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Real Reality from Our House: Grocery store is a race course

By Tracy Herz

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Getting out of the house for practically anything is like turning around a jumbo jet or parallel parking a tractor-trailer.

We used to laugh at people with children who suggested having dinner together at 5 p.m.

Five in the afternoon? Come on, we said, laughing. You can't possibly be serious.

Not only were they serious, they were right.

Back then, we were like the Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack. We didn't even start the evening until 8 p.m.

Now, if we are up at 10 p.m., we are very sorry and we pay a heavy price for several days.

I have a very good friend with seven children who HOME-SCHOOLS and WORKS. She's an ER surgery nurse. She also takes care of her mother at home.

If you ever have to have surgery, ask for Rose. She can concentrate like a laser. She probably ought to be doing the surgeries.

Whenever I see Rose in the grocery store -- tall and lithe, flipping that long mane of thick auburn hair -- looking for the Kroger manager's specials with the authority and skill of an FBI agent, one child on the hip and two in the buggy, I say, "Heh, Rose, where are the boys?"

She's like, "In the car of course! BAD MOMMY!" She gives me that intense look with her eyes bugged nearly out of her head (which I know so well). It's a little joke we have, so we laugh.

We are standing there by the bananas in produce (59 cents per pound) catching up in furiously fast staccato and throwing bananas in the cart.

We both know that you get one bunch of green bananas, one bunch of almost green, and one bunch of ripe ones so you save another trip.

Rose is my hero.

We skip the organic section, agreeing that it's a racket. $6.69 for a gallon of organic milk? Give us a break. Buy a milk cow! It's cheaper.

We're over 40, and we did not just fall off the turnip truck.

She gets a call from her husband. "You need to come home now," he says. She just nods. She doesn't even have to ask what's going on, because she knows. I also know.

I get a call from my husband. "Where are you?" he wants to know.

"I am in PARIS, FRANCE, talking to Rose in produce." She nods in understanding. We keep talking -- hard and fast.

Rose has clenched her teeth so hard lately that her dentist said a few have hairline fractures, and she needs to watch it.

We take those buggies through Kroger like racecar drivers. The expensive stuff is on the left of the store. The cheap stuff is on the right of the store. The junk and processed food is in the middle and on the end caps. We know that, and we also know the shortcuts, i.e., which aisles will have less traffic so we can get to the non-organic string cheese and yogurt as fast as humanly possible.

We also race ahead of people who are not as skillful buggy drivers as we are, while giving them a bright and brilliant oh-won't-you-forgive-me smile as we steer ruthlessly into the lines with the fewest people.

So far, we have not wrecked the buggies, injured the elderly or had a panic attack in the store.

We ask for paper bags -- easier to carry and faster to unpack. If it's a male checkout clerk, we pack and load our own groceries. If it's a female, she knows not to put the hamburger and the frozen food in the same bag as the broccoli and the cat food.

We have to hurry up and get home so we can have dinner ready by 5 p.m.

Reach Tracy Herz at tracyherz@gmail.com.


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