The Agony and Ecstasy of Bulk Shopping
Sometimes there is a thin line between heaven and hell. Straddling that line, sitting right smack-dab on top of it, is Costco.
We finally joined Costco this summer, now that we have a real house with a real garage and some decent storage. Once a gargantuan freezer was in place in the real garage, I headed off for my first foray. Unfortunately, I had to go on a Saturday, but I did have the good sense to arrive early, about 15 min. before the place opened to be precise, at which time there was already a crowd of people, carts claimed and positioned to knock down the doors and anything/one else in their way. When I saw that, I started getting a little nervous. I am not what you would call a champion shopper. Even the normal grocery store--with its maze of aisles often organized according to incomprehensible logic and ten billion choices of rice and freaky looking customers everywhere (like the 70-something-year-old man and probable sex offender who snuck up behind me this week to inform me I have a cute butt)--gives me mini panic attacks, and even on a good day, I have an overwhelming impulse to get the heck out of there just as soon as possible. So I'm thinking I'm probably not cut out for Costco, which is basically the Olympics of shopping, requiring super human strength, superior cart-pushing agility, marked aggression, and outstanding decision-making skills under fire. So actually it's more like war than the Olympics, now that I think of it, which really doesn't help me. I would suck and get myself and others killed in either venue.
I definitely had the combat-ready adrenaline pumping as I stood there with my cart watching the entrance. A very brave woman finally emerged and opened the gate (I certainly hope Costco offers their employees massive life and personal injury insurance packages). And we were off. I had a list of things I needed, but the list is the first casualty of Costco I find. Pretty soon I was just grabbing stuff, anything I saw that I had ever used in my life, in the cart. Zone Bars. Ivory soap. Fleece jackets. Animal crackers. Thank goodness they put the diamonds behind glass. Pretty soon the cart that had once seemed the size of a Hummer was looking pretty puny, kind of like one's home does once a baby arrives with all their crap in tow (speaking of baby crap--blanket sleepers for $7! SEVEN DOLLARS!!! grab grab grab). So I had to have a talk with myself because I was there on a serious mission, to supply for a rather large party, so appetizers and drinks had to take priority over the massive bag of Venus razor cartridges.
After a meager 45 minutes, my cart was so full I risked a hernia just pushing it around the floor. On top of that, I noticed preparations for the imminent arrival of Dan Akroyd, who would be hawking his new line of wines. That was pretty much my cue to run for my very life, no offense to Dan Akroyd, he was very good in Driving Miss Daisy, but he has no business creating more havoc in Costco. They have havoc in bulk at Costco, just like everything else. Massive jar of Prego, butt-load of havoc, sitting right there together on the shelf. So go to Whole Foods, Dan Akroyd. People who pay $6 for a container of organic sea salt will not likely mutilate fellow customers for a bottle of wine autographed by a former Ghostbuster.
So I grunted and groaned and pushed my way into the check out line, where I was soon baffled as to how this next phase would play out. My cart was absolutely full, upstairs and downstairs; the conveyor belt thingy looked pretty small; and they don't have bags or baggers. So somehow I would have to unload everything onto the belt then rush to the end and start loading everything back in the cart before the skyscraper of goods the checkout person necessarily constructs topples over and decapitates a small child (that's another thing--What fool would bring their child to Costco? Do they not cherish the future of humanity?) I actually consulted the rather bored but grizzled-vet-looking man behind me to make sure this would be possible and I hadn't made a deadly error by not bringing an extra cart. He told me it would be OK. So I unloaded and unloaded and unloaded, sprinted to the end of the line and loaded and loaded and loaded as if my life depended on it. The items of course did not fit in the cart like they had the first time, but I got it done. The final bill was shocking even to the cashier, who asked me if I wanted some kind of super duper membership for the really big spenders, i.e. people who have 14 obese children or run a day camp for hook worm patients out of their homes. I assured her I would not routinely be buying this much. Let's pray.
I felt quite accomplished having successfully purchased a cart-load of crap at Costco, but the challenge was not over yet. I then had to wheel the cart--still weighing about 500 lbs but now a leaning tower of unconfined goods--out the door, of course stopping for the absurd receipt check at the exit (I could have had a dead body in that cart, buried--and nicely preserved I might add--under 20 pounds of frozen mini quiches, and the receipt checker would never know), across the crosswalk and through the parking lot, dodging dozens of determined parking-spot-seekers, and to my car. Then I had to fit everything in my car, drive home, unload....Honestly the whole thing was the best workout I've had since I dared myself to run 3 entire miles at one time back in college. I even pulled a muscle in my back. It was like my own version of Rocky 4--instead of aging former boxing champ getting back into shape with practical workout of hauling logs across the Siberian tundra, this was aging former model (just go with it) getting back into shape after having children by making repeated shopping trips to Costco.
So back to the heaven/hell motif--The good news is I have enough food to last through several swine flu epidemics, allowing Kevin to breathe normally again, and I probably saved a few dollars, which I will promptly spend on my 109th sweater. The bad news is I'll probably have to go back eventually to resupply, and when I do, it might not be a pulled muscle this time, it might be paraplegia. Or worse I might hit Dan Akroyd with my cart and make him a paraplegic, and there will never be a Blues Brothers 8. Can you think of a darker hell?