Another Visit to the Grocery Store

“There are two types of people in this world. People who hate clowns…and clowns.” – D. J. MacHale

Going to the grocery store was always something I enjoyed doing. For many years, I did all the cooking. Trips to the store made sense as I tried to figure out what to fix that week. Our meals were mostly determined by inspiration as I wandered up and down each aisle .

These days I don’t do any cooking but I still go to the store, a lot. Maybe I’m going so often now because it’s the best place to see the everyday world of people. Maybe that’s the real reason I’ve always gone so often. I’m curious and those trips satisfy almost as much as a visit to Buc-ees.

Thousands Line Up For Opening Of New Patel Brothers Store In Niles - Journal & Topics Media Group

Try out these links:

  1. The most popular items at the grocery store
  2. Six things you should never buy at the grocery store
  3. How to shop for groceries
  4. Seven ways the pandemic has changed the way we shop for food
  5. Surviving the sneaky psychology of supermarkets

Social scientist like me are trained to categorize. If you visit the store often enough you will start to organize people – maybe not. You’re probably just going to pick up some bread and bananas.

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.” ― Erma Bombeck

  • At my store there are people who are on a mission. These folks move in straight lines. They know what they want and seldom stand around to ponder. Many are driven by a well organized list. Other categories of people need to stay back and not clutter the aisles – it can produce very frustrated looks.
  • As time has gone by, I’ve noticed more people at the store who don’t really know what they’re doing. Mostly older males. He’s backtracking a lot. Not watching where he’s going because he’s looking up at the aisle signs to figure out where chicken bullion and muttering to himself why someone has put this on his list.
  • I used to notice a rare character talking to herself, usually in frustration. These days there’s much more out loud by yourself conversing going on. Everyone’s got a phone, ear buds and a list. Some people are filming their adventure, sending photos back to Central Command. It’s like a secret raid on an foreign military installation.
  • As I’ve moved into a more diverse city, I notice that personal space rules are different. Some people have no hesitancy in getting right up there with me as I stack my purchases on the check out conveyor. In such a hurry as if the prices were going to increase any minute. Sometimes I can’t even get everything out of my own cart before the person behind me has started to fill up the belt. One time I asked the lady if she expected me to pay for her stuff. That got an unamused looked. 
  • Personal space rules also come into play when my cart gets rammed sometimes by overanxious shoppers – maybe they’re in that mission driven category or too distracted looking up at the aisle markers? I like to use the small carts, I don’t buy very much and it helps me keep my distance, while I’m watching.
  • Sometimes I see someone who has their giant cart packed to the gills with supplies. I wonder if they’re getting ready for the end of the world. Probably a house full of hungry boys! Where will they store all those packages of meat? Who has room these days for those bales of toilet paper now being sold? Why do you think we use so much more toilet paper now than we did twenty years ago? Eating more kale?
  • Have you ever seen the way people put items in their carts? Males often organize their items, trying to keep them aligned and arranged in some sort of order. The “professional” has her cart packed efficiently with the most – probably two carts worth of groceries jammed into one (and sometimes a toddler riding shotgun).
  • Having to work through each aisle and get the necessary supplies for the week while also managing children (some on the loose) is a major accomplishment that never gets the recognition it deserves. I took my toddler grandson in one time and within five minutes had to bribe him with a giant bag of Cheetos and get out to save my life. He was not going to sit or leave anything unopened that I put in the cart. Only three items, by the way. It quickly became an Amazing Race to the checkout.
  • The new challenge at the grocery store these days are the giant trolleys being pushed up and down each aisle by teenagers with phones (when have you seen a teen without a phone glued to their hand?). These are online orders being filled. The teen employee has the orders on their phone and is shopping with a parade float sized “cart” – never in anyone’s way, ha! The temptation is always present for me to start “shopping” off those carts as they roll past – when I see something I’ve been looking for, or looks like I might need it.
  • Who is lining up to use the Self-Checkout at your store? Are these the people in a hurry? Mostly males? People with just a few items? How did the store convince us to work as unpaid labor for them? At some places they’ve even got us weighing our own apples and gluing on the price tag. I’m still amazed at the number of checkout lanes at Target that are actually props – never opened, even at Christmas. It fools us into believing getting out will be quick and easy.

“Where one leaves a shopping cart in a parking lot says a lot about their character…or lack thereof.” ― Bobby Darnell

Meijer Makes Checkout Even Easier | Progressive Grocer

There are some absolutes that I have figured out while spending too much time at the grocery store. People at the store very seldom make eye contact. Not many conversations take place, unless you run across a friend, then you want to be careful and not poke your nose into what’s filling up their cart. Generally speaking, everyone is kind to others at the store. We see civility in practice here. The grandfather who doesn’t know the difference between baking soda and powder gets a quick lesson from that lady with a baby strapped to the front of her cart.

When a disaster is on the way, we run to the grocery store. Can’t get enough toilet paper or bread. Maybe it’s not just panic or the fear of running out of essentials. At a subconscious level, the grocery store in your neighborhood is the one place where you experience the most physical contact with others. You see people, hear their voices and know that you all share the same set of basic needs. Let me help you hoist that giant pack of waters into your cart ma’am. 

At the grocery store, we are reminded that we’re not alone.


“Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

Tied To You With a Silver Chain

The wedding you have always dreamed of - Sofitel Hotel

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be able to be the “officiant” at my niece’s wedding. She and her new husband had been dating through their high school and college years together. They are now launching a bold new life as husband and wife. I’m so thrilled it is a post-pandemic adventure!

“To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.” ― Ogden Nash

Can you imagine what it must have been like to try and plan a wedding a year ago, not knowing what the conditions would be like THIS June? Weddings are already filled with stress. They and their families pulled it off brilliantly – you would never have known they had all this uncertainty hanging over their collective heads.

“Normal, in our house, is like a blanket too short for a bed–sometimes it covers you just fine, and other times it leaves you cold and shaking; and worst of all, you never know which of the two it’s going to be.” ― Jodi Picoult

As I stood there and walked them through the big and life-long promises they were making to God, each other and all their family and friends…I knew they were nervous wrecks. I had sent them their vows ahead of time so that they would know what they were getting into.

But, when I stand there these days there are things going through my head…

  1. I’m teaching classes every semester about the state of marriages and families in our society right now. It’s not a very pretty picture, especially for children. What’s most alarming is that no one seems very concerned – notice what we are all currently “worked up” about in the news and social media.
  2. Anyone who’s been married, and stayed the course for any length of time knows that it’s hard to avoid thinking about your vows, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…” As I looked into the faces of this beautiful couple I couldn’t help but look into the future and think about the trials and tribulations that awaited them, that awaited all of us who got married.

“Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”Erma Bombeck

Sailing into the Sunset Photograph by Robert Shard

One Valentine’s Day (I think) as my wife was starting to fade away (a brain tumor ultimately ended her life on earth) an old song from our past struck me as very appropriate. I copied down some of the lyrics and tried to create a symbolic gift. I don’t think it worked well, she wasn’t ready to “catch it” that day. But it still works for me – here I am three years later and it’s making my life more meaningful than yesterday.

The song is Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Talk about an old classic! Stephen Stills rewrote the original lyrics basing it on a sailing experience he had after a failed relationship. Well, that’s NOT what I got out of the song!

Flag of New Zealand.svg

The Southern Cross is a star constellation that sailors can see in the night sky from the southern hemisphere. Before technology, they would use it to navigate. That star constellation is a part of the flags of New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

What I heard in the lyrics was a story about never being able to escape true love – that no matter what circumstances you end up sailing through – that vow you made long ago before God and all your loved ones is meant to last. Don’t let go, even though the fickle voices all around are urging you to abandon ship. Don’t turn loose. If you do, you’ll never get back a part of yourself.

So I’m sailing for tomorrow my dreams are a-dyin’
And my love is an anchor tied to you (tied with a silver chain)
I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’
She is all that I have left and music is her name

On that Valentine’s Day I gave my wife a silver chain with an anchor (along with the lyrics). I think it meant more to me, now that I realize her condition at the time and all that was overwhelming her. That’s okay. All of us need to do things for others and just not worry about the outcome. Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes it’s not how you thought it would turn out. And other times it’s meant to be for you (when all is said and done).

The newly married couple zoomed off later that morning in their father’s sports car. It was a wonderful scene for the assembled crowd of loved ones. Racing ahead into a future of happily ever after. Maybe a darkened sky every now and then might appear. But surely they had found and were building enough true love to carry them through all the days ahead. Tied with a silver chain, anchored to withstand all the choppy waters the future might bring.

All in Our Family

How are you staying in touch with your grandchildren during the coronavirus  lockdown?

Maybe the root of so many of our problems is that our families are falling apart?

While our society seemed to be falling to pieces every evening on the television screen, for so many reasons, depending on who you were hearing from, I couldn’t help but think there was a basic cause. For a long time I have looked at the numbers, the outcomes, the long term effects and I honestly think that almost everything that’s wrong with our society right now can be traced back to the fragmentation of our families.

We decided during the decades of revolution (Civil Rights, Sexual, Youth, Women’s) that our own personal happiness was the ultimate goal in life. It’s in the Declaration of Independence, after all! This goal was so much easier to pursue once our economy boomed after WW2 and we could focus our attentions on inner and subjective desires for satisfaction, instead of external and objective standards of success like surviving the winter or having enough to eat.

Fragmented families started to happen because we decided that other people (our spouses and children) weren’t making us happy anymore. Instead of leaning on each other to help and making sacrifices for the sake of someone else, we started looking at our family members as sources of our own happiness. If they dropped the ball, it was time to bail and maybe find a replacement. I need to find someone who will make me happy, not I need to make someone else happy.

Here's The Number One Reason Couples Fight In The Run Up To Christmas |

What do families in America look like today?

During the current quarantine the divorce numbers in America are twice as high as they were a year ago at this time. What’s really discouraging is that newlywed divorce numbers are ALSO twice as high as the were a year ago! Being locked up and facing a seemingly unending crisis together is just too much for many.

People don’t just wake up one day and decide to become self-centered. Our culture is one with an economy that’s oriented around selling more and more stuff. The prevalent hook is guaranteeing happiness – buy this pillow and you’ll get a good night’s sleep, feel rested, refreshed (and so much happier the next day).

There are more couples living together than married. People who live together do so for approximately five years – then they either break up or get married. It’s not a step before marriage, not an alternative. People are afraid of the marriage commitment, of failing at something so important, at not finding happiness.

Right now, less than 20% of households in our country are composed of a married couple and their children. This is true for 86% of African-American children. This practice is setting these children up for an almost impossible future and brings harm to society as a whole.

“Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child.” ― Anthony Horowitz

A majority of children in America will spend part of their growing up years in a single-parent home. On average, children from single-parent homes don’t do as well in almost all measures of life (health, school, social, economic, etc.). Every semester, my student learn this yet the overwhelming majority tell me that if they were in a marriage with children and were not happy they would get divorced. Ending marriages for the sake of personal happiness is today a very strong belief and practice here in America.

Happy Single Mother and Teen Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free)  15559906 | Shutterstock

Even though they are working outside the home in more numbers than ever before – many more in college-prepared careers – (more women attend college than men) women still feel the bulk of the responsibility for home and family work. He’s not really sharing the burden very well.

In times of social conflict why don’t we look at our families as a possible cause?

While families in our society are in collapse, we feel helpless. What can I do to stop the flood from spilling over the levee? All you can really do is to keep loving your own family. Sometimes that means keeping your big mouth shut and just loving people in the middle of their mess. Praying for someone you love is different than talking about them to others. Criticizing never does anything good. 

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” ― Frederick Buechner