I don’t do the grocery shopping very often; my wife prefers to do it. This is because we do it differently. When I do the shopping, I go to one store, buy everything I need, and then I go home. When my wife does the shopping, she divides the groceries into categories and shops for them on different days and at different stores.
She buys dry goods at a bulk discount club once a month, meat and vegetables at the grocery store a couple of times a week, health and beauty aids at whichever drugstore is offering the best coupons. She waits for some items, such as coffee, to go on a 2-for-1 sale, and then buys several pounds and freezes it. I don’t know about you, but if I’m out of coffee, cost is not the issue.
This is all too much like work for me. Plus, my shopping trips are all pretty much the same. I buy staple foods like meat, bread and cheese, some frozen vegetables and a few paper products and cleaning supplies. That’s it. I’m in and out of there in half an hour.
The problem comes when my wife sends me to the grocery store. This is because I’m no longer shopping, I’m acting as her shopping proxy. I’m given a list of a few items, all familiar. But there’s always one strange, unknown item on the list. Something I’ve never heard of. Something that fits into no known food category. Something that I will be unable to find, and the store clerks will be unable to find, and the store manager will be unable to find. Something that might not even exist.
One time it was yeast. OK, I’ve heard of yeast. I know what it’s used for. But I don’t know how it’s packaged, or where it’s kept. And the high school kids who work at the grocery store have never heard of it, except that they know it’s a kind of infection.
Another time it was clam juice. I can’t remember what she wanted it for. Sometimes I suspect she doesn’t want it, she just wants to sit at home snickering at my frustration trying to find it. Before long, I had three store employees scouring the aisles for it. I was dumbfounded when, forty minutes later, the store manager found the clam juice in the section where they keep canned tuna.
This week, she sent me to the store for hamburger buns and hot sauce. I trotted out of the house, confident and relaxed. Halfway to the store, my cell phone rang.
“I need some Pineapple Apricot Horseradish,” she said, and I felt the air being sucked out of my lungs.
“There is no such thing,” I snarled. “You’re making it up.”
“No, really,” she insisted. “I’ve seen it there.”
I picked up the hamburger buns, and then asked the store manager for horseradish. He sent me to the Deli case. There were four or five different types of horseradish, but not what my wife wanted. Just by chance, I had to pass the Fish counter, and to my shock, I found another display of horseradish. Not the same horseradish from the Deli counter, this was a whole other array of products, but still not even close to my wife’s fantasy horseradish.
Throwing up my hands in defeat, I headed for the Condiments aisle, knowing I’d find the hot sauce easily. Incredibly, I found yet another display of horseradish, none of which matched the products from the Deli case or the Fish counter. And no, there was no Pineapple Apricot Horseradish.
Why does the supermarket keep the same product in three locations? How are people supposed to find what they want? The thing that bothers me the most about this is the distinct possibility that there’s yet another horseradish display somewhere else in the store, and the elusive Pineapple Apricot Horseradish is there. Maybe it’s in the Ice Cream freezer case, or tucked in next to the School Supplies.
The worst part of this entire experience is the certain knowledge that my wife will go to the supermarket next week and find it right away.