The Secret to Supermarket Survival

There are few things on this planet that I hate more than food shopping.

I once relished the responsibility of a trip to the supermarket. My totally genius mother started sending me as payment when she let me get my driver’s license. I was so damn cool driving that 1990 Ford Tempo of Doom that I considered completing the family grocery list a privilege.

For God’s sake, I worked in a supermarket for most of my high school and college existence. I have many a fun memory of a Friday night spent punching in produce codes and donning my crispy white oxford, spiffy bow tie, branded apron and “My Name is Kate” nametag.

Food shopping in college was a hedonistic adventure off-campus (mad love to the PriceChopper of Scranton!). We ventured out with the wind in our hair in search of marshmallow fluff and anything that mixed well with Popov vodka.

And come to think of it, I even experienced that “this is so cute we’re buying romaine lettuce together” supermarket bliss when I was a newly married twenty-something.

But somewhere … somehow … I lost that “bada-boom” in my heart for the weekly quest for groceries.

I blame it on a litany of things, beginning with baby food. Once you’ve experienced the legitimate alternative to waterboarding pleasure of buying 45 individual jars of various pureed vegetables, loading each onto a conveyor belt, dropping one on the floor and all over your pants, bagging the rest painstakingly and restacking all 45 bottles onto a designated shelf at home — only to have to repeat the entire experience in two weeks — you naturally begin to develop Supermarketphobia.

But the baby food can’t bear all the weight of this love affair gone bad. It’s just not fair.

There are so many more to blame for allowing the supermarket to sour on me. There are the people who place their carts in the middle of the parking lot, just asking for the right gust of wind to come along and transform the abandoned cart into a four-wheeled fury headed for my car. There’s the 20-year-old punk who leaves his Dodge Neon in the “Customer with Child” spot on the very day I decide to bring my three kids and their two neighborhood friends to pick up tomorrow’s snack for school. There’s the lady who asks to inspect a cheese slice’s thickness 80 times before giving the deli woman the OK to proceed with the order. And I can’t leave out the poor old man with pungent body odor, the bimbo on her cell phone who can’t hang up to figure out how to swipe her debit card, the overzealous produce groper and the prehistoric, checkout-line-clogging check writer.

Add to the above the cashier who awkwardly talks with her bagger in front of me about how she caught her boyfriend with “Krystal from Seafood” and how she’d like to “kick her skank ass.” Or the evil troll three people behind me in line, who aggressively jumps when a cashier comes back from break, turns on her light and announces she’ll “take the next customer.” And of course, there’s the unapologetic ninny with 32 items in the express lane who has the gumption to question a price, swearing passionately that “it was on sale for $1.99 and I need to speak with a manager.”

Every one contributes equally to a deep-seated hatred of my neighborhood multi-aisled hell of provisions.

But there is hope, my friends. There’s a way to squeeze joy out of the supermarket the way mother taught us to squeeze a melon for ripeness. There is a method of survival, and it’s not even in the pharmacy area.

When I find myself with #98 in deli when they’re calling #76, I just stand perfectly still.

And I listen. I really listen.

And I’m never, ever, EVER disappointed.

Do you hear that? It’s “Almost Paradise,” the worst song ever heartfelt ballad from the Footloose soundtrack. “Almost Paraadiiiiise …. we’re knocking on heaven’s doooor …. Almost Paradiiiiiiise …. how could we ask for more? I swear that I can see forevaaaah in your eyes …. Paraaaaadiiiiise.”

And poof! My rage toward cheese slice lady starts to melt. Suddenly, I switch focus — from her cheese to the cheese oozing from the overheard speaker system at the market.

Who are the people who put together the supermarket soundtrack? What’s the science behind it? Is there a documented connection between spending $250 on food and the worst love songs of all-time? What is the consistent penchant amongst the supermarket disc jockeys for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack? Do they always decide to  strategically spice up the crowd with The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” or Clay Aiken’s “Invisible?”

Whomever these musical mixmasters may be, I sure hope that Michael McDonald, Michael Bolton, Peter Cetera, Jon Secada, Billy Ocean, The Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, Hall & Oates, Bryan Adams and Gloria Estefan appreciate them for sustaining their relevancy.

I’ve yet to leave a supermarket without almost convulsing from listening to hearing one of the following songs:

What songs make your supermarket sweep less painful?


  1. Brian
    Posted September 9, 2010 at 6:28 am | Permalink | Reply

    You need a blue sky holiday.

  2. coleen
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    i’m still laughing at your use of “ninny”. one of the all time great adjectives, in my book!

    (also? totally caught my self singing «out loud» in superfresh yesterday to none other than the vocal stylings of mr. marc anthony (aka skeletor)’s “i need to know”)

    let the de-friending commence!

  3. Jen
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    Awesome post! These are the exact reasons I also hate food shopping and why I feel lucky that I can go to the supermarket “off hours” to avoid some of craziness. Love your list of cheesy songs. A few songs I recently heard in the supermarket that cracked me up were:

    “Shower Me with your Love” by Surface
    “Spring Love” by Stevie B.
    “Masterpiece” by Atlantic Starr (as in, “I found a MASterpiece in you…”)

    And yes, I enjoyed them all…I’ll admit it.

  4. Jill
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    ha ha ha – I used to “forget” items that were clearly on the list when I first got my license…just so I could go back to the store.

    Shopping in Wegman’s on Sunday AM…could not hear myself think let alone what music they might have been playing. After reading this post, I’ll be sure to tune in a little more attentively next time I am shopping.

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