The New Normal: Shopping Costco
I remember the first time I walked into a Costco. With my new 'member' card in hand, I walked past all the big screen TV's and then down the 12-mile aisle stacked high to the gills with all manner of brightly colored items. I stopped, skewed my vision till it was defocused, and attempted to come up with as few words possible to describe what I saw. I whispered to my wife, "Future landfill." As mesmerized as a 10-year-old about to ride Splash Mountain in Disneyland for the very first time, she didn't hear me. My wife is a control freak when it comes to who pushes the cart. In a Costco, the carts are humongous, like driving a semi with two trailers. Most women don't know how to drive semi's, and most men only think they do. So I always keep a bit of distance from her in case she swerves to explore the steal of a deal she spots down an aisle. Having huge carts is actually clever. It creates a sense of empty capacity that screams to be filled. Like a big stomach that has skipped a meal. It growls at you to 'feed me... now!' You look down and imagine that protrusion called your belly is completely empty. You're here now, so go ahead and feed the hungry cart large enough to hold a concrete truck. Quickly, our cart starts to fill with a dozen jumbo size bottles of catchup. Then a box of 96 dozen eggs that take both of us to load in the cart. That was the least we could buy at Costco. The next size requires a forklift and pickup truck. "How about the parabolic heater, dear?" She ponders the heater for maybe a half-hour. She reads the side of the box. 'This 1500 watt heater will produce 1500 watts worth of heat. With a patent-pending miracle heat magnifier, this heater will heat more of you than having no heater. Made in China.' Yep. So it goes into the cart. But we're not done. Some Costco shoppers really get into the swing of things and overfill their carts. Like heading down the road without cleaning the snow from your windshield, they drive their carts, unable to see where. Soon my wife is nearly run over by a cart stacked to a height that threatened the giant vapor lighting fixtures held high to the ceiling. The lady is very apologetic as I help her rearrange the 287 items that fell from her cart. The poor lady must have a husband that needs a bit of artificial encouragement. A fifteen-pound box of time-release extra-strength 'Male Extra' caplets wouldn't fit in the cart, so I offered to take them to the checkout for her. I pretend with all my might that a 15-pound box of 'Male Extra' is not heavy. Exhausted, it takes me over a half hour to find my wife. She was looking at the Costco furniture selections. "Honey, what did you say?" she asks. "I don't remember. Oh, when we first walked in? Ja, I said it looks like a 'future landfill' in here." She just snorts. We're into hour three when my wife grudgingly declares victory. The cart is full, and it's time to navigate the checkout. It's the noisiest part of the store as the scanner's beep with every scan. I'm soon humming a tune of my own creation; 'Beep beep. Beep beep, we all stand hear like sheep. We'll soon be shorn till we look forlorn. Beep beep. Beep beep.' I'm also carefully observing what others are buying. I notice a huge box of adult diapers. Then I attempt to match the diapers to the buyer. Sure enough, there she is. She probably had too many children, and things got a bit messed up down there, and now she suffers from incontinence. I think there might be a kind of surgery for that. Just a counter over, a customer is questioning the contents of the 300-pound dog food bag with the cashier. The only words I pickup are 'cod liver' and something about the poor fella's dog suffering from hemorrhoids. I've never heard of that before. The unfortunate effect is that the folks waiting in that line are growing impatient with the conversation the cashier and customer are having. Like when a sweet grandma decides to show the cashier her pictures of last year's Christmas party with the grandkids. Please granny! I'm missing watching reruns of 'All in the Family!' Some look at each other and roll their eyes with irritation. Then I notice that some folks have a 'train' of carts. One couple had three heaping carts all lined up like there was an actual track. One cart, the caboose, was full of booze. I can't help but think of what a derailment might look like. Today, a Costco visit is different. It is like standing in line for a ride at Disneyland. You shuffle around the concrete block building for maybe 45 minutes before the thrill begins. Up and down the aisles you go while racing a cart the size of a semi, when out of nowhere, a cart careens out of control. And just as the ride ends, a train derailment sends bottles of fermented liquid everywhere soaking you as you prepare to disembark. Grandma is busy taking pictures. And that, my fellow Boomers, is the new normal. Be brave. Be safe.