May 1, 2009

First Person:

Situational Awareness:

Never take a hungry man food shopping

By Al Carlos Hernandez

I don’t know if it is a man thing, but every time we go grocery shopping, I am insistent on being the one who gets to drive the shopping cart. This is no doubt a control issue, much like maintaining control of the TV remote.

Parenthetically, I think we men do this because we know that we cannot control what is going into the cart, or will ultimately be cajoled out of what we really want to watch on TV.

Maybe it is the luck of the draw, but I always manage to pick the cart with a wobbly wheel, bent frame, false bottom, or happy meal yakked on the child seat.

As a motorcyclist, the chrome handle of the cart reminds me of my chopper. I find myself twisting the right side of the bar for acceleration, leaning into the turns, and flapping my left hand looking for the clutch. My wife floats me the “grow up” look, when I start to make subtle engine noises. Hello? I would rather be out riding, not rustling up grub.

Speaking of riding, years ago I had a similar experience trying to ride a horse. I was constantly searching the saddle stirrup with my left foot looking for the shift lever, while pushing down with my right foot trying to locate the brake.

This irritated the rental horse so badly that she fell down on purpose and I didn’t get my deposit back.

After years of observation, it is now quite obvious that people drive their carts the same way they drive their cars in the parking lot. Same circus, different clowns. Some barrel the wrong way down the isles, break for hallucinations, turn without signaling, try to cram a H3 Humvee into a Mini Cooper space, talk on a cell phone, or stand staring for no apparent reason and blocking the way.

When we go major shopping, I am convinced I know what we need to buy and like to hit it and quit it like we are robbing the joint. I’ve been publically chastised over my proclivity to buy generics. Same food, different containers. It is impossible to embarrass me. I teach college.

My wife however is more measured and analytical. She takes time to read labels and compare prices. She buys what we need, not what we want.

A word of actuation to husbands who go shopping hungry: you may end up buying a cart full of those cheap fruit pies (sometimes 5 for a dollar, 50 for a ten spot) and a gallon of strawberry Quick.

It would seem natural that folks would cart down the right side, go with the flow of traffic, and indicate when they intend to turn. They don’t. Cart double parking is a typical misdeed, although it is not wise to comment if the offending cart is filled with Sudafed, malt liquor and turkey jerky.

I like to cart fast and occasionally power slide around the turns. I have yet to find a way to do a burn out, or swing a side show styled 360 without doing a head plant handstand into the fresh produce section.

My dad, a seasoned cart pilot, did slip on a grape once and found himself lying under the cart like an auto mechanic checking the mufflers. No one was really injured except my brother who almost laughed himself into hyperventilating convolutions.

Corporate mega marts spend billions to create a great visual atmosphere which trick you into buying stuff you don’t need. Politicians sell their economic recovery strategy the same way.

Don’t know about you but I always look into other peoples carts to see what they are buying. Weird combinations like six bags of cat litter, a light bulb, a case of Beanie Weenies, and a half pound of rhubarb. Much to my wife’s dismay, I am compelled to comment on others eccentric purchases. We have worked it into a science, and limit my comments to, “ I didn’t know anyone could buy duck tongues, and gopher lips in bulk…”

Why do I always get in the wrong checkout line? We always get in line behind the guy who is writing a check for gum. A word to the wise: if you ever see me in line, get in another line. It may save you a couple weeks of your life.

There was a lady in front of us. I watched as they scanned her stuff, which was quite normal. I commented, “I can tell that you are a single woman, am I correct?” She smiled and answered, “Why yes. Did you figure that out by looking at the things I was buying?”

I said, “No, because you are ugly.”

I don’t have to go shopping anymore.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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