So when it comes to shopping for anything and I mean anything, I have developed this aversion and almost deep seated anxiety when I know I have to go to the store. However, being the practical person I am and always looking for ways to overcome my phobias (don't ask), I have developed a plan for surviving it and it was working pretty well for me.
However, these days with my limited budget, the only stores I grace have food in them (they say eating is a necessary way of staying alive though my waistline and wallet are encouraging me to try the no-food diet). As always I head for only those aisles that contain the items on my list. Thanks to the slender size of my wallet I've been forced into a new way of shopping.
I now stand for a long period of time checking out how much per ounce the item will cost. Surely this is the prudent thing to do but it's really winding up my phobia about cluttered store shelves and too many colors and choices and that piped in music from the 80's and flickering florescent lights ( I told you, you didn't want to know.)
So the other day, I went in search of ice cream and pizza for my family. Now to those of you who revel in the delights of shopping this may not overwhelm you but have you seen how many choices are out there these days?
There I stood in the frozen food section (which by the way is set up totally for the impulse buyer, having frozen pizza and ice cream side by side forcing us to look at all the different brands and choices) and it occurred to me that they purposely try to confuse you by making sure that every single item is just a little bit different from the others. I was completely baffled as to what pizza to buy and if I thought there were a lot of choices for that--well! The types and brands of ice cream were so vast that I'm convinced it's an indication that we are just too fixated on choices--but I digress, that's a topic for another day.
As I stood there going over every tidbit of information available to me, I looked around to see if anyone seemed friendly enough to approach. Luckily, on that day, the lady next to me, also looking at the ice cream, seemed just as engrossed as I was so I decided to take my chances.
"How on earth do you choose the best yet cheapest ice cream?" I asked her.
She didn't even take her eyes of the freezer but said, "Depends on your objective in buying ice cream."
Wow, did she have my attention or what? You mean to tell me there's an objective to buying ice cream other than the totally obvious desire to eat something totally yummy and totally bad for us?
"Oh?" I nodded, "I see." I said, pretending to know what she meant.
Clearly she didn't buy my act because she replied, "Yes, there's an actual science behind the choices you make."
"I don't normally buy ice cream." I confessed. "I no longer have a gall bladder." The moment I said it, I wondered why on earth I'd say that to a complete stranger.
"Oh no!" she said horrified. "That means it's completely out for you." She shook her head. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay, I can once in a while. Tonight, I'm trying to find something to make milk shakes out of with frozen strawberries for my family." I held up the package from my basket.
"You'll be wanting a bucket."
"A bucket? That's a lot to freeze."
"True." She paused. "Okay well then, since it's just for milkshakes, get the cheapest brand and oh, you need to decide--do you want Vanilla Bean or French Vanilla." I must have looked confused because she added, "Vanilla Bean is kind of gritty."
"Okay." I said as I grabbed a carton of French Vanilla from the freezer thinking that gritty wasn't a texture I wanted to experience in my ice cream. "Is it my imagination or are these cartons a lot smaller than they used to be."
"Oh wow, you really haven't bought ice cream in a long time, have you?" Her face grew solemn. "Seems they are downsizing everything these days."
"It seems so." I shook my head in unison with her.
"You should be okay with that one." She pointed at the carton I still held in my hand. "You won't mind the lesser quality with fruit in it."
"Yeah, and it's really for the kids." I mumbled feeling cheap.
"No gallbladder." she clucked. "That must really suck."
"Yes, it does." I turned to face her." Thanks for helping me. I was completely lost without your help."
She smiled for the first time since our conversation began and I realized that we'd been talking for ten minutes and had barely made eye contact.
"Oh, you're totally welcome. It was fun."
We nodded and grinned as we passed each other on another aisle and I thought how shopping had just taken on a new perspective for me. It was no longer just wasting my money and my time but I had learned something about the current economy's effect on a product, the texture that Vanilla Bean had on ice cream and that I could actually bond with another person in the coldest aisle in the store.
When I arrived at home, I also had the pleasure of being my son's hero. We hadn't make milkshakes since 2000. (I'm not joking, it's been 10 years) and I'd managed to do it for under twenty dollars. See! Shopping isn't totally bad!