Good lord, do I hate going to the grocery store! Beyond the mind numbing idiocy that is on display there in the constant parade of inconsiderate and self-absorbed humanity, the floor plan and aisle layout is deviously designed by claustrophobic-hating sadists. There is no easy way in or out, which I believe any person responsible for the setup of a store will readily admit. One must navigate aisle which are too small, carts that are too wide, and people that are too stupid to get out of your way to get to even the simplest and most basic needs. For example, you want milk? Farthest corner from the door. Baby items? All the way in the back, sometimes hidden among the pet aisle, which lends one’s logical mind to wonder if they are making a commentary about the modern family, that perhaps babies and dogs and cats are equivalent in their mind. Razor blades are inexplicably locked up behind the pharmacy, but condoms galore are on parade in full view.

For years, I would force my husband to do the grocery shopping, as I could not bear to deal with my social anxieties so early on a Saturday morning. Like a trooper, he went out with list in hand, and always came in under budget and in a relatively good mood. But, in the interest of cooking more meals at home and simply out of the need for a more active role in recipe planning, I have been going along for the ride, as it were. I have realized that there is no good time to go to the store. As long as the doors are open, there will be morons wandering the aisles.

Clearly they have not anticipated that they might need to share space, as they leave their cart in the middle of the aisle to contemplate which variety of pork rinds would be most appropriate for Bubba’s birthday shindig. When they do realize that they are in your way, the kindly move the cart, using their inexplicable psychic shining to block the very items you were looking for, forcing yet another standoff.

Should the rusty hamster wheel inside their head turn enough to figure out why you are staring them down with the most caustic stink-eye this side of the BP oil slick and move the cart away from your desired item, best move your ass, because social decorum dictates exactly 2.5 seconds to make decision and GTFO before you begin to unleash your inner fury. Best bet in this situation is to turn the cart around and leave in the opposite direction, and hope there isn’t yet another shining beacon of humanity waiting on the other side, weighing out their options between which soda will make their kids less hyper.

Turns out all that fake sugar in diet soda is a neurotoxin because now you’re encased on all sides by hulking idiocy and products you no longer wish to buy. Thoughts drift back to your one experience with indoor rock climbing, and how you so wish you had paid more attention. You no longer care about whatever items you came in for and escape becomes the only important thing at the moment. Realizing that should you decide to scale the chip rack in search of freedom would probably result in your immediate expulsion from the store and likely arrest no longer seems viable. So, instead you do what any normal human would do, sigh loudly until one of the grazing cattle decide to move for you.

It is because of these interactions that I find shopping as a team works in my favor. I can stop at the end of the aisle, escape route clearly available and send my dear husband to fetch the item that I need, or vice versa. This works out well most of the time, since I can duck and weave pretty well. By asking your teammate loudly what item is needed in this aisle (even though you know damn well what you came down there for) allows everyone within earshot aware of what you’re going for and gives them the opportunity to move the cart away. Should they decide not to move, well, it may be time to cut a bitch.

At the checkout, I prefer to self-checkout, as it is probably the widest area for one to operate in. The pressure is off, as you can take your own sweet time scanning each item. One must be accepting and understanding of the sensitivity of the machinery, but once you reach a level of basic proficiency, you’re golden. My husband prefers to go to an actual human for checkout, which I go along with only because I was on my best behavior in the rest of the store and because he allows me to buy a bunch of crap he won’t eat out of the joint budget. The issue I have with the human checkout line is twofold. First, the aisle is far too tight, so you must decide before you push beyond the point of no return whether you’re going in first or last. I opt to go in first because I can load the groceries on the belt with spider monkey like speed and proficiency. We bring our own bags to the store, like good environmentally conscious citizens of the earth, so those go on first, then keeping like items together, and leaving the softest and easiest to crush items last. It is imperative to inform the cashier that you will handle your own bagging, otherwise, in spite of seeing your happy environmentally sound bags on the belt, may begin stuffing your items into the toxic plastic bags out of habit. It is important to put the divider up between the previous order, yours and at the next poor schmuck in line, otherwise mass hysteria may break out or worse, you may end up with someone else’s crap.

Bill paid and cart packed up, we leave the store and head to the car. I never understand why people fight over the closest spot to the door at the grocery store. Sure it’s more convenient at your arrival, but when you get back to the car with a huge haul, you’re stuck trying to wedge it all in while being surrounded on all sides by tightly wedged vehicles. The potential for damage is very likely. Oh, and return the damn cart when you’re done! Don’t just push it off into the random emptiness of the parking lot like a baby bird from the nest. Wind will push it into my car, and when I find your ass, you will feel my wrath and pay the deductible on my insurance for the ding you caused. Because our neighborhood is full of trashy humans, sometimes I see an errant grocery cart abandoned impossibly far from the grocery store. Why take it that far just to leave it there? Honestly, if you’re committed to taking it further than you should, like to your house, then keep the damn thing for next time. Put it in the garage for next time, that way the poor kid from the store doesn’t have to walk 12 blocks to go find it.