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2:06 p.m. - August 06, 2005
Let Us All Rise And Go Krogering, Amen
For some reason, I really don’t mind going to the grocery store.

I don’t know if it is the food, glorious food, or the fact that I can entertain a 3 ½ year old easily (when not chasing her around the store), or that I am the Lord God of coupon clipping (all hail me!), but I kind of like going to the store and killing some time.

So with Liz off to Indianapolis (to go to Costco, Super Target, and Once Upon A Child, and most importantly, a day without any children around), I packed up Katie and Kristin and went Krogering.

When we lived in Zionsville, the grocery store we went to was right by our neighborhood. It was a nice neighborhood store, complete with the requisite nosy cashier (who tsk-tsked you when you used a credit card to pay for groceries and had something against the proprietors of the local Chinese restaurant, for whatever reason), but it had some upscale items. Well, upscale for Indiana. The denizens of more urban, hipper locales would scoff at what I call upscale. Heck, to me, upscale is having Marzetti Caesar Salad in the refrigerated dressing section, OK?

Here in Crawfordsville, the store is a whole five minutes away (I know, tragedy), but the clientele and item selection are more down home (the clientele especially). Here, you can see all kinds of people in the store wearing God-knows what. Yes, I have seen curlers. I have seen the women in t-shirts two sizes too small and stretch pants. I have seen the chain wallets. In Zionsville, if you didn’t at least have a polo shirt on, they’d make you use the back entrance!

Hey, these are my people and I’m happy to be back among them. Besides, I feel comfy letting Katie out the door in a tie-dye t-shirt and fake cut-off jean shorts with flower appliqués when I go to the store here, knowing that she won’t be the most outrageously dressed kid there.

The rigmarole of getting ready to enter the store - me a parent flying solo with a 3 ½ year old and an 8-week old – can be tedious. Park the car. Shut off the iPod (“Sorry Somehow” by Husker Du. Hate to end it, but gots to) Gather your wallet, the diaper bag, the list and of course, the coupons. Arrange the coupons in the order that you will encounter the items in the store. This last part is quite important – you don’t want to miss any money saving opportunity. Especially with double coupons – that’s like found money. Heck, sometimes when the local store has triple coupon days I have a stash of coupons like a mobster’s bank roll. I just start peelin’ them off and throwing them around like a customer at the Bada Bing!

Then find a cart. Then open the back door of the car to get the 8-week old. Then take the 8-week old out of the car seat holder and put the car seat on the cart. Then go to the other side of the car and get the 3 ½ old unbuckled from her car seat. Then yell at the 3 ½ year old to stay with Daddy. Repeat this last step continuously until you reach the door.

In the store, Kristin was being quite mellow, just looking around with that baby-stare, the one that looks vacant yet really isn’t. Sometimes the baby-stare is augmented with a stuck out tongue or a cocked head with a slack jaw. But today, it was just the baby stare. Katie, of course, was a dynamo. She immediately ran ahead of me, picking out the oldest bananas, grabbing a clamshell container of strawberries, picking up three loaves of bread.

“Katie, slow down and stay with Daddy.”

I should have that on my iPod – I could hook some mini-speakers up to it and play it continually while I’m in the store with Katie.

After finishing our produce and bread shopping, we turn the corner a there it is – the most mystifying site in the whole store: the tank of live lobsters.

Remember, I live in Indiana - semi-rural Indiana (town of 15,000 – county of 28,000 – and lots o’ corn and pigs all around). I can’t imagine that there’s much call for live lobsters. This is a meat-and-potatoes town. (Hey, hon – I got some Steak-ums, bologna, Lunchables, queso dip, Vienna Sausages and a lobster!) But here they are.

There were about a dozen in the tank today – a few were definitely wanting to escape (Ok, on my word, everyone stack up and three of us will shimmy out and get help!) while others seemed resigned to their fate. Dinner. Well, I assume dinner. I don’t know how often the stock gets rotated, or even how often the tank is cleaned. You know, that’s a big ego deflator to a lobster, no doubt, being taken out of the tank at the store in BFE Indiana and sent back to wherever.

I also don’t know how the heck you’re supposed to get the lobsters. I think you have to get to the meat counter, but there’s hardly anyone there. Not having seen anyone pick a live lobster, I’m unsure. Do they put it in a little plastic bag, like a goldfish? Do you get a mini-tank? Since the tank is located very early on in the grocery store continuum, there must be some way to keep the lobster alive as you go about gathering the rest of your provisions.

Katie is mesmerized by the lobsters for about 30 seconds each time she sees them. She’s always sad their claws are bound up – but then she’s off again – 20 feet ahead of me and going down the aisles I don’t need to go down.

It’s important to make sure you work out how you are going down each aisle. It’s imperative you go down the final aisle (the Pillsbury section, the cheeses, and the spreads) the proper way so you don’t double back. In fact, doubling back at all is tantamount to poor planning of your grocery store assault. So you need to know which aisles you can skip in order to make it through without the double back. Because if you double back, it means you are less vigilant and not noticing your surroundings. The terrorists may have won. (No, there is no truth to the rumor that I scout out grocery stores to ensure I never have a double back – I always buy SOMETHING everytime I go.)

So I keep Katie corralled and only about 10 feet ahead of me, for the most part, except when she stops dead cold by the toys.

“Dad, can I have this?”
”No, Katie.”
“But we don’t have one of these.”
“And we don’t need one.”
“But we don’t have one.”

That could go on forever. Katie really turned on the sad puppy-dog eyes for this toy, drawing some sympathy from the masses that where sauntering by. (Frankly, I didn’t see what it was, really, but I knew we didn’t need it. Even if we didn’t have one.) But common sense prevailed – a mild rebuke and she was off. I didn’t even have to utter the words “Time Out.”

In the cereal aisle, we encountered a jam up, the worst kind of jam up. People on both sides of the aisle, stopped, and seriously debating the merits of their next purchases. Come, on, people! It’s not rocket science! You are choosing between Corn Flakes, the store brand, and Post Toasties. You see the little unit price on the sticker by them. You know what they taste like. Do you want quality, the unit price leader, or go off the board with a rogue purchase! Make up your mind!

Once, I saw a woman spend at least three minutes in deciding what brand of creamed corn she was going to buy – if she was going to buy any at all. It’s like you need a buzzer, going “Times up!” And then a Whammy would come out and take your cart so you’d have to start over again. Bwa-haha!

So we were stuck for a bit. Kristin spit up a little – and then some nice ladies commented on how cute she was, and when Katie heard that she went into “I’m cute too! See!” mode. But then I noticed the music playing in the store.

It used to be muzak in the day (or schlock like Andy Williams and Englebert Humperdinck – singing you to sleep after the lovin’), but now the music in the store is a bit more hip. Well, not hip like MTV hip. But at least it was rock-and-roll and soul in the day. And it’s not just the same old recycled oldies. Twice in the past month I’ve heard “Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay and the Techniques. That was a #6 hit in 1967, but you don’t hear it often. (It’s got a snappy chorus, trust me. You’ll sing it in the shower after you hear it once!). And I swear I’ve heard “Alison” by Elvis Costello in there as well.

So I’m singing to the Buckinghams (“Don’t You Care”), and Katie goes “Dad, you’re hurting my ears.” At that time the cereal conundrum is cleared up (they went for the Corn Flakes. Figures) and we’re off again.

The big peril of going to the store with Katie is the frozen food aisle. Specifically, it is passing by the ice cream section. Inevitably, she wants some. Inevitably, she lingers by the ice cream section. Inevitably, I have to threaten time-out. Inevitably, she runs back to the display – pressing her nose against the frosty door and going “Look! Look! Ice Cream!” It’s a ritual, I suppose. She never disappoints.

I take pride that as I’m going through the final areas of the store that I will, indeed, finish going down the right way on the last aisle. I grab some beer (and I used to feel funny about buying alcohol when I was toting around small children, but then I went to the local liquor store the other day during the heat wave and I saw a five year old in a pickup truck waiting for their mother to get some tequila, so I decided that a 12-pack of Sam Adams and a bottle of Merlot wasn’t going to lose me my “World’s Greatest Dad” self-proclaimed title)(I have the t-shirt which says I am, so I am!) and sodas, finish up with some Pillsbury tubes o’ biscuits, cheese-like product, and artificial bread spread concocted in Muppet Labs, then we go check out.

As an alleged time saver, Kroger has these U-Scan aisles. I avoid them when I can – because I always get yelled at by these infernal machines because I didn’t put my item in the bag at the precise moment it told me – and I always have coupons which the human cashier must deal with for whatever reason (the coupons scan just like the groceries, you’re telling me they can’t come up with an automated way to do it, with a depository at the end of the process?). So it’s no time saver for me. Besides, the cashiers always are nicer when you have little kids – and they seem to be a bit faster as well.

Cashiers come in two varieties. One is either middle-aged or older women - some of whom no doubt cashiered pre-UPC days when it was an art. If you can recall, those big cash registers had many buttons for the price and what kind of item it was, and these ladies were just marvels at it. Fastest hands I’ve ever seen. These cashiers are named either Ruth or Darlene. The second are sullen teenagers just waiting to clock out so they can get on their cell phones for 7 hours in a row. These cashiers are named Amber.

I drew Amber, but she was nice and gave Kristin a big smile and Katie some stickers. There was a lack of baggers today, so Amber had to bag as well. (I would have helped, but I had kids to corral). That’s fine, since one of the normal baggers is a guy my age that used to play D & D with us once in a while before I realized that he was a bit, no a lot, creepy. Although he had a fine collection of certain magazines, which at age 15 was really mind blowing and almost swayed us to keep him in the little group. But by 16 I was out of the dungeon, so to speak. (Verily, though, I often dream of kobolds attacking the house to this day.)

So with the groceries bagged its back out to the car. Katie has decided to stay within shouting distance, so that’s a small win. Getting ready to go also requires precise movements, making sure Kristin is secured before unloading – lest you recreate an SVU episode inadvertently. (And I don’t want to know who the C’ville version of Fin is, either.). And with the bags in the trunk, the kids in the car seat, and the iPod back on (“Ticket to Ride” – and just concentrate on the drumming. It’s Ringo’s best work, really. The triplets during the verse are precise...uh….oh yeah grocery day…) we’re on our way back home.

Thus endeth another excursion at the Kroger. And while it may be a couple of weeks before I embark on another grocery assault – the planning starts tomorrow.

We get two Sunday newspapers – and Sunday newspapers mean coupons!

Hand me the scissors!


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