, Kroger valued customers, thank you for Krogering with us today." It sounded like Melda again. "We have a lost little child in the FRESH MEATS department, a handsome little boy. He is missing his family. He is lost. He says his name is Efraim. If this is your child lost or missing, please claim him at the Meats counter now."
People stared suspiciously at me as I walked hastily with my big basket, my plastic bags inside, toward the store exit. I felt suddenly I had been walloped by a rude and unexpected smack from heaven. A few cell phones chirped like texting mocking jays throughout the hushed checkout zone. That Melda, I mused, such a cut up on that microphone. She aims for the forehead every time. And what are all these people looking at anyway? But frankly I didn't care to find out.