In my late 20s I lived in West Palm Beach, Fla., and was once warned never to go shopping at Publix when the Century Village bus was sitting outside.
Century Village is a vast retirement community dominating a swath of the South Florida landscape, because apparently, when you reach a certain age, you are required to move to the Sunshine State.
One day, running late on my way to work, I disregarded the bus warning and dropped by the grocery store to pick up a few items.
It was not long after the grocery store rearranged the placement of items inside the store, as grocery stores are wont to do. The soup was on aisle 4, not 5. The olive oil was by the spices, not the sugar. The frozen peas were moved across the way.
There are truisms I’ve learned in my years: Don’t misspell words in articles about spelling bees, there’s always a car coming, and don’t move the soup aisle in grocery stores populated by older people. Suffice to say I left the store without my items.
This memory returned to me the other day when shopping at Kroger and discovering the soup, which used to sit on the right side of aisle 10, was no longer on the right side of aisle 10. In fact, most everything in the store was slightly shifted, as if a tremor struck and gently moved items to another spot not too far away. Even in places where the items were in the same place, as was the cereal, the placement of the boxes was different. My Great Grains were once by the Cap’n Crunch, and now they were by the Fruity Pebbles?
What was this madness?
My normal hour at the grocery store grew to twice the time.
I was annoyed with a hurting head. The Tylenol was not in its normal place.
Not cool, Kroger. Not cool.
I spend far too much time in grocery stores, they are a staple in my life more than I thought they’d be, but then again I based a certain level of my life’s success on simply being able to buy what I wanted at the grocery store. I love Triscuits (my father loved them, too), but in my early 20s I had to constantly talk myself out of getting them because I couldn’t afford them. Now I can buy them when I want. It’s not a house in the Hamptons, but it works for me.
My trips have become more frustrating, however, as I find the unwritten rules of grocery store etiquette not being followed. My Kroger is populated by a younger clientele who do not have the aisle experience of someone of my advanced age, and I’m sure the youngsters look at me the way I looked at the Century Village bus. But there are rules, people, and I offer these as gentle suggestions to further the education of grocery store P’s and Q’s:
‒ The aisles go two ways. Look, I know, the spice aisle is INFURIATING. How hard is it to find the garlic salt? Real hard. But move to one side, or the other. And I understand the conversation in the middle of salad dressing aisle is fascinating, but pick a side. Hey, congratulations on your newborn (I, too, have a 5-month-old baby boy), but you don’t need to walk the cart right down the middle. The pinto beans will not fall on his/her head.
‒ If I’m bagging groceries (which I used to do professionally but now do in pure amateur status), don’t move up to the card swiper unless you plan to buy my groceries (which is always welcome). Yes, you’re in a hurry, but you’re not going anywhere until I’m done. Am I wearing a Kroger outfit? Move back, read the tabloids, Taylor Swift is cray-cray.
‒ It reads 10 items or LESS (unless you’re at Publix, who correctly note it is FEWER). You have 14 items. You are in the wrong lane. And no, having six of the same yogurts is not one item. Move to the non-10 items or fewer lane, or go to the self-serve lane, even though it tells you to wait for the attendant after every swipe (why does it do this?).
‒ If you have 6 items and I’m in front of you with 75 items, don’t expect me to let you go first. Did you see the 10 items or fewer lane? You can go there now. It’s called the line concept – first come, first serve. Don’t sigh, it only makes me go slower.
Grocery shopping is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating too.
Now grab your frozen peas and close the door. No need to air-condition the whole store.