My husband loves to help with the shopping. Oh lucky you, I hear you say. Well, yes. It certainly is a help when it comes to getting trolleys out of those impossible jams that the trolley boys delight in putting them in. You know, you heave and pull, and push, and wiggle, and jiggle, but the jolly trolley is stuck. Why, I’ve seen men who could be front row forwards who can’t extricate them.
I’m sure the trolley boys do it on purpose, and then sit out the back somewhere watching your struggle on the security television screens, chortling all the while. Beaten, you then move on to the next row, and give a tremendous heave to the first trolley, and out it comes like butter and you and the trolley propel backwards and knock over a frail little old lady on a walking stick. More chortling from the back room.
Anyway, my husband loves to push the trolley. He’s an expert at it. He’s an expert at it because he test drives fully three or four of the things before choosing the right one. I must admit, they usually go well whereas when I grab my trolley I usually get the one with the wonky wheel and the crushed cabbage leaf on the bottom of the basket area! He also loves to test drive and give out trolleys to any young attractive young things doing their shopping. He manfully heaves one out of the row, gives it a very experienced little push up and down and gives it to them. They smile. He thinks they’re smiling at him, and I won’t disillusion him, but I know that they’d smile at the Hunchback of Notre Dame if he got a trolley out of one of those trolley jams for them, and furthermore, a trolley with good straight wheels and no cabbage leaf!
Then, the shopping proper starts. Now, I’m a very fast shopper. I rarely pause, proceeding down the aisles blithely throwing stuff from the shelves over my shoulder to the trolley my husband is faithfully pushing along behind me. I only ever pause if its to consider whether a pack of six muffins or twelve muffins might be the way to go, and which lot looks the least fattening.
My husband used to participate in the actual choosing, but after constant five minute pauses while he considered whether 375gms at $4.61 was a better bargain than 450gms at $4.85, we stopped that. I think we stopped it after I screamed ‘Who gives a …!’, considerably startling nearby shoppers and nearly getting us thrown out of the store.
Then, at the end of about the second aisle, my arms full of things I’ve plucked with gay abandon from the shelves, there’s no trolley behind me. I look back, and there he is at the far end of the aisle leaning over the trolley, busily. I know immediately what is going on – the big RE-ARRANGE.
It’s a pity, and a problem, but my husband has a fetish about arranging the shopping into categories according to type, size, shape, and packaging. That’s small tins, large tins, plastic bottles, glass bottles, fresh fruit, vegetables. frozen stuff, cold stuff, cardboard packets – large and small of course, and then the bread, which somehow he totally overlooks and always gets squashed. Not to mind – at the check out he holds it up and exclaims over its misshapen shape and trots back to the bread aisle and swaps it. Poor shelf packing persons must wonder after each of our visits how they originally put out bread that was squashed almost flat.
Now, he doesn’t just repack the trolley once; oh no, he does it two, three times at least on our way around. And, as you can imagine, each repack becomes more complex than the last.
He helps himself to very little as we go along – oh, there are always the choccie biccies and the hard jubes that somehow appear at the checkout, and he gets all round eyed and innocent and has no idea where they came from, or who must have accidentally put them in our trolley. And there’s the dental floss – he also has a fetish about dental floss! Of all things! We must have enough to go round the world one and an eighth times, give or take a mile or two.
When we finally arrive at the check out there’s the incredibly exciting moment when I’m allowed to hold the trolley while he patrols up and down and finds the shortest queue. Shortest is not always best at the supermarket, and so he also judges who has the least amount of stuff in their trolley. I’m then summonsed by loud ‘psssst!’, and have to push the trolley to where he’s holding 'our' space. His ‘psssst’ has also attracted the attention of several other alert shoppers, and there’s a general jostle for positions. We haven’t come to blows with any other shopper yet, but its on the cards.
Then, another magic moment, I’m left to hold the trolley again while he patrols up and down again to see if he’s misjudged any queue and we’d be better off shifting again. Enough already!
Now, he takes over again. I’m not allowed to lift one thing out of the trolley. How wonderful, I hear you exclaim. No, its not because he’s being a total gentleman – it's because he wants to put the groceries out on the check out conveyor belt in the order he wants!
Once again we have small, large, fresh, not fresh, tins, bottles, packets, and of course the squashed bread. The poor check out person sometimes then is directed as to which items to put into bags together, and he then – get this! – places the packed bags back in the trolley for the walk out to the car in his own particular order! I kid you not!
At the car the putting of the bags into the boot takes so long I tend to generally sit in the car and read the first one hundred pages of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, or knit a jumper. No, just kidding – I don’t knit. You see, the bags have to be in just the right order. And don’t get me started on the packing of the Esky with the cold things. I would say that a minimum of three re-packs of the Esky would be about standard, and to retain the little sanity I have I’ll draw a veil over that episode.
At home I’m not allowed to carry anything into the house. How nice, I hear you say. The packages are distributed on the kitchen table and on the floor and on the counters in a particular order.
Now, I’m sure you’ve all be waiting with bated breath for this bit – the putting away of the groceries. I can imagine that you must imagine that I must have the tidiest pantry in all of Christendom – well, I hate to disillusion you, but no. For you see, once the bags have been deposited in the kitchen my husband feels that his duties are over(!) and he goes and gets the paper and sits in the lounge and reads it. I do all the unpacking.
I am so sick of the whole shopping experience by now that I generally throw things into the pantry from a distance of about six feet, with not so gay abandon. Two days later I’m pawing through the shelves and asking plaintively ‘Where the hell is the cous cous?’
And do you know what he says – ‘It was in the trolley next to the spaghetti and the rice. When I put it in the car it was in the third bag which I placed at the right hand back of the boot. But, no, I don’t know where it is now. Can’t you find it?’
© Nelma Ward