My husband and I ran a couple errands together last weekend. I know that sounds monotonous, common and uneventful, but in all honesty that is usually not a “together” activity for us. He has his errand locations: Home Depot, the auto parts store, the fish market; and I have mine: Home Goods, the grocery store, the pharmacy. We generally have no interest in each other’s favorite haunts. That changes when the destination is Costco. I mean, come on, any large warehousey looking building that showcases TVs and electronics at the entrance is going to appeal to men. Any large bulk-shopping building that also offers clothing, household goods, books, toys and food will appeal to RW’s. The customer base there is made up of the widest variety of people of any of my other usual stops. Men, women, children, elderly, those with wealth and those without, those with large families, those who are empty nesters – all can be seen roaming the aisles.
Ever since my son was a little boy, this is the one store visit that both he and my husband have been quite willing to not only join me, but to BROWSE. We know the usual male form of shopping: get in, get out. But here there’s an allure of what you might miss if you don’t roam a bit. Of course the pre-pandemic plethora of free samples used to be a big draw as well. On the day of our visit, the only samples being offered were a ghastly high-caffeine “natural” energy drink and prepackaged snack biscuits. Oh how we miss the days of basically eating lunch as we shopped.
High on the mundane level, went in specifically for toilet paper. We get all of our paper products there, and have become TP snobs, preferring only Kirkland brand. If we get down to my back-up pack of 4 Scott brand rolls, we get into a minor panic that we are totally “out” and must get to Costco. There are two very important warnings about visiting this retailer: 1. You will ALWAYS purchase more than you went for and spend more than you expected, and 2. If you go on a weekend, it will be well- orchestrated chaos of people-hood, resembling the old days of Filene’s Basement on Black Friday.
We managed to dodge the cart-filled traffic jams to get our beloved TP, two “what a deal” mid-season jackets, a big container of raspberries and a block of batteries. As we made our way up front towards the throng of shoppers at check out, I suggested he go play in the electronics department and I would wait in line and meet him on the other side. He was quite happy with this arrangement. I don’t mind the line waiting, because the employees do their best to move people through (my cashier was chugging the aforementioned energy drink), and I like to see what others are buying. There is always something someone found that I did not see or know was available. This time I took note of the couple ahead of me who had picked up a cooked roaster chicken that looked far better than the birds I can get at my local grocery chain.
Escaping the crowds, we next paid a quick visit to our local independent pet supply store – another destination that appeals to us both, and another place where it is far too easy to spend more than planned. We were focused on purchasing dog food and bird seed. This time it was my hubby who recalled that we would need a new suet feeder for winter, so in the cart that went as well. As we headed up front, we saw a young boy, perhaps around 4 years old, with is dad. The boy was cradling to his chest what we thought was a plastic toy iguana. The boy paused and asked “would you like to pet her?” At that moment we realized said iguana was quite alive, well, and apparently happy to be out for an adventure. Gotta say I’m not sure I’ve ever pet an iguana before, but I have now.
The last stop was one that I was most trepidatious about. We needed a few things at the grocery store. My husband has not grocery shopped since pre-pandemic. This is slightly purposeful. He, like most men, get easily befuddled in the aisles. In the past, if I have sent him in on his own (yikes) with a list, it was necessary to include notes on specific location, brand and visual cues. And, again like most men (ps I realize there are some of you out there who are very good at grocery shopping – just understand you are in the minority), he would come home missing a few items, having added in a few of his own and having proudly spent only $40. Once the pandemic hit, I advised him against taking on this task on any level. The frustrations of OOS, lack of staff and rapidly increasing costs would merely send him over the edge of reason. He was perfectly satisfied to be the one to help me unload upon my return home as I regaled him with shopping stories and challenges.
On this foray, he was surprisingly calm as we knocked things off my list. Mind you, I am in there at least weekly. I hate the grocery task, so my goal is to be as quick and efficient as possible and I know where to find pretty much everything. What I had forgotten is that doing the grocery store run with a man is not unlike shopping with a teenager.
A few examples:
At the deli counter, he said “The next time we get ham, can we get swiss cheese instead of provolone? It just tastes better.” Me: “Sure, do you want to get more ham now?” Him: “No.” Me: “Did you want to get some swiss now for whatever ham you have left at home?” Him: “No. I’m kind of burned out on all the usuals.” Me: “Ok…do you want some roast beef this week for a change?” Him: “No. But that bologna you got last time was good.”
I was nearly at the end of one aisle when I turned back and saw him browsing. Not sure what he was focused on, could have been something like a can of olives. Me: “Did you find something you want?” Him: “Huh? Uh, no.”
In the cookie/snack aisle, we looked to see if the store brand wafers he likes are back in stock. They are not. Him: “You’d think they’d have plenty of their own brand.” Me: “Distribution issues don’t discriminate.”
Another aisle, he pauses to answer a text on his phone. By the time he’s done, he has lost track of me because I’m at the end of the next aisle with my arms full because he has the cart with him.
Last aisle. Him: “Wow, it’s cold over here. Are we almost done?”
Up at check out. Him: “Why are there only two lanes open? And where are the baggers?”. Me: “Welcome to my world.”
We returned home feeling for the most part successful in our missions. After bringing in our purchases and getting things put away, we returned to our regularly scheduled programming – him to putter in his workshop, me a walk with the dogs. While strolling, I pondered about how participating in even the most mundane of activities takes on a unique perspective when done with another person. Be it child, partner, friend, family member, coworker – a different set of eyes, ears and viewpoint can make you pause in your usual tried and true path and notice something in a different light. Yes, it might slow you down a bit and feel just a bit less efficient. But chances are you’ll notice something you normally would have cruised right by.
Ya never know. It could even be a pet iguana.