Last night I went to the local grocery store for a few staple items, things like milk, bread & Doritos. It took me 3 hours.
Needless to say, I really dislike trips to the grocery store. I never need many items and it takes me about as long to shop for those items as it does for me to re-paint the house.
As I wander around in the grocery store’s version of purgatory, I have come to the realization that this place was not built for men. Here are a few reasons why:
- The layout. Most grocery stores have you walking right from the parking lot into the produce section. Shocking as this may be, men do not prefer to pick up their brocoli first. Or ever. Men want soda, chips, beer, and pizza. If grocery stores really wanted men to be there, they would put our items first, not make us wander around the labyrinth of aisles looking for them.
- The aisles. When women were creating grocery stores, who decided what items would be grouped in a particular aisle? Who decided the order the aisles would be in? Why do they not have a map at the front door that makes everything more clear? (For the record, men like maps – we just don’t want to have to ask someone for help reading one.) Instead, I walk in with a small list of things to get and the next 3 hours are a scavenger hunt. Where are the hot dogs? Why are the buns half a mile away from them? If you could watch me on film, you would see that I am in every aisle about 4 times – carefully looking up and down every part of it – looking for my item, otherwise known as Waldo.
- The shopping cart. There is absolutely no way to push a shopping cart around and retain any level of cool. Given that 9 out of 10 shopping carts have a rogue wheel that cause them to swerve in the aisle, it is an impossible machine to tame. Besides, it is a well-known fact that men like to ride on things, not push them around. The ride-on mower is “exhibit A” for this argument. If a woman ever invents a ride-on shopping cart (or vacuum cleaner), men would instantly be interested in taking over these duties. Just a suggestion.
- Too many things to kill. Since caveman times, men were known as hunters and women were gatherers. Following our instincts, most men and women treat all forms of shopping the same way. Men enter, focus on the prey, kill and leave with it in hand. By contrast, women enter, look at everything, touch everything, and come home with 37 bags of groceries. For a man to hunt one item at a store is easy. They are good at that. But give a man a list of 10 items and 4 will be the wrong size, 3 will be the wrong brand and the other 6 will be stuff he wanted, not on the list. Frankly, it’s unrealistic for men to remember long orders like, “Pick up chips, soda, beer, milk, bread, chicken, pizza, napkins, sugar, cheese, etc.” All we hear is “blah, blah, chips, soda, beer, blah, blah, blah, pizza, words, words, words, etc.”
- The store temperature. It could be the dead of winter in Alaska. You could be in the middle of Hell in the middle of July. It doesn’t matter – the grocery store temperature will feel like 30 below zero. I am always freezing when I am in there. How can I expect to make a decision on what can of tuna fish to buy when my teeth are chattering? How can I possibly focus on my coupon savings when I’m trying to cuddle with the man in the same aisle for survival? It’s well documented, the longer you stay in a store – the more you will buy. If they want men to stay in the store longer, they need to raise the temperature to at least the low teens or provide NorthFace thermal underwear and a ski mask.
- The lack of other men. As you might expect, 90% of the shoppers are female. Inevitably, I will walk down an aisle and see an experienced shopper there. This shopper, always a woman, has an intimidating amount of groceries in her cart. As I look at her pile of groceries, I can’t help but wonder how long she has been here. Given that it takes me 3 hours to pick up six items, she has to have been here for weeks. I wonder if her kids miss her. Or how hungry her husband must be. On the rare occasion that I do see another man, I usually give him a knowing nod that is the equivalent of “I got your back.” It’s like he’s my battle buddy. Except we are not in battle and he’s not my buddy. Other than that, it’s just like that.
- The lack of help. Doesn’t anyone notice that I’ve been in the store for 3 hours? Isn’t someone watching the security camera wondering why I’ve been circling Aisle 3 for the last 45 minutes? Aren’t there supposed to be employees that are available to help those with a confused look on their face? And why do the experienced shoppers (aka women) watch us men helplessly wander instead of trying to assist? If the roles were reversed (let’s say at Lowes) both men and store employees would go out of their way to help our confused/lost female counterparts. When I finally reach the check out counter, (disheveled and exhausted) and the lady asks, “Did you find everything ok?” – I just want to cry.
- The abundance of options. Why are there so many choices out there? How many different brands of cat food companies are there? How many different flavors of cat food does a cat really need? Before grocery stores were invented, cats ate mice. Now, cats have more options than most high school cafeterias. Fortunately, I don’t buy cat food but the human food choices are no easier. How can I possibly know what to buy with all of those options? Am I shopping price alone or do I need to look for sodium percentages? What about calories? And how much saturated fat is there? (Can there be a more disgusting combination of words than “saturated fat?”) Shopping time would be reduced in half if they just had two options per food item. Big or small. Cheap or fancy. Healthy or tasty. I feel like using a lifeline to call a nutritionist just to buy a box of cereal. It’s utterly exhausting.
- Self-check out. Self check-out is a brilliant concept. Instead of standing in a 45 minute line, the self-check out option makes you feel like you control your destiny… or at least have some control over your schedule. But is it really any quicker? For starters, I can never seem to find the bar code for the machine to read. Then, I’ll want to scan bananas, except there is no bar code for them so you have to weigh them. Apparently, the scale takes a few hours to stop shaking from the last piece of fruit that was on it. Of course, as soon as I begin my self-check out experience, a line immediately forms behind me. I now feel pressure to scan quicker, bag quicker, pay quicker. Paying quicker is never an option though and whatever you do, never pay with cash. You will stand there forever trying to get the machine to accept your wrinkly bill as if you are presenting a peace-offering to an Egyptian god. The self-check out money god seems to prefer plastic.
If loneliness doesn’t drive single men into a relationship, the grocery store certainly will. No man in his right mind can enjoy this experience on their own. Other than the sample food kiosks where kind older people prepare food and let you sample it, there is little appeal to the grocery store for men.
Call me when the ride-on grocery cart is invented. Until then, I’m going to pray that God sends me a bird to feed me as He did the prophet Elijah. Now THAT is a great way to get your food!
“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there. So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” (I Kings 17:2-6)