Weekends are what we look forward to all week, with illusions of extra sleep and relaxation dancing in our heads. Yet all R.W.’s know that at least a portion of our days off will require the inevitable, dreaded, time-consuming activity: running errands. I believe that many of the men in our lives have a misconception of this duty. Often I’ve heard a man say “she is off shopping again”, with a bewildered roll of the eyes. Gentlemen, let me set the record straight: errands and shopping are two very different things. Errands happen ALL. THE. TIME. They are about as much fun as having a tooth slowly drilled at the dentist. Shopping is a fun, social activity which happens much less frequently. You can easily tell the difference by our moods when we return home. Are we frazzled, tired, and mumbling about playing beat the clock? Then we were out doing errands. Do we come back happy, refreshed and downright easy to be around? Then we’ve been out pleasure shopping. The other way to illustrate this to the men in our lives is to invite them to join us for a round of errands. It will likely be the last time they accept the offer.
Like clockwork, we R.W.’s head out to do all of the things we don’t have time for during our work hours, and we try valiantly to fit them all in within as short a time frame as possible. This is such a common practice that if you’ve lived in the same town for any period of time, you will invariably see other R.W.’s out and about who you know – neighbors, friends, associates. Because we are all out doing the same thing. No matter whether it is the drug store, post office, pet supply store, hardware store, grocery store, discount department store or bank, at any location we are likely to see a couple of women pausing to have a conversation and catch up after running into each other. A few years ago, I had my son with me running errands, and in the aisle of the drug store we stopped to chat with my good friend and neighbor. As we walked away, my son asked “why do we always see her everywhere?” and I replied: “Because We Live The Same Life.” Ever since then, anytime we are in the same place at the same time (it happened twice today), we say to each other “WLTSL”.
Those of you R.W.’s who live in temperate climates do miss out on one phenomenon that takes the common errand day to a whole new level: the day before a winter storm. Even though we live in modern day, with highly effective snow removal equipment, and experienced power crews, if the forecast calls for a substantial amount of snow, the world erupts with people running every conceivable errand possible before being “snowed in.” On those days, our Real Women stomping grounds are infiltrated by those who normally would not be out and about: senior citizens, young frightened couples, bored children, and men who have been sent out with a list and a prayer.
The result is a bit of madness, and a lesson in patience. Today was such a day. With the forecasters promising anywhere from 8 – 15 inches more of the white stuff over the next couple of days, the roads and stores were packed with people. I had to venture out for my usual round of errands. It didn’t matter whether tomorrow was 8 degrees and snowing or 80 degrees and sunny, I would be out today, along with the usual other R.W.’s, doing the exact same errands. Not so with all the “extra” folks. One element of a day like today that will test everyone’s patience is lines. Lines everywhere. Lines of traffic, and lines of people. At every stop. I’m truly not sure what the correlation is between getting a package mailed or a prescription picked up before the snow starts, but there were lines of people waiting to do so.
And then, the pièce de résistance: the grocery store. I dread going to the grocery store on any normal day. Today, I knew it would be a whole new level of drudgery. Sure enough, the parking lot was full, cars and people splashing through snow and slush to find an available cold wet cart to push around the store with what seemed like hundreds of other people. I was proud of myself, I kept my mood light as I wound my way around the store, dodging other carts, waiting to get around others to grab what I needed from the shelves. I was proud of the managers who had clearly planned ahead and had everything well-stocked. (Although once again I marveled at how milk is always the first item cleaned out). I was even in aisle 13 before my first hot flash hit, so that was a bonus.
Then of course came the worst part. Checking out. Moving up to the front of the store was like being a salmon attempting to leap up stream. It was a veritable sea of humanity, everyone now sweating in their heavy winter coats and boots, trying to jockey for the shortest line, of which there was none. As we all waited, various conversations popped up. Two elderly gentlemen marveled at how full my cart was. A mature woman ahead of me in line asked who would be helping me bring it all in at home. Other conversations sprouted up, about the storm, about certain in-store sales, about celebrity gossip on the magazines staring at us from the end-caps, and about the contents in our carts. We were strangers all connected by the same circumstances, all in this together.
When it was finally my turn at the conveyor belt, I felt my mood plummet when I realized the cashier was Betty. God love her, Betty moves at only one speed: slow and methodical. At one point, when Betty paused part way through my order to slowly unwrap a hard candy for herself, I turned to the R.W. behind me and took deep breaths and said “patience, patience.” She smiled and said “I get it.” Because she does. We were in it together. At one point, Betty, who was now 15 minutes past her break time, handed me her “closed” sign and asked if there was anyone in line after the woman behind me. I looked back and said, “well, yes, there’s a line that extends all the way back to produce. But I’m not sure they are all waiting for you, just any line to get out.”
Thirty minutes after getting in line, I emerged sweaty but triumphant on the other end, and hightailed it to my car. Of course I still had another stop to make before I could head home, but my errands were nearing the end for the day. I glanced at the clock. Another mental game we R.W.’s play is to try to estimate how long our duties will take us. Every time, reality adds at least an hour. Happily, I did make it home before dark, and before the storm started.
After getting everything put away, and getting changed into my comfy clothes, I of course thought of two or three other things I could have/should have accomplished while out and about. With a sigh, I jotted them down on a note for next time. After all, as certain as it is that tomorrow is another day, as certain as it is that a storm of some sort will arrive, I will again venture forth with my fellow R.W.’s for a round of errands….after we shovel out.