I may be slightly hard-pressed to explain to my son how in day-to-day life he will need to know how to derive square roots, or create a plant cell out of modeling clay… but I can easily vouch for how many skills are needed for something as unassuming as a trip to the grocery store.
Sure, watching mom head out to the store and come back with a car full of groceries seems simple enough. In kid world, it is kind of like magic….within an hour or two we can go from “there’s nothing good to eat” to a fridge full of food. Yet the other night as I traversed those well-worn aisles in my home-away-from-home store, I thought about the brain power required to make it a successful outing.
So, kids, pull up your chairs, take out your notepads and observe the R.W.’s skills put to use in one of her natural habitats:
- Mathematician: First and foremost, the R.W. must possess finely tuned arithmetic skills. They are required to mentally track the cost of what goes in the cart to stay within a pre-defined budget. Some R.W.’s may be seen with an actual calculator in hand, but most will test their mental acuity by doing long addition and multiplication as they roam. Beyond the big picture are the individual calculations made while standing staring at similar products to determine the best cost: brand with coupon vs. store-brand and no coupon.. Then factor in size and quantity, and the R.W. has created a formula worthy of Sheldon’s white board on Big Bang Theory.
- Value Manager: The skilled R.W. will not be misled by pretty signs offering great deals. She must gauge the offers wisely. Buy-one-get-one is appealing, but will the family really go through 20 pounds of potatoes before they go bad? Should she really pay $5.00 for two small containers of blueberries? Then the most dangerous deception of all: packaging. With pride and excitement, the R.W. may find that the cost of a jar of peanut butter has decreased – until she conducts closer analysis to discover the shape and size of the jar has changed – indented bottom, skinnier diameter… those sneaky packaging devils struck again. But the Value Manager is not fooled.
- Scientist: Another key skill lies in understanding of what “best by” and “sell by” means in the world of expiration dates. The scientific R.W. knows how long steak will last past the “packed on” date before it turns a funky grey. She can gauge how many days beyond the “best buy” date cottage cheese will stay fresh before it becomes a fridge experiment, and how many days it will take for bananas to change from green to yellow to brown. As for the selection of produce, there are a myriad of ways an R.W. will determine if something is ripe. She may conduct a short experiment like pulling the leaves on a pineapple, smelling the bottom of a melon, or squeezing the top of a pear. Scientist R.W.’s are fascinating to watch in this environment, and much can be learned from them.
- Logistical Engineer: Efficient packing of the grocery cart is a fine art. R.W.’s who are shopping for a party, or stocking up, develop a well-planned layering and stacking technique to make the most of available space. A seasoned visitor who is familiar with her surroundings will also logistically lay out the hunting experience for time efficiency and to avoid back-tracking. She has finely tuned hand-eye coordination and fast reaction time to work around parked carts, clusters of chatty shoppers and confused men and seniors.
- Interpersonal Relations: The grocery shopping experience may seem like a solitary experience, but the R.W. must possess clear communication and reasoning skills to be used at the deli counter, check-out, and on the rare occasion when she needs assistance finding a particularly allusive product. In order for the experience to be truly successful, she must maintain a calm and pleasant attitude in the face of crowded aisles, missing inventory, lost and confused other shoppers looking for guidance, and delays in lines. This is potentially the most difficult skill to master – for although the R.W. is highly skilled and trained to take on this task of grocery shopping, it is often the very last place an R.W. wants to be.
Yes kids, that school work is indeed valuable. Study hard, keep up the good work, and someday you too may become a skilled professional like the R.W. in your life.