He wanders the labyrinth with list in hand, gazing at the thousands of calls to action; some printed on card stock or plastic, some in the form of small video panels. Some say, “choose me for a life of ease and comfort!” some, “choose me for eternal health.” others, “I am your best value on something you need desperately.” He checks his scavenger hunt list often as he wanders, gazing at the multicolored panels, peering into bins, occasionally opening a semi-transparent door to see inside better. So many temptations, but where are the items he seeks?
Occasionally something new tries to seduce him, “pick me,” it purrs, “and I’ll give you infinite pleasure.” He checks the list, “No, you’re not on the list.” He twists free of its grasp. “I must return with everything on the list and nothing that is not on the list.” The List is sacrosanct. The List must be obeyed.
He encounters a few others wandering the labyrinth, mostly women. Some seem quite confident of navigating the maze and winning their prize. Occasionally he stands gazing about, clutching his list his eyes pleading for advice – rules say it is forbidden to ask for help, but help may be accepted if offered freely. Most ignore him, a few smirk knowingly, no one offers. He plods on.
The things he seeks seem to elude him, things he must not choose sing their sultry songs to him. His head spins with the enormity of the task: “Why oh why did my wife sent ME to the grocery store?”
How I Survived the Scavenger Hunt
For the 15 years or so of our marriage, Marie has been the “shopper”. I go with her sometimes, but my role is to follow along, pushing the cart and occasionally formulating a reasonably intelligent response to questions like, “Would you prefer this flavor or that one?” I rarely pay much attention to what is where or what things are together in which aisle.
The mantle of Family Shopper was bestowed upon me now because Marie has been sick. Very sick. I’m talking ER and Critical Care Unit sick. She’s back home now, but nowhere near well. Getting from the bedroom to the living room (even in our small home) without toppling over is about as much as I can ask. Driving into town to scour the grocery store for the supplies we need is out of the question. So, that fell to me. For Marie it’s a run to the store, for me it is a scavenger hunt.
The little tale above is overly-dramatized. I’m not quite that pathetic. And to be fair to myself, there was a time when I did all the shopping not only for my family but for a child care facility I operated. This meant multiple stores, including a Sam’s Club; a truck-load of perishable foods and paper goods every week. But I knew the stores. I even had my lists arranged not just by store, but by aisle within each store so I could go in and tick things off the list in order as I walked through. Yes; I have always been obsessive compulsive, although I prefer the term “detail oriented”. It has served me well in my business management affairs.
It has been a while, however, since I’ve had to make a major supply run. I’d been making notes of what we were low on. I added the things Marie said she thought she could handle that aren’t normally staples for us. And I took requests from the dogs, but had to tell Cochise that T-bone steaks were absolutely out of the question. Would you settle for beef flavored dog biscuits? He just humphed, circled his quilt three times and plopped down with his back to me.
Add to the usual trickiness the fact that our local Food City is in the midst of an expansion as they almost double the size of the store, so things are not always where they were the last time you were in, even if you have the store lay-out memorized.
All in all, I think I did well: I won the scavenger hunt. I came home with everything on the list – something Marie says she has difficulty doing (mostly because she leaves the list at home) — and only a few items that were not on the list. And those were related to items that were on the list. For instance, I had Flipside crackers on the list, but when I was standing there scanning the millions of choices in the cracker section, I saw graham crackers and Nilla wafers and thought Marie would enjoy these but we have none at home. So I got them. Slap my wrist if you must, but they were all crackers, and crackers were on the list. Had I come home with… oh, say… a new barbecue grill, that would definitely be out of bounds – unless BBQ sauce were on the list, but it wasn’t.
When I got to the check-out area there was only one register open and it was being used to train a newbie. She had muffed something on the prior customer and required a manager override to fix it. Page the manager, wait for him to arrive. The customer was humphing at her. The cashier was flustered already, so I did my level best to be pleasant and not even look like I was in any kind of hurry. She did fine. I gave her cash in an amount that she only owed me a dime in change and everyone smiled at everyone and we parted best of friends. Well, not really; but we all (the cashier, the trainer, the bagger) enjoyed the experience much more than if I’d snarled at her for being slow. No one benefits from that.
Our home is restocked for another week. When that time comes again, I’ll confidently don my pith helmet, arm myself with list and pen, commission an all-terrain buggy and foray into the wilds of grocery land. Buggy? Yeah, well here in the south we call shopping carts ‘buggys’. It’s part of the charm of rural, southern life, along with scavenger hunts.