We had been out of toilet paper for so long that we had depleted our supply of suitable substitutes… Kleenex, napkins, fabric softener sheets.
So, despite my aversion to solo-shopping, I had no choice but to head to Costco. Armed only with a standard-sized cart and list, I bravely traversed the maze of shrink-wrapped pallets. When I reached the industrial-size detergent aisle, my cart looked a lot like the Grinch’s sled.
From there, I had to weigh each purchasing-decision not by price or need, but by whether it could be tucked into the tiny crevices that remained accessible. Tofu fit better than paper towels, so I crammed it in. We didn’t need three pounds of Preparation H, but the tube was just the right size to wedge behind the dehydrated onions. By the time I was done, Houdini wouldn’t have been able to find space to shove a toothpick.
Proud of my packing abilities, I tried to push the cart to the check-out. But it wobbled wildly and pulled to the right. Shoppers trembled in terror as I did donuts in the produce section. Mothers shielded their children from impending detonation. Finally, a teenager with a red apron and a nametag offered assistance. I tossed him my rotisserie chicken and heaved the cart to the front of the store.
While waiting in line for 17 hours, I realized that I hadn’t eaten lunch. Disappointed that the potato chip box had been too big for my deficient cart, I opted for green olives. While I snacked, another guy in a red apron approached.
“You want an olive?” I asked.
“No, thank you, Ma’am,” he said. “I was just noticing that you might benefit from Executive Membership.” He held my non-executive card and a laptop which revealed year-to-date purchases approaching the GNP. “You can start earning rebates today.”
“Are you offering this to everyone whose cart could feed a small country?” I asked.
His honesty was refreshing, so I agreed to upgrade my card. He headed off to the customer service booth while I unloaded everything onto the conveyor belt. It took two carts to carry what I had managed to squeeze into one.
“CARRY OUT!!!” the cashier screamed. She may as well have yelled, “Get a load of this lady! Have you ever seen so much stuff?” Everyone gawked but no one came forward. “We’ll take your second cart to the front door where you can wait for assistance. Don’t forget to pick up your new card as you leave.”
At customer service, I saw something that rocked my world… a camera. It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t had time to shower, brush my hair, or apply makeup that morning.
“You aren’t going to take my picture, are you? I asked.
“Yes, Mrs. Bowling,” Click. “You look fine.”
Had I known that a photograph would be required for an executive membership, I would have gladly forgone the rebates. In addition to wild hair and a greasy face, my new ID card revealed dark, black circles (the remnants of yesterday’s mascara) under closed eyes. My mouth was open. A shadow blocked two of my bottom teeth. I looked like a crazy, drunken hillbilly.
On our way to the car, we heard a series of small explosions. Thirty-six cans of Diet Dr. Pepper were abandoning their cardboard container on the bottom of my cart, rolling riotously around the parking lot. The Red Apron and I tried to dodge Aspartame napalm that shot out from under rotating tires. By the time we reached my SUV, we looked like victims of a volcanic eruption.
I wanted to crawl under the car to hide. But there were groceries to unload. So I opened my trunk and stared in disbelief at forty-four pounds of dog food, which I had forgotten to take out before heading to the store.
Red Apron watched in horror as I threw the eggs into the bottom of a thermal bag, just under the milk. He gasped when I freed the flame-broiled chicken from its plastic prison and flung it into the passenger seat. When I opened the Yoplait fridge-pack and started tossing individual cups into the backseat, he backed slowly away from my car.
I finished unpacking in record time, which was good since I was running late to pick up my daughter from school. It wasn’t until I pulled away from the parking lot that it hit me… I forgot to buy the toilet paper.