Gratitude for Groceries: Avoiding a mental breakdown on Aisle 8

The Superstore I frequent is always busy. Early morning, afternoon, and evening; it doesn’t matter what time you pick, you will endure 3 unavoidable challenges:

  1. A re-enactment of Mad Max as you locate a parking spot amid a sea of libertarian drivers capitalizing on the murky assessments of fault assigned by Manitoba Public Insurance to accidents in parking lots.
  2. A game of red-rover navigating tightly packed aisles filled with Type-A personalities duel-wielding shopping carts.
  3. A lengthy wait at the checkout compounded by a coupon-cutter at the front applying a level of scrutiny to her receipt typically reserved for border security.

Recently, Superstore tried to address one of these challenges with a guarantee that all checkout lanes will be opened at all times. This is an admirable step forward as it not only address challenge #3, but also provides more employment opportunities and hours for Superstore staff*.

Superstore is capitalizing on the new checkouts, stationing a greeter at the door to hand out cupcakes during the Thanksgiving weekend and emphasize the glories of the new initiative.

Given my massive sweet tooth and susceptibility to distraction by bright colours, the orange and black Halloween cupcakes attracted me like a moth to a flame. The greeter cheerfully extolled the benefits of having all checkout lanes staffed as I simultaneously turned off my podcast and consumed a cupcake without dropping my phone or wearing said cupcake…a feat that borders on a small miracle for yours truly.

Her discussion inevitably trailed off as the next shopper came through the door, but it made me reflect on how agitated people get while waiting in checkout lines. My own experiences as an employee at Sobeys for more than 2 years attest that people embody all the stages of grief as they wait in the checkout line.

I have seen shoppers pace uncomfortably, glare at fellow shoppers, swear at staff and children and even throw fruit at cashiers. Clearly, being pushed to such emotional extremes while purchasing groceries must be awful and I sincerely hope that their lives improve.

However, I also find the emotional hardship to be a bit silly. At the end of the day, we are just buying groceries and all of the negative emotions that froth to the surface from the experience seem…misplaced.

The whole experience of grocery shopping is a display of our opulent standard of living. Being able to buy groceries for a fraction of their historical price and from one convenient location is a luxury, plain and simple. To experience intense negative emotions and express a misanthropic demeanor suggests a misalignment of values.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, grocery shopping is not without its stresses. A child screaming in my ear or a catastrophically poor driver laying into his or her horn will take an emotional toll on anyone. But here is a personal strategy for keeping a level head:

Podcasts

For anyone that has access to an audio device (research shows smartphone ownership alone is at 68%), load up a few audio episodes about something important in the world, and listen to it.

A few weeks back, I found myself waiting for twenty minutes in a checkout line prior to the new policy and found myself listening to a CBC report on Syria. Listening to a gut-wrenching reports on the refugee crises, it became very hard to get upset over the challenges of the grocery store. It also instilled a sense of gratitude for what I have. This gratitude continued long after the podcast ended, I cleared the checkout aisle, and endured the Thunderdome experience of leaving the parking lot amidst a sea of shoppers and lead-foot drivers. I have so much to be thankful for and the fact that grocery stores represent a stress-point in our lives is a reminder of how well-off we are.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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*I am not familiar with Superstore’s staffing practices and am assuming the most altruistic of purposes.