After years of putting it off, we’ve joined the ranks of the card-carrying, buggy-pushing, bulk-buying throng, fully embracing the benefits of membership. My cousin took me to Costco almost two years ago, and while I loved those pretzel roll slider buns and the refrigerated room of produce, I couldn’t see that we needed the three-pack of Lubriderm or a gallon of mayonnaise. That was then.
This is now, and “this” means living miles from a decent grocery store. It also means a bigger pantry and the justification for numerous cans of albacore tuna, enough pasta to feed the county and four loaves of my favorite multigrain bread for the cost of one purchased elsewhere.
What I love about this place is the selection. Good food is important, and if the labels are honest, I’m pleased to have vinegar from Modena, certified Parmesan-Reggiano cut from the big wheel before vacuum sealing and selling it for less than half the price of chain grocery stores, and giant bags of pine nuts. With our burgeoning basil crop, we can have pesto on everything this summer!
I could go back every week, but I’m fighting the effects of the Kool-Aid as I sit dipping my freshly baked bread into that balsamic vinegar and exquisite olive oil poured from those big bottles. I could easily find great use for a number of items, but I have to be honest. Do I really and truly need six Sonicare replacement heads? Actually, we do need those, especially when the price for six is the same as for two everywhere else!
Whoever designs the store’s layout is either a great authority on human psychology or has spent decades as a mind-controlling cult leader. As far as I could tell, nothing made any sense on the surface, but if you’re paying attention, they’ve come up with an ingenious plan. As we walked in, there was all that albacore tuna stacked to the heavens, and I immediately remembered we’d been out for two days. Into the cart it went! A few feet forward, and there were garden hoses. Gary remembered he was picking one up for a friend, and suddenly we beheld fancy lawn chairs. To the right were electronics and we pushed the cart into the mazes of TVs, gadgets and—wait! There’s the optometrist at the precise moment when you realize too much television watching can blur the vision.
I was swooning at that point because we were next to home and garden, but not all home and garden. There might be screened-in cabañas at the first intersection, but Japanese maples were in the back, next to the New Zeeland lamb. What were they doing there? It doesn’t matter because I glimpsed the Brie across the aisle, and was that a case of pinot noir to my right? I wasn’t in control of myself at that point while a persistent amplified voice explained all the reasons my life was unfulfilled until I tossed a Vitamix into the basket.
I knew better than to look into her eyes, but when I averted my gaze, I saw the most interesting doormats I’d ever beheld, and I was shoving them onto the bottom of the cart when I heard a kind, motherly voice asking me if I’d like to try a sample of her gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, low-sodium “bread,” and yes, I did! I commented to Gary that it wasn’t half bad for a something with the nutritional value of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser—which they sold on aisle 28 next to the raisins!
We were about 90 minutes into the experience when Gary said it was getting close to dinnertime. He was famished, but I wasn’t willing to turn loose and return to reality, so I convinced him that passing by the mac-n-cheese sample counter a couple of times would hold him over. If that wouldn’t do, he could run over to the summer sausage display and nibble on a few slices while I went to the dairy room and calculated the savings on cream cheese.
We looked like the Joads heading west as we pushed our overloaded cart toward the checkout lanes. If you’re familiar with this blog, you know I love people watching, and Costco delivers people like they deliver cases of their private label liquor. The teeming devotees stand dazed in the presence of doubly manned cash registers while they hand over their cards, proving they’ve been washed by the Flood of Demand (and if you’re hearing a hymn playing in your head, this experience is reminiscent of an altar call). Instead of an offering plate, you hand them a debit card and pray the total will not bring on a case of glossolalia.
Then begins the recessional as the convoy of carts proceeds to the exit where instead of shaking hands with the pastor, you hand over your receipt while the employee casts a somewhat judgmental gaze over your purchases and hopes you come back next week. Thanks to the sounds of cart wheels on asphalt, which sound like a metallic plague of locusts, as fellow club members emerge from the sanctuary of shopping, I was rattled into reality. Seated in the car after loading it down with boxes and filling our ice-chest to the top, we looked at the receipt and discussed the total. What did we get for all that? We haven’t a clue.
© 2016 by Patrick Brown
To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1