When Grocery-Getting Turns Violent

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Today I came home from getting groceries, hands shaking and heart pumping. Now, I know that grocery shopping isn't really anyone's idea of a good time, but for the past few weeks my favorite grocery store in Holland has been closed for remodeling. My shopping experiences have since approached Dante's circles of Hell, because all of us who normally are divided between two store locations have been converging in one. It is turning people who I'm sure are usually perfectly nice into monsters.

Take today for instance: As I was shopping, it was a bit of a struggle to get to the things I needed because the aisle was so full of people—access to products on the other side of the row was generally blocked by other shoppers and carts, and short of asking the person next to you to grab you what you needed, you might never get near it. It was a slow trip down the aisle, but I try to be Zen about such things, patiently moseying along. Since there was no detour, I stopped to wait when the person in front of me paused to survey the cereal selection. The cart behind me bumped into my legs. I scooted ahead a few inches, assuming it was an accident. Except that a few seconds later, it happened again. This time, I turned around, eyebrow raised, making eye contact with the woman behind me, who appeared neither blind nor too physically infirm to control her cart. I thought the matter was resolved.

A moment later, as I leaned through stacks of empty cardboard boxes to grab trail mix, her cart hit my legs again. "Ma'am, I don't know if you realize it, but your cart keeps running into my legs," I said in what I hoped was a reasonable tone. When she rolled her eyes at me, "Oh no she didn't!" screamed through my head, but I turned around and kept walking. That is, until I was blocked by two young, pretty, 20-somethings. (This is pertinent because I was dressed in my Monday, work-at-home, it's-house-cleaning-day clothes, feeling alternately sloppy and invisible.) These two gorgeous women, hair perfectly curled, makeup perfectly applied, artfully casually outfitted, were catching up as though they hadn't seen each other since the last sorority formal, completely blocking my path with their carts, completely oblivious. I tried to make eye contact as I said, "Excuse me," but made no impression.

And then, the cart behind me hit my legs again. Not just once, but several jabs, as though its driver was purposely ramming into my legs, trying to get things moving.

I turned and, with a voice louder than I've used in years—which is saying something, given that I teach middle and high school—shouted, "YOU NEED TO STOP RUNNING INTO ME!" 

Maybe it was only in my imagination, but the store became unearthly quiet, and everyone near me shrank back a good 10 feet. A wide path emerged between the two beauties, and my attacker faded back into the empty boxes.

Here's what I learned: It's cool to be all Zen about things, but sometimes you've got to yell to be heard.

Written by Jennifer Reynolds, who is a pretty chill gal, unless provoked.

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