Grocery shopping can be so much more than food gathering

Out of the Woods

Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2001

Well, call me challenged socially, but don't call me late for dinner. And I will be late if I don't quit loitering in the grocery store. I can't help it. Name one other venue, short of a real vacation, where it's warm, dry, well-lit, you're surrounded by tons of food and you get to drive a little cart with absolutely no rules of the road.

I was a little tense today. I'd already scrubbed the kitchen floor, cooked a week's worth of dinners, paid bills, washed and waxed the garbage cans and still couldn't settle down to a book. Only one thing to do. Go in the crawl space and fix the outdoor faucet. Excuse me? No, I went to the grocery store. There is a deep chocolate-type therapy I get from a nice, big food mart, maybe dating back to the first Carr's in Anchorage with old Pop Carr strolling through the aisles and my Mom chatting with the ancient checkers, Kay and Minna. That I even remember that is a clue that it was important to me. We would go home with bags of wonderful food and all was right with the world.

Later, living out of town and only going in occasionally, I would go to the biggest grocery store to get really warm, smell the fruits and vegetables and read the labels on the expensive cuts of meat. Small conversations with fellow shoppers were important social exercise as was the decision making at the paper-or-plastic part.

I still love a good grocery store. Important elements are organization and lighting, good selection, wide aisles, smooth floors and good buggies. The buggies with steering at both ends are fun to spin, push sideways, etc., sort of like figure skating, but it takes a little more planning and skill to maneuver the wide, front-steering ones. OK, I drive like a maniac. Fast, careening around the corners, making car sounds. But one thing I never do is park in the middle and block traffic. Unless I run into someone I know and we need to talk. Everyone does this, so a good driver meets the challenge and goes back and around. It would be boring if the path were always clear.

The other shoppers in the store are fun, too. I love it when I'm not the only one who can't decide which of something to buy and we just stare at the shelves awhile. It's so peaceful. This happens most often with the ice cream. We all go from regular to low sugar, low fat, frozen yogurt and back several times. Some feel the need to open the glass doors to look, others not. Sometimes people try to help me, probably to get me to move on. They'll suggest a flavor they like or ask what my favorite is, find it and shove it into my hands. Actually, I'm suffering from sticker shock with the ice cream, it's not a selection crisis, but I appreciate the help. Once it's in the buggy, I'm OK. The conversations are the best in the vegetables. I ask and learn what all the exotic ones are, what to trim off, how to cook them and I get advice in judging corn.

After about half an hour, could be days, in the store, I am ready to go back home, back to my project or whatever it was that I fled, renewed. It's pretty cheap therapy, depending on how many pounds of chocolate I buy.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at

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