Grocery shopping with a toddler is like taking a monkey to church. No matter how many bananas you bribe them with, you’ll always find yourself with one foot on a peel.
I have very few memories of going shopping with my own mother, mostly for things like Wonder Bread and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Good stuff, the 80s. And aside from the time I got my head stuck in the automated doors (which might explain a few things) or once when a “friend” of mine convinced me to steal a pack of candy cigarettes just so she could rat me out to the manager, it was pretty uneventful.
Listen, I know people go shopping with their kids the same way I know people jump out of airplanes, pull something on those little parachute things, and hope they don’t die. I’m just pretty sure I’m not one of those people… the cart-wielding, plane-jumping types.
But today I’m wishing I was. Today there’s this (very small) part of me that’s wishing I’d had the good sense to put on my big girl pants, or at least something other than purple fuzzy pajamas, and brave the Stop and Shop bread aisle, because sitting here in my car, with the rain about to monsoon on my already manic Monday (I wish it were Sunday) is leaving me about as contented as a mouthful of margarine and BTW, I can still very much believe it’s not butter.
The phone rings and rings and rings so many times that I’m sure now, “Peapod is ghosting me,” I tell Junior, freeing him from his arch-nemesis, the Graco 360 Booster, and schlep inside, letting the phone continue to ring. I’m not faulting Penny Peapod or whoever’s charged with my wrath reception, really I’m not.
There exists no fresher hell than working in customer service. These people all easily deserve triple what they’re making, or at least a receptionist to answer the phone for them, but there’s no one at the Stop and Shop service desk. To make matters worse, the entire town of Wilton is in line waiting (think Rise Doughnuts times 10) with enough groceries to last through 2023 because somehow the threat of impending precipitation appears to transform seemingly sane citizens into milk-thirsty, bread-hungry, butter-buying lunatics. (Yes, I include myself in this fairly accurate apocalyptic analogy).
But now, standing here, looking beyond exasperated with a toddler on my hip who thinks those little Kinder Eggs with the toys inside are a major food group, I feel like maybe a photo of me should be hanging somewhere, like in the employee lounge, perhaps with a bull’s eye around it and some darts handy.
Yes, I am that woman, that customer who just wants her milk and bread and butter delivered to her vehicle at the precise minute she pulls into the curbside pickup spot and not a second later, the one who asks for that itemized list to be itemized to her and possibly inspects every single bag before exiting the parking lot.
Penny Peapod makes her way to the service desk, picking up the phone, greeting what is clearly one of the more thrilling parts of her day with all the enthusiasm and rigor of an undertaker.
“Hello?” She says into the phone.
I wince, feeling suddenly awful for this poor girl. “It’s me,” I say.
“Me… I’m on the phone. I was the one who was calling… from the parking lot… you know what, never mind. It’s not important. I’m just trying to get my groceries… here… in the store?”
She pinches the place between her eyes.
“I ordered them… on Peapod.”
“Did you call?”
I stand there, dumbfounded, trying to form an intelligible response to something that is clearly… “You’re supposed to call… from the parking lot,” she says. “From your car… did you drive here?”
“No. I took the horse today and I did call. That was me, calling… on the phone but no one answered…” Junior arches his back, shimmying out of my grip. “Look, I just need my groceries” and maybe a vacation. I’m thinking somewhere beachy and Bacardi-laden that maybe has a ban on things like chocolate eggs encapsulating yellow plastic capsules with small toy rodents inside that you maybe need an engineering degree to assemble.
I follow Penny to where I’m confident I’ll be killed now, providing her with everything short of my blood type and social security number. But, “Nothing,” she says. “And you’re sure you ordered them here? For today?”
I pull up the Stop and Shop app for evidence, proof that I’m not losing my mind, that I’m not so entirely far gone to think that I ordered groceries, a lot of groceries, a week’s worth of groceries that my three children will easily consume in less than six hours including but not limited to milk, bread and butter. “Here,” I say, pushing the phone into Penny’s hands, feeling vindicated and then like a complete idiot.
She nods. “I think I see the problem,” she says, her eyes somehow sympathetic as they meet mine. “You forgot to check out. See,” she says, pointing to the little cart symbol with the grand total in the upper right-hand corner. “Don’t feel bad. It happens a lot. Honestly, it’s tricky.” She pauses, smiling at Junior, her expression softening. “Well, you’d better get back outside and find that horse of yours, you little monkey. It looks like it’s gonna rain.”
Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.