Our theme for February is actually a challenge: write a piece without using first person pronouns (I, me, we, etc.)

The first step is to prepare yourself for misery. Even if you thought you liked grocery shopping, you no longer do.

Next, you rule out the non-options:

  • You don’t just give up and order groceries. Last time, you shopped through FreshDirect and had your groceries delivered, which is a fantastic idea, except that your shopper never seems to manage to get everything you order, so then you just have to go back out to the store anyway.
  • You don’t go to the nearest store, because it’s very expensive, and the produce smells funny, and the way products are arranged makes absolutely no logical sense.
  • You don’t go to Trader Joe’s, because it’s already late in the afternoon and you know that the line will wrap around the entire perimeter of the store, snake through the aisles, and stretch back to produce—or farther.

So you go to the store that has a weird name but that stocks Jimmy Dean sausage and small cans of sliced black olives—who knew these would become rare foods?. You take your purse (or wallet), but you forget the reusable shopping bags (some things never change). You walk nine blocks—seven short, two long—and at last enter the store.

You stop and pick up a shopping basket. You don’t take one of the tiny carts because even the tiny carts take up an entire aisle, contributing to the inevitable traffic jams and generally inhibiting your progress through the store. You start in produce, because it is closest to you, pulling out your shopping list and trying not to block anyone’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables. You begin to fill your basket with potatoes and onions and Brussels sprouts. You move on to meat, but then decide you should probably buy nonperishables first. You select beans, tomatoes, pasta, coffee. You get a half gallon of milk and a half dozen eggs. You buy ground beef and chicken breasts. You wish that you had gotten a shopping cart after all, because the basket has become unpleasantly heavy.

You do not get cereal because the small boxes still cost seven dollars, and that’s just crazy. You will later make a second trip to Rite Aid, where cereal prices are more reasonable. This is also where you purchase soda, because you’re not carrying that nine blocks back to your apartment. You do not get green chiles or green onions, because you can’t find them; you will make a second trip to the store you don’t like to seek these, or you will give up and use something else in your recipe.

You get in line to check out. You load your items on the belt and leave the basket on the pile of other baskets at the head of your lane. You swipe your card and pick up your bags: two in each hand. You still have not acquired one of those little rolling carts, so you carry your bags. Everything is double-bagged, because otherwise the bags would tear before you got home, and your carefully selected grocery items would roll into the street. You walk back, occasionally adjusting your grip, occasionally shifting so that you do not run into anyone with your double-wide load.

You get home. You set the bags down and fumble around for your key. You are not home yet: just four flights of stairs to climb. Once you’ve made it, still winded though you’ve been making this climb for a year and a half, you shoehorn your food into the fridge and cupboards like a game of tetris. Potatoes go in the mixing bowls; cans go on the edge of the shelf with cups and bowls. You ball up the bags and put them in the closet.

You complain about how difficult it is to buy groceries. You fantasize about driving your car down suburban streets to Meijer, which now feels impossibly huge, then putting your groceries in the trunk and driving them home to your full-size refrigerator/freezer. You know you should feel grateful that you can afford to buy groceries at all.

After the pain and melancholy wear off, though, you remember Broadway (and OMG Hamilton), you remember the Museum of Natural History and the Wonder Wheel, you remember soup dumplings and Korean fried chicken and Salted Caramel Crack ice cream. And you think…

…Seriously, a city this great and they can’t come up with a better grocery solution?

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