Ode to the Grocery Store

Over the last two weeks, I have been to two separate grocery stores several times. There’s a difference between the two stores; yes, their colours are primarily opposed, their prices are slightly different, but ultimately what it comes down to is that one store requires you to bag your own groceries and the other has employees that do it for you.

Now, I’m the type of person who likes to have my groceries in the same shape at home as they were at the grocery store.
You know, unbruised, unsquashed, or unbroken.

Therefore, when I’m at the grocery store, I always make sure to place my groceries strategically in my cart, so that my box of rice doesn’t land on top of my bread, or that my can of chickpeas doesn’t bruise my bananas, or that my bag of potatoes isn’t infringing upon the space my grapes are supposed to be in.

But that is only the shopping cart aspect.
The real fun begins when it’s checkout time.

When I’m at the grocery store where I have to bag my own groceries, I either…

a) Take my sweet time carefully bagging my groceries so that each heavy item is at the bottom and lighter items are on top and that nothing is in jeopardy of squashing. BUT then the cashier always glares at me because there is no longer any room on the conveyer to put the NEXT customer’s groceries, and as the line backs up people get a little impatient.
b) Hurry through my grocery bagging, haphazardly throwing one thing after another into the bag in order to get it all done before the cashier asks me to pay, which usually results in me having to rearrange everything when I get to my car anyway.
or c) Hire a friend, neighbour, or small child to bag my groceries for me while I put them onto the conveyer and pay. This usually results in things not where I want them to be, or something being snacked on while we’re still in the grocery store.

As you can see, it’s a challenge!

When I’m at the grocery store where employees bag the groceries for me, the situation may look like this:

d) The grocery store clerk, or “bagger” as we will call them, takes the three fabric shopping bags I have placed on the conveyer, opens one, and proceeds to pack every single item purchased into that one bag by squishing, cramming, shaking, and eventually handing me one overflowing bag and two empty ones.
e) The bagger is chatting and laughing (and sometimes flirting) with the other clerk, and begins to toss things into my shopping bag without considering where things go; this usually results in a carton of strawberries and a bunch of bananas underneath a jar of pickles and/or lettuce and vegetables on top of my bread. Really, people. Don’t they have a course or something in proper bagging etiquette?
f) The bagger looks at the shopping bags, looks at me, and then asks, “Where did you get these?!” as if they are from another planet and/or are something they haven’t seen before. But, when the store’s plastic grocery bags cost me 5 cents each and I already have about two thousand of them stuffed under my kitchen sink, I prefer using my own bags, thank you very much.

All in all, the trip to the grocery store culminates at the checkout counter. The issues of bagging groceries (whether you do it yourself or someone else does it for you) and coupon counting and even magazine/chocolate bar/other impulse buy selection are important moments in the grocery store experience.

However, all this being said, I always make it home with my groceries, unpack them onto my counter, and take a look at the bounty I just collected.
All the indecisive moments standing in front of 70 types of yogurt, the decisions made of whether organic really is better, the careful perusal of ingredient lists and nutrition information, or the grocery bagging adventures fade away when I realize what a blessing it is to be able to go to the grocery store, freely select what I want to buy, and pay for it while there’s still money on my bank account.

The next trip you take to the grocery store, take a second to appreciate these pivotal moments. Some people may never get to experience them, but rather shop in market stalls or the backs of pickup trucks or sides of the road. Our trip to the grocery store, with its oft-indecisive and challenging moments, truly is a privilege that is so easily taken for granted.

PS: Perhaps next time I have a terrible grocery bagger at the grocery store, I’ll offer them tips. I’m sure they’d love to hear how cans should never go on top of produce from another of their lovely customers. ;)

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