Back in mid-December, the Mrs. and I spent a fun evening out. At a grocery store. Really.
Going to a grocery store in my area is nothing special because we have a lot of them. In fact, Indianapolis has developed something of a reputation as a cutthroat region for grocery chains. Our lone remaining home-grown grocer (Marsh Supermarkets) has seemed to be on the ropes for quite some time, while its arch-competitor, at least among traditional grocers (Kroger) has been doing reasonably well.
Then you have the big box stores (Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart) and the warehouse stores (Costco and Sam’s) and the higher end specialty stores (all of which seem to have Whole or Fresh in their names) and there is not a lot of room for new entrants.
But we have one. Earlier this year Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle has opened its first store in one of the wealthier parts of our area, one that it calls Market District. And this was where we spent our evening.
First, I don’t really like shopping, whether for food or for anything else. OK, I like shopping for cars, but that’s it. But I have to admit that this new place was worth a visit, if only for the spectacle.
My Mrs. however is game for shopping anywhere, any time and for anything. We were expecting holiday company and she had seen this store advertising a special on hams, so off we went.
We were in the midst of a bitter cold snap, the kind that triggers the tire pressure warning lights in all of your cars. But we were stouthearted Midwesterners on an adventure and not to be deterred. The good thing about going out in such frigid temperatures is that stores and other public places are often sparsely populated. We had, therefore, plenty of time to aimlessly amble.
I have been in my share of food stores but this place made me feel like Gomer Pyle stepping off the bus in Raleigh. (“Gollll-leee, Andy, would you look at this!”). Any place that has an entire aisle devoted to unusual or obsolete kinds of candy will always get my attention. I may not need any of it, but it is nice just knowing that it is there. (There were not, unfortunately, any french burnt peanuts.)
A walk through the department devoted to adult beverages was truly awe inspiring – it is bigger than most liquor emporiums I have seen. There was, for example, both sides of an entire aisle (perhaps fifty feet long) devoted to vodka. Which is something I have never understood. How is it possible to have that many varieties of something which has no flavor? Also awe inspiring were the prices of some of the “top shelf” liquors. I remember when Johnny Walker Black Label scotch was the good stuff. But that was apparently many label colors ago. I find it funny that a store that stocks bottles well into three figures still offers the cheap rotgut on a bottom shelf. The bottles were dust-covered, but they were there.
Moving on, we found our ham and then decided that one of the turkeys on special was too tempting to pass up. We were remarkably restrained, not buying much more than we set out for, at least if you can get past a turkey as an impulse purchase. I guess we both viewed this trip as more a combination of reconnaissance and entertainment than as a simple grocery run.
Canned goods? Frozen foods? Housewares? We strolled through them all, remarking on product selections that we have not often seen. It’s a shame we live so far away. Or perhaps not.
I found one personal bright spot. I had noticed that eggnog seemed to have gone extinct this past season at almost every store I visited. I had read that large food and beverage companies had bought much more than usual to make eggnog-flavored this or that, which constrained supplies available for Mr. and Mrs. Consumer. We made a thin supply thinner by one bottle. A glass bottle, even. Score another bonus impulse buy.
We finally made it to the checkout. No wait, first came the Mrs. signing up for a loyalty card. Then came the checkout, after an amount of time longer than some of the shorter movies we have seen together. “Ooooh, a ham and a turkey. I’m coming to your house!” remarked the cheerful cashier. Come to think of it, our house was fairly festive during these past holidays.
Later on, our children got a good laugh out of our re-telling of the experience. Who goes to a grocery store for a date night? Well, I guess we do. After being married for 26 years we are no longer in dire need of the next thrill-experience. An evening spent in the company of the one you love while doing something a little different from the norm was enough for us. Well, that and the sale prices on the ham and the turkey.
When I was young, I noticed that many older married couples seemed to exhibit a kind of contentment that was absent from my own life. I think that perhaps we have found it.