Grocery Shopping On Weekday Mornings

I went grocery shopping this morning.
At the Super Walmart store
A few miles from my home.
This is something that I’ve done
3 or 4 times a week
For the past 11 months.

Have you ever shopped
At a Super Walmart store
At 0830 hours
On a weekday morning?
If you haven’t
Then you just don’t know
What it feels like
To walk into that place.

It’s a feeling
That I’m still trying
To get used to.
Even after 11 solid months.
And I just can’t do it.
I just can’t get used to
Being in
The Super Walmart store
At that time of day.

The first time I walked in
At 0830 hours
On a Tuesday morning
Was on October 26th
Of 2010.
Back when I was in the middle
Of a panic attack
That lasted
Several days.

And it really didn’t help me
To be walking there
That morning.

I was the only guy
My age
In the whole damn place.

There were old retired guys.
Buying odds and ends.
You know the type.
They looked like they used to wear
A suit to work,
And a tie too,
Every day
I swear.

There they were.
In slacks.
And short sleeve shirts.
That were tucked in.
In brown or black shoes.
Some slipped on.
Some laced.
And they even had
Colored socks
That matched their shoes,
Or pants.
Or both.
And they all had on
Great big giant
Wrist watches.
On most of them
Their hair was white.
All the color faded
Long ago.

I am not retired.
And they could tell that
With a glance.
And I felt
So very out of place.
As if I just did not belong.

Some of them
Had their wives with them.
They made such cute couples.
Him pushing the cart,
Following along
Behind her.
Stopping when she stopped.
With this look on his face
That screamed out loud,
“Save me! Save me! Please!
I don’t want to spend
The rest of my days
Doing this with her
Over and over again!”

Then there were the older women.
The ones that shopped alone.
Whose families were all grown up
And gone.
Pushing their carts
Up and down
Every aisle of groceries
They could find.
Looking at every thing.
As if to just kill time.

They looked to me
As if they were
So very much alone.
As if they didn’t know
How to cope
With all the time they had
Every single day.
Hours and hours
Of silence.

I couldn’t help but feel
The way my heart began to ache
Every time I saw one of them.

What does it mean,
I wonder,
When the high point of your day
Is when you wander through
The Super Walmart store.
And don’t buy anything.

Sometimes, I’ve learned
That they say, “Hi.”
To other people that they see
That are alone.
It’s almost like
They just want to hear
Another human voice.
As if that proves to them
That there’s still hope.
That they’re still
Alive.

Then there are the the mothers.
They come in two kinds.
The ones whose kids are in school.
And the ones whose kids are not.
And you can sure tell them apart.

The ones with kids in school
Look like they are relieved.
Walking around the Walmart store.
Free from their offspring.
At least for a few hours.

A few hours
Where they can do
Anything they want.
Where they don’t have to make dinner.
Or pack lunches.
Or push their kids
Through homework for a while.

A few hours
Of relative peace.

They usually come in alone.
And they almost always
Meet with other mothers
That they know.
And they talk.
A lot.

Sometimes,
They show up in groups.
Two, or three,
Or even more.
Like a pack of sharks.
God help you
If you’re in their way.

They never say a word
To a guy like me.
But they sometimes have a look
That says it all.
“You shouldn’t be here
At this time of day.
Invading our space.
You’re supposed to be
At work.”

I like to give that type of group
A wide berth.
Maybe even go the other way.

The ones with kids
That are too young
To be in school just yet
Always show up
With the kids.
No matter how many there are.

I have had more than one chuckle
As I walked my Walmart store,
Watching those mothers
And their children.
“Shut up!”
“Don’t touch anything!”
“No! We’re not getting that!”

The best one’s when both kids
Are sitting in the basket
Of the grocery cart,
And they can’t help
But bump each other
Every now and then.

“Don’t touch your sister!”
“Don’t bother your brother!”

As if that were possible.

Sometimes
These mothers
Have two grocery carts.
One for the kids,
One for the groceries.
And they push one
While they drag the other.

They should do what my lady did.
Drag him shopping with them.
He could take care of the kids,
And she could shop.
It’s what I did.

Those moms with kids,
They never look at me.
They’re to busy shopping,
And trying to control
The chaos of their lives
To care about the other people
In the store.

And that’s OK.
I remember
What it was like
When my kids
Were young.

The cashiers notice
When you’re a guy,
In the Walmart store
At 0830 hours.
They know that you
Should be at work.
But there you are.

Eventually,
They get used to seeing you.
I suppose that they conclude
That you’re one of those guys
That works a later shift somewhere.
And that you haven’t got a choice
But to buy your groceries
In the morning.
While so many other guys
Are at work.

I’ve taken such a trip
Through my Walmart store
Hundreds of times now,
Since October 26th
Of 2010.

And I still can’t get used to
Being one of the very few
Guys my age
That I see there
At 0830 hours
On a weekday morning.

When I stop
And think
About such things
For too very long.
I can’t help but begin to feel
Like things in my life
Are just all wrong.

I know they’re not.
And that with time,
And patience on my part.
The problems
That my family and I
Are dealing with right now
Will get worked out.

And everything will be OK.

I know that me not having
A job to go to every day
Right now
Does not feel right to me.
If just feels so very wrong.

But I’m learning
It takes time to change.
And sometimes
Change is hard.

But already,
Even though I’m unemployed,
And searching for a job.
I’m better than I was
Just two short months ago.

And I’ve got a plan
That I’ve put in place,
That I’m working my way through.
That will get me
And my family
Through the changes
That I’m going through.

All I have to do
Is be patient.
And persevere.
And stick with my plan.

And everything
Will be OK.
Even though I still just may
Go grocery shopping
At the Super Walmart store
At 0830 hours
On weekday mornings.

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