Welcome to the wilds! New Jersey for me was like crossing the border into Tijuana. Sure, the new lifestyle was crazy, but no one would ever admit to living there. When my husband’s job was relocated here in August 2010, we both were frightened. Now we’re learning about life, love, and marriage in this strange new culture. Feel free to tag along for the adventure.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Only in New Jersey

Being a real housewife of New Jersey has its perks. One of them is that I run my errands during the week and miss the chaotic scramble of overworked, underpaid mothers who drive their carts like bumper cars.

On Tuesdays, just after morning rush hour, I hop in my car with my canvas bags and drive the requisite fifteen minutes to The Weis. It is a little grocery store with great deals on food! Compared to the city however, its selection is limited. And while my dollar goes farther, Harris Teeter unpacked and repacked my items at checkout. I miss that!

The grocery run is generally uneventful. After all in the wilds, there are only so many residents that cross my path. As I entered the Weiss this particular Tuesday, everything appeared normal. There were the Coupon Carriers parked in the middle of the aisles ticking on their calculators and ruffling slips of paper. There were a few mothers with kids bribed by treats. And there was me.

I rolled through the vegetables where an irate, middle-aged woman complained about the price of bagged lettuce. She followed me briefly through the fruits invested in a conversation that I had not acknowledged, regarding the price of apricots. Thank The Lord a store employee began unpacking coconuts by the oranges, because the apricot lady veered toward her, leaving me to my peaceful shopping.

Then, I continued forward, heading toward the Spanish goods. While my Spanish degree has come in handy on occasion, I have found it most useful when shopping. Food packaged in Spanish is on average 50 cents cheaper than its English counterpart. So, whenever I need canned vegetables, spices, or rice; I head toward the “International Aisle.”

Its position is at the base of the Meats Section, and I intended to buy a pound of ground chuck to make tacos. As I neared the packages, an approximately seventy-five-year-old woman was adjacent to the beef section in pork. I thought nothing of her or her cart; until I was hunting through the ground chuck searching for 93/7 beef.

I lifted a package of 86/14, which seemed to be the lowest fat content I could buy, and a cart struck my thigh. The woman in pork was continuously nudging me. I have never had this happen before and I wondered how to politely say, “Excuse me, that thing you’re running into…is me?”

I set the package of 86/14 beef back on the shelf, preparing to leave without a word. However, the woman’s arm shot past me, lifted my package of beef, threw it in her cart and swerved around me heading toward the pancakes!

I know what you’re thinking; I set the ground chuck back on the shelf. It was fair game. But isn’t there like a Five Second Courtesy Rule when shopping?

I shrugged off my encounter and continued through the store, believing that nothing else strange could happen on my excursion. I was wrong.

It was time to pay. I arrived at the front to see one checkout lane open besides self-checkout. Since I had a full cart and the line to the checkout employee was only one person deep, I decided to wait. I pulled into the checkout line only to discover that the meat stealer was ahead of me, and she had coupons! She glanced back once and only once through squinty eyes, and I squinted back.

I should have recognized that she was a bad omen and left the line for self-checkout, but I did not. Instead, I waited and waited while she pieced together a sizable discount. By the time I reached the conveyor belt, two more people were in line behind me. Both of them were NJ mothers.

“Can’t you open another line?” Yelled the first to the manager across the store.

“You’re sure lucky my kid isn’t screamin!” Called the second.

To put it lightly, grocery store animosity was on red alert.

The manager strolled toward them nonchalantly to carry on a conversation. From what I gathered, two people had called out that morning, and he was short staffed.

“Well, can’t you open a checkout line?” Asked the first mother.

“Can’t do that,” replied the manager.

“Is it below a manager’s position?” Inquired the second.

I huffed nervously and started loading my groceries onto the conveyor belt, trying to hurry through the motions before a WWE smackdown began in Aisle Four.

The manager, having had his fill of the mothers, walked to the cash register of the lone checkout employee and began a bitter discussion about the “unreliable kid,” who never shows up for work. This dialogue was so crucial that it pulled the check-out ladies full attention. She stopped mid-scan of my groceries.

I waited. I said nothing.

Behind me, the mothers chattered. I must mention here that I was not eavesdropping; not on purpose at least. The conversation was in stereotypical loud, jersey fashion. It was hilarious! It took all of my focus not to laugh out loud. I have inserted my favorite excerpt below.

“I like those pants,” said the first mother. They were bright pink sweatpants with lettering down the side. They matched the crocs that covered her feet.

“Oh yeah,” the second continued, “I got them at Kohl’s.”

“Virgin be…” The first sounded out before stopping with a surprised look. “Virgin bitch?” she whispered to avoid the young ears.

“No,” the second replied, “Virgin Beach.”

Now they were both staring at her pants. The second mother’s face went pale to crimson. “Oh my God,” she exclaimed, “I never…I never looked closely at them in the store.”

In case you’re wondering, the pants read, “Virgin Be-atch!”

When I heard that I had to turn completely around to hide the smirk that reached my eyes. At which point, the checkout employee began scanning my groceries again. I really wanted to end on that note. I wanted to walk out of the store and go home, but my escapade was not over.

The checkout employee was a super nice twenty-year-old, who slowed her scanning to tell me the woes of her life and job. She repeated over and over about the “unreliable guy” and all the hours that she worked.

I wanted to say, “I…just…want…to…buy…my…groceries. That’s it! Please…I need to leave the insanity of this.”

But what I said was, “Well, at least you’re making the mega-bucks right?”

To which she replied, “Yeah, I guess so…”

Moral of this Story: grocery store day has been moved to Wednesdays.

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