Today, I had a solo trip into Booming Metropolis. The Captain had a little more leave to burn before beginning the insanity that is the work-up to deployment, so he took this week off and was, therefore, home with the kids. I don't know why I never learn, but these solo trips always loom large for me as something akin to a spa day. I picture myself having a leisurely drive into the city, coffee in hand, running a few errands, shopping, lunching with a friend and coming home renewed and relaxed.
Here's the real story.
My 45-minute drive into Booming Metropolis was, I admit, uneventful. But that's only because out here in the middle of nowhere, we don't see many cops on the roads. If we did, I'd probably have gotten a ticket. The car is broken right now. Very broken. Both front turn signals are out, as well as the daytime running lights. Our local mechanic can't fix the problem, which means it isn't anything as simple as the bulbs or fuses. We have it booked in at the dealership next week for what we expect to be a horrendously expensive repair. For now, we are driving as little as possible, but we were in desperate need of a big grocery run, which is why I took the chance and drove it today.
Arriving safely in Booming Metropolis, I went about the business of running those few little errands, mostly without incident. And then I went to the Superstore.
The Superstore, if you're not familiar, is one of those places where you trade your personal space and relative sanity for some great grocery deals. The place was wedged. I wanted to shriek "Why aren't you people at WORK?!" but I was afraid they'd ask me the same thing. And, honestly, I don't have a satisfactory answer.
So, I steered my cart carefully through the store, waiting patiently for the irritatingly oblivious to compare shampoo labels while their carts stood in the middle of the aisle, blocking all movement for the rest of us. I chose my aisles carefully, knowing if I went down this one or that, I may find myself trapped there for 15 minutes or more. And I grabbed at things as I moved past the displays so as not to stop the flow for the people behind me. It wasn't shopping nirvana, not by a long shot.
One embarrassing visit with some male pharmacy workers, six missed items on my list, and two broken bags in the bulk foods section later, I'd officially had enough. By this point, my cart was overflowing and almost impossible to push through the aisle, let alone around the corner. This is the danger of living so far outside of the city. When you do go in, you have to make it count. So I found the first open checkout line and proceeded to unload my stuff.
The scanner wouldn't recognize any of the store's own coupons, so I didn't save a quarter on toilet paper, the debit machine hadn't been working properly all morning, so I had to try three times, and I had so many groceries that now I was the one holding everyone else up. All the while, I kept repeating my mantra. "At least the kids aren't with me."
But it doesn't end there. After paying my heart-stopping $350 grocery bill, I heaved my unmanageable, brimming cart through the snowy parking lot, stopping every thirty seconds to pick up boxes of bran flakes and tubs of ice cream as they slid off the bottom rack. I stood in minus 30 degree winds and loaded my haul into the hatch of the car, at which point my bulk bag of popcorn split open. And then, finally finished, I returned my cart to the cart corral. Except my coin wouldn't come out. It was jammed.
Now, if it was just a loonie, at this point I'd have cut my losses and gotten the hell out of there, swearing never to return, even if maple baked beans WERE on for 50 cents a can. But I had one of those cart keys. They were some sort of charity promotion. They cost $8 and they fit onto your keychain so you'd never be without a coin for a cart again. So, into the store I went, where I was informed irritably, by the most unfriendly store greeter I've ever met, "I can't help you with that. You'll have to go to Customer Service."
The lady there was more pleasant, but she couldn't help me either. After a few minutes of trying to jam the thing out, she said the best she could do was give me a loonie. So long, cart key. It was fun while it lasted.
When I did finally pull out of that parking lot, driving even slower than usual due to the fact that no one in front of me could tell what on earth I was planning on doing, I felt like I'd just finished a full eight-hour shift at Taco Bell. I'm pretty sure I smelled like it too.
When I pulled back into my driveway, praising the gods for not letting me t-bone the car, I promised myself I wasn't venturing any further than the compost heap for at least a week. And then, joy of joys, the Captain appeared to help me lug everything in. Good old Captain.
But of course, I'd forgotten something. Good old internet banking. Luckily, the Captain was happy to remind me.
"I've come to see what $350 worth of groceries looks like."