In times of peril, you may walk with the devil until the bridge is crossed.
– Bulgarian proverb
I do most of the family grocery shopping. It’s not because I’m a sensitive man of the ’70s, or even because I look like a sensitive man in his 70s. It’s just cheaper.
Besides my wife had to stay home and prepare a big brunch for the next day when many of her friends from childhood would be coming to our house and dragging along their husbands.
She was doing flower arrangements and pre-cooking assorted brunch-munch but still needed a few specific items. She gave me a list — the scavenger hunt all husbands hate.
Eight lemons, two (small) plastic squeeze things that contain lemon juice and lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, olives, celery “with leafy stalks,” prepared horseradish, cheese cubes, two cups of heavy cream, Dijon mustard, large bowl of fresh-cut fruit, “mini” croissants, cocktail sausages, two cans of crescent rolls … and long toothpicks “like they have in hotel bars.”
This was a challenge and also a realization. Grocery stores have a lot of things in them you never notice.
Well, some of the items were easy to find: Cut fruit, mini-sausages, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and croissants were quickly in my cart. So was the lemon and lime juice, which I found by accident.
I couldn’t find cheese cubes, but I did find cheese rectangles. (I could cut them up.) “Leafy” celery was in the produce corner, cowering behind kale.
But that was about it. I spent the next 10 minutes trudging up and down the aisles squinting high and low, seeking without success. Finally, I sighed and rolled up to a clerk and asked directions to the “prepared” horseradish. I said I didn’t know if a deli had to “prepare” it.
“No,” said the young woman, who stopped her shelf duties and led me several aisles over. She also helped me find party toothpicks.
I thanked her, but was back five minutes later with a request for the heavy cream. She didn’t know, she said, but again put down her box and found another young woman, who also didn’t know, but joined us as we paraded to the dairy department where a third employee looked to a top shelf and said, “Here is what I think you want.”
They all beamed at our joint discovery, incredibly polite and happy to be of help.
I also figured that if I added up their collective ages, I would still be older.
My list complete, I went through the checkout line where a cashier young enough to be a granddaughter and a bag boy young enough to be her classmate rang up my order and pointed me toward the door.
“Take this out, sir?” the young man asked, hands on my cart.
And for the first time in my life, I said, “Yes.”
The torch is passed; the sunset beckons.
Reach Bill Kirby at firstname.lastname@example.org