The madman in aisle 9

Grocery stores have given me grief for as long as I’ve had to explore labyrinths of chow.

Mat Koehler

Much like my experiences with Laundromats and public rest rooms, grocery stores always leave me frustrated and completely naked. And yes, I’m using naked in the metaphorical, emotional sense ” except for when I tried washing all my clothes at a local Laundromat. I honestly didn’t know it would offend that lady and her kids.

But as I was saying, grocery stores have given me grief for as long as I’ve had to explore their labyrinths of chow. No matter how I prepare, each trip makes me wish I could afford dining out for every meal.

My most recent grocery gripe began when I picked Sunday night to get my goods, hoping to avoid the long checkout lines and crazed soccer moms I’d encountered on weekdays. When I got there, however, I found the store as packed as ever ” and this time, the crowds consisted of tired-eyed college kids and bloodshot-eyed carnival folks.

The cart I grabbed, as always, had squeaky, crippled front wheels, and it seemed to display this quality only after I was a half-mile from the entrance. Still, I ignored the screeching and focused on my short list of necessities.

Even this was a chore. Grocery stores constantly are relocating aisles and items, so every week I go, it’s a new treasure hunt. Just when I remember that peanut butter is in aisle 12, they’ll move it to some obscure location ” like between the potato and tortilla chips in aisle 4. What’s more, the employees stocking the shelves have no idea where things are. I asked one young man where the presliced cheese was, and he said “Prolly around the middle area, I think.”

Wow, thanks bub.

So on this hectic Sunday night, I spent about an hour trying to find 15 items. That was nothing. Only two checkout lanes were open at the end of my journey, and they both had lines 10-people deep. I reluctantly decided to give the empty self-checkout lines another chance. My last experience using those “express” machines had left me waiting 20 minutes for a mustached woman to come over and make sure I wasn’t stealing anything.

From the start of my second-round self-checkout battle, things were going awry. The computer kept telling me I had unpaid items in the bagging area (which essentially is an inaccurate scale that beeps). Worse yet, a line of impatient carnies materialized behind me. They kept telling me what I was doing wrong and groaning each time my screen told me to wait for an overseer’s assistance. The whole ordeal was traumatic, and after a half-hour went by, I just left two of my items behind, figuring they would give me grief as well.

When I got to my car, I was exhausted. Not even my ripped paper bag could stop me from going home and forgetting my troubles.

Unfortunately, when I got home, I spent the rest of the night playing refrigerator Tetris.

I hate groceries.

Mat Koehler welcomes comments at [email protected]