Man vs. Grocery Store: A Story Of Survival

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Grocery shopping is one of the worst adult tasks. Why? Because you’ll inevitably go hungry to the store and want to buy literally everything that isn’t nailed down or clutched between the arms of a fearful stock clerk as they cower from the sight of days of hunger and bad coffee in your eyes. The grocery store is a wild expanse of unchecked, processed food-filled wilderness. You must adapt, or be run over by the mother of five pushing an overloaded cart filled with sugary, salty snacks that you’re not allowed to eat anymore.

I went to the store a few days ago. I guess you could say I don’t live in the best area in my city. One might even say that the store I went to is in a place with a crime rate comparable to Baltimore City or that post-nuclear wasteland we like to call “Detroit.” It was close, I was hungry, and I’m not exactly rolling in the dough between now and next payday. Post Grad Problems, indeed. Before I even walk in the door, a homeless guy comes up to me looking for change. Clearly this is a classy neighborhood.

I get inside the store and it looks like something out of a disaster movie has struck the aisles. People were running over boxes, children were running everywhere and the sound was somewhere between “Quiet 747 take-off sequence” and “mortar shelling salvo.” I was unaware people shopping could rival heavy machinery in the noise department. I guess you learn something new every day.

Finding what I needed was no small feat. When I walked in the door, I spotted some of the things I needed to hunt down, but they ran off. No, seriously, the stack of them disappeared faster than I could get there. Ever see one of those commercials where a store clerk stocks something and everything is gone two seconds later? I saw that happen in real life. Laws of physics were broken on Saturday. My sanity was beginning to fray. The things you see in the average grocery store can drive a man to need to forget, so I swung by the beer aisle and picked up a 30 pack and a box of wine. If I was going to make it out of there alive, I needed to be prepared.

After hunting through the store for about half an hour like I was on a crazy safari where the game was a family-sized box of ramen and a few packs of chicken and pork chops (told you I was broke), I was mentally and physically exhausted. Like a lion at a Savannah watering hole, you have to be willing to violently check someone out of the way so you have food on your table for the evening, even if that someone was probably pushing 70 and may not have met everyone else’s idea of “threat.” This is the jungle, man. There are no rules here, except for that annoying 15 item or less line. An island of sanity in an insane world. Useless sanity, but sanity nonetheless.

By the time I was in line, I was feeling like I spent years trapped on a desert island and forced to survive on nothing but my wits and a steady diet of the peanuts I opened while waiting in line. I stood there, guarding the haul in my cart lest any grocery store vultures swooped in for my Fruit Roll-Ups or other not-so-ill-gotten gains. Yes, I’m a 23-year-old adult. No, I’m not too old for them. Only God can judge me, lady in line behind me, obviously still sore, literally and figuratively, about being checked into the doors in the frozen food aisle. Only God can judge me.

At last, I worked my way through the long 20 minutes that were the grocery line to face my final nemesis of the trip: the checkout clerk. Battle worn and weary, she probably thought I looked an easy target. She was wrong. She spoke:

“The card reader is broken. Cash only right now.”

“You’ll not deprive me of the bounty of my hunt! Here is your cash.”

I tossed the wad of bills on the checkout scanner and began to walk away. Until I remembered that I actually had to scan all the things I bought first. This jungle will tear you apart if you lose your bearings. After an awkward scanning session and enduring the stares of those in line who think I take my grocery shopping a little too seriously, I was out of there, home free. I packed everything into my car and drove home, safe and fed for another few weeks, until I once again have to return and survive the mean aisles and hazardous wet floors of that modern urban jungle: the grocery store.

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Jack Quesinberry

Recent graduate from the University of Maryland working in the biotech industry. I like to spend my weekends in DC ensuring my future political career will be one filled with a number of great scandals and equally great Sunday brunches. My alter ego is Whiskey Ginger.

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