Big news, everybody. I changed grocery stores this week. (I'll wait while all of the ladies gasp and all of the guys scratch their heads and say, "So?") I did it, though. I shopped at a new grocery store on Tuesday and I didn't even tell the old grocery store that I was leaving it. It's a stone cold heart I have.
To be honest, my relationship with the old grocery store was doomed from the beginning. It was a marriage of convenience and I loved it for all the wrong reasons. First and foremost, it's ridiculously close to my house. It was one of only two landmarks I used to be able to find without my GPS when we first moved here (the other landmark was my mailbox) and I felt awfully proud of myself when I successfully pulled into the parking lot each time without getting lost.
Second, the store is named ACME (part of the Albertson's chain) and, call me crazy, but I frequently fantasized about purchasing anvils and dynamite and catapults there. Not that I have need of anvils and dynamite and catapults right now, but--and I cannot stress this enough--YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO NEED ONE.
Once inside, I did my best to overlook its faults--poor selection, annoying high prices, and bizarro employees. For example, there are only TWO brands of refried beans, a gallon of milk is four dollars, and the employees are part of a special work-release program from a traveling carnival.
My first experience at the store was late at night, the very day we signed our mortgage papers. We were driving home and I asked Ryan to pull in and let me grab a few staples for the fridge. He waited in the car with the kids and I quickly filled a shopping basket and found an open checkout lane.
The checker was a buggy-eyed fellow with no neck who looked suspiciously like the troll in The Three Billy Goats Gruff I used to read in first grade (Carnie Exhibit A). No problem, I thought, there are only so many Brad Pitts in the world. I will not be your judge. But when he started ringing up my purchases and making small talk? Well, that's when the strange-o-meter went off.
Troll: Mumble, mumble, mumble, nervous laugh, mumble, mumble.
Me: Excuse me? (I focused all my spidey senses on my hearing.)
Troll: Mumble. Cat. Mumble. Shoe horn. Mumble. Elbow. Mumble.
Me: .....Yeah. (Nodding politely.)
Troll: Mumble. Itching. Garbage truck. Window. Rice. Mumble. Dust. Chocolate. Asthma. Night. Dishrag. Mumble.
Me: .............Huh. (Nodding politely.)
Troll: Mumble. Mumble. (Hearty chuckle.)
Me: .....Oh yeah? (Nervously smiling, reaching hand into purse to locate makeshift weapon, securing plastic Happy Meal toy.)
Troll: (Handing me my receipt.) Mumble. Cotton. Mumble. Billy Goats. Mumble. Mumble.
ARE YOU CONFUSED YET? Yeah? Imagine standing there. And then imagine a host of other strange and not-especially-friendly-or-helpful employees on subsequent visits. And then ask me why I continued to patron this store for an entire year.
Why? Well, you know, one visit leads to another leads to another leads to another, and pretty soon you know where everything is located and you tell yourself that you're going to start clipping coupons and drink less milk and you never got to visit a real carnival as a kid and....I don't know, I really don't.
But everything changed on Tuesday. I woke up feeling empowered. I counted at least seven landmarks I can find without my GPS. I reminded myself that people are selling gallons of milk for less than three dollars and that I recently forsook financial stupidity. And more than that--I committed myself to the belief that people should have options when it comes to refried beans. THIS IS AMERICA, ISN'T IT?
So, I went to another store. And it was nice. I found groceries and had a lovely conversation with the checker about frozen egg noodles. At no point did I locate my concealed Happy Meal toy. And though there were no anvils for sale in the produce section, I am convinced that, if needed, I could find and obtain many solutions to any pesky roadrunner problems that may arise in the future.
And that, my friends, is what I call progress.