Once a week my partner, Janet, and I hop in the car to make a trip to the grocery store like a big boy and girl. We don’t look forward to these trips, but I am proud to say we’ve honed our skills enough to make these treks tolerable. Actually, because of our healthy diets and the teenagery needs of our two boys, we shop at two stores back-to-back. Now you’re getting why tolerable is an achievement.
I’d like to outline how we get through shopping, usually without tears, in hopes of this information helping some of you empathic/intuitive types navigate the dangerous waters of a grocery store, or at least to show you you’re not alone in your shopping struggles.
Choosing our store:
Store choice is extremely important for us. We are lucky to live in a big city and have these choices. I’m not going to name them, but we have categorized our three main stores by how we feel when we shop in them.
1. Feels like being attacked: The cluttered, cold, over-stimulating store that requires walking to another zip code to find customer service. (We avoid this mo-fo except for trash bags, napkins and such.)
2. Feels friendly and familiar: The warm and friendly but small-aisled, tiki bar store with natural goods that seems like it should be owned by Jimmy Buffet.
3. Feels clean, fresh, and uncluttered: The almost romantically lighted, clean and clear store with healthy foods that may use drones for delivery in the future.
We have almost solely gravitated to stores 2 & 3 for the past few months. This shift alone has made a huge difference.
This is how we get it done.
Parking lot angels:
As we pull into the parking lot, Janet and I sing, “Parking lot angels!!!” in a three-note melody. This summons our winged friends who magically provide us with a close parking space. Note: This type of behavior is found to be kryptonite for teenagers who sometimes tag along to pick out their favorite ice cream.
Choosing a cart:
I’m the designated cart pusher, a born driver, but also the most sensitive to carts with sticky handles that squeak or clunk. These sensitivities, and my need for speed and maneuverability require me to test drive carts before committing to one. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had buyer’s remorse while clunking through produce with a cart that is already loaded with too many bananas and avocados to turn back. Janet is always amused when I exclaim that I’ve found the perfect cart that glides over the linoleum with ease. I’m tearing as I write this. It’s just that special.
A Crowded Aisle (an empath’s hell):
Inevitably, we find it. Somewhere during our shop, we make that turn past the end cap display to find ourselves staring down that dreaded aisle. You know, the one that seems to have sucked in every inconsiderate, Bluetooth talking, spaced-out, dangerous driving, leaning-in-front-of-you, scolding the kids, lane-blocker shopper in the store.
Janet’s way of dealing with this seems healthy to me, and impossible. She zones in on the list, picking items off the shelf with ease, defies her 5’3” frame by reaching high into the air to grab a bottle of sriracha, all while seemingly unaware of the possible injuries her little body could sustain from elbows and carts in this canned-aisle highway to hell.
My way of navigating the gauntlet is one of avoidance. I keep my cart far to the right and only stop in front of the unpopular foods. God forbid I would have to deal with the impatient feelings of someone reaching over my cart for that much-needed can of turnips. I know this is crazy and I need to reel in my empathic feelers, but this is where I am.
About a month ago, Janet and I were just starting down a crowded aisle when a lady came behind me in the right lane. She wanted to get around me, but oncoming traffic prevented her from doing so. I could feel her impatience. It was so damn strong that I felt like I was being pushed in the back! I let her pass and felt immediate relief. I found Janet pulled over on the opposite side. She had felt the same pushiness from the lady and decided to stay clear. Yes! There are energy pushers out there! I’ve got some work to do before that type of person doesn’t affect me.
The Choosing-a-Cashier Game:
This is the fun part. Of course, as we approach the checkout area, we do the usual and take a look around to see which lanes are open or have less customers with less stuff, but we don’t stop there. Once we find a couple of good candidates, we look at the lane numbers. I love 6 and 8. Janet loves 8 also. Those numbers take priority, but then we get a quick read on the cashiers. What do they feel like? How’s their energy? Is it slow energy, unfocused, or friendly and fast? We do all of this observation in silence and then compare notes. If we don’t agree, we go with the cashier that one of us feels most strongly about. Sometimes the decision is determined because one of us gets a strong NO about a lane or cashier.
Once in line, we observe and compare our lane to the runner up. Most of the time we choose correctly, but if our lane turns out to be slower, one of us usually gets ribbed for being so sure that we had it right. This makes being in a slow lane a little more fun.
However, it’s not only about the speed of checking out. Sometimes when the line we chose is slower the conversation with the cashier may be so uplifting and energizing that we don’t care. It’s not so bad spending a few more minutes in the store if you leave smiling and laughing!
I forgot to mention that we usually buy some coconut water to drink in the car or as soon as we get home. It really helps us rejuvenate and ground. It’s like magic!
I really am proud of the progress we’ve made over the past year or so. It’s a far cry from the crying that used to break out in the evening while standing in an aisle trying to think of what to make for dinner. Mixed with our new regiment of planning the week’s meals beforehand, our honed shopping technique has vastly improved our weekly experience. We’ve accomplished this by recognizing our sensitivities and making adjustments to minimize the negative effects of shopping for groceries.
What have your shopping experiences been like? In what aisle do you often find yourself crying in? Are there certain foods that make you cry more than others? Do you have any examples of things turning out better than expected? How have you improved your grocery store encounters? Does wearing a certain color help? Sunglasses?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.