Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Square Peg -Ain’t it Grand?



The Square Peg -Ain’t it Grand?
© S. Bradley Stoner

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I’m going to be honest with you. I avoid grand openings like the plague. Why? Because they’re a complete madhouse and shoppers get just a little bit crazy. You might even say the cheese slid off their crackers. You have the Mario Andrettis who think their shopping cart is a Formula One racer. Then there are the sticky-fingered product peekers who have to pick up everything they see. How about the aisle hogs? You know, the ones with the big carts that park in the middle of the aisle while they wander up and down perusing the shelves. Oh, and the cart crashers… those hyperactive, impatient knot heads who don’t have time to wait for you to move and ram the old cart right into your butt. And that’s not even to mention the folks who stand with glazed eyes staring into space like lost children in an amusement park. Geez, it’s enough to drive a sane man crazy.

How do I know all this? Easy, I went to a few grand openings when I was young and stupid. I’m older and wiser now… or so I thought. It wasn’t up to me. I was duped. After twenty some years, you’d think I’d learn. Sneaky women. “I need to pick up a few things… want to go with me?” Well heck, why not? It was Saturday and I wasn’t doing much, so off we went. I got suspicious the minute we turned left instead of right. This wasn’t the direction of our usual “pick up a few things” store.

“Um… where are we going?” I asked with more than a little trepidation.

“That new HEB super store… they have a bunch of grand opening specials. It’s time to stock up.”

I groaned… and I got the look. Every guy out there knows what I’m talking about.

“Did I complain when you spent half a day in the Bass Pro Shop?”

“Well, um… no. Gee whiz, Sweetie, there’s nothing I like better than going grocery shopping with you.” Hey, I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice… you gotta give me credit for that.

“Watch it, bub.”

I raised my palms and tried to look like an innocent, injured party. It didn’t work… it never does. You’d think I’d learn.

Well, we made it to the shiny new store. The parking lot was a madhouse, not to mention jam-packed full. I was hoping for a miracle… no space, no shopping. No such luck. As usual, she arrived in a row just as another patron was making his escape in a big pickup and slid into his space only two spots in, putting us really close to the entrance. I don’t know how she does that. I think it’s some kind of dark magic.

“See, we were meant to be here,” she chirped cheerfully.

I followed her in, looking like every other guy who’d been conned into going to the grand opening… a condemned man on his final walk. You’ve seen the look, I know you have. And we were all following women who looked like they’d died and gone to heaven. Right until they saw the crowds… and suddenly they turned into hawk-eyed birds of prey bent on snatching the goodies before the other birds of prey spotted them. I guess that’s what makes women such good shoppers. Unfortunately, these birds have a habit of stopping suddenly in mid-flight when they spot what they’re after. My Sweetie is no exception. Navigating the aisles with such a creature requires a great deal of skill and lightning-fast reflexes to avoid rear-ending the love of your life.

Unfortunately, there are others who are less predictable… there’s the gray-headed sale darter, the blond-crested sample taster, and the starry-eyed skirt shorter (the one who causes the thirty-something guy behind you to crash his cart into your butt). I swear, you have to have perfect peripheral vision and a sixth sense to navigate the mad migration without incident. I have perfect peripheral vision, but unfortunately my sixth sense tends to malfunction in crowds. I barely avoided a gray-headed sale darter and smacked directly into a blond-headed sample taster. She was not amused… especially with that salsa sample dripping down her impeccable yellow blouse. I mumbled an apology and disappeared quickly into the crowd.

Well, we finally finished our aisle ambling with a shopping cart full of specially priced goodies, found an aisle that wasn’t wall-to-wall shoppers, and made our way to the check-out stands. I was dreading it. I could just picture the long lines and waiting for Molly Moptop to scan articles as slowly as possible while shooting the breeze with all the other double-breasted chats. I was pleasantly surprised, however. Every check-out stand was open and there was no more than one customer in line on each one… and the clerks were fast. Woohoo! We’d get out in jig time. There is a shopping God after all.

“See? That wasn’t so bad,” my Sweetie crooned, leaving the three cars vying for her parking spot to fight it out behind us.

“It could’ve been worse,” I admitted.

She smiled at me and said, “You’re such a duck.”

I’m not sure where she got that, but it’s been a kind of pet comment to me since we met. Maybe it’s because she drives me quackers.