The monkey bread incident

I had decided to do some early grocery shopping so that I could make monkey bread for a barbecue I would be attending later in the afternoon. While perusing the multitude of brands of raisins carried by my local grocer, a strange feeling came over me. As I reached the end of the aisle, I looked up from my box, almost dropping it. I was simply amazed by the number of elderly ladies and gentlemen that were in the store. Usually, the elderly, especially in this area, shop early on weekday mornings in order to avoid the rush of weekend barbecuers (like me) and whining children. On this beautiful Saturday, however, they all seemed to have decided to come out at once. Only once before in my life have I seen such a sea of white and gray hair, and that was at a retirement home luncheon.

Some people my age are frustrated with the elderly. I hate to admit it, but that frustration takes hold of me on occasion, usually on the road. As many people know, it is a truly exasperating experience being stuck behind an octogenerian who can barely see over the steering wheel and hits a top speed of ten miles under the speed limit. However, I tend to enjoy shopping for groceries with older folks. They’re generally very cordial. Some very nice older ladies have given me fabulous advice about how to pick the best fresh fruits, and some have seemed thrilled that a young person loves to cook; I’ve even gotten some recipes out of it! I’ve found that for the most part, the elderly are not old curmudgeons who are horribly mean to young people; they’re actually very sweet!

Unfortunately, this was not the case on this fateful Saturday noon. It all began in the fruit section, where I was searching for the best apples. In the very open space of the aisle I was attacked by an elderly woman who could have been a real-life Sophia Petrillo: short with tightly permed hair, giant glasses and a major attitude. Although she had more than enough room to get around me, as there was no one else in the aisle, she insisted on plowing her cart directly into my right leg. She snapped at me, her biting tongue chastising me for taking up so much space when I didn’t need it.

Now, I’m not a large person, and I had with me only a hand basket. Since I was actively choosing fruit, I wasn’t meandering aimlessly in the middle of the aisle. I have to admit, I was a bit baffled at her response to my healthy eating habits. Nonetheless, my parents taught me well, so I apologized to this woman and tried to squeeze closer to the crates of apples. She tried once more to plow her cart into me, after which I inquired if she was interested in choosing apples as well. Perhaps I was standing directly in front of a particularly nice apple she had her eye on. This only seemed to provoke her, and as she bustled past me, I heard some mutterings about arrogance and weeping for the future.

I brushed this incident off, thinking that she was probably in a grumpy mood. It happens to the best of us. However, my thoughts must have been a bit off. I encountered three more grumpy elders in the store that day: by the red meats, in front of the dairy case and in the baking aisle. One older gentleman, who didn’t even have a cart, started yelling at me as I reached for a small bag of chopped walnuts. It took every ounce of my moral fiber to stiffle a smile as he hollered that those were his nuts I was grabbing.

It was just after this nut incident that I had my raisin epiphany. I surveyed the sea of bobbing white heads that were making their way through the store at an alarmingly slow rate of speed. The weary mothers pushing around screaming toddlers who usually took over the supermarket on Saturdays were nowhere to be seen. The toddlers’ whines were replaced with phlegmy coughs; the scent of baby powder was replaced with the piercing aroma of Bengay. I couldn’t believe that I was almost finished with my shopping and I had only just noticed.

Then, it happened: I saw something that truly made me afraid that I wouldn’t even make it to the check-out lines. From three aisles away I spotted a young couple about my age, who decided to make a break for the eggs. An elderly woman must have seen exactly what I saw, because she started her cart on an intercept course. When she reached them, she casually brought her cart to a stop in the middle of the aisle, directly in front of the egg-seekers. Due to this diversion, another old woman was able to reach the eggs first. After watching for a few moments, I came to the conclusion that these old women were complete strangers.

I slowly made my way to the exit. With wiser eyes, I witnessed a number of elderly couples blocking young people so that they could not reach their culinary goals. I suddenly felt like Tippi Hedren trying to sneak past an unusually large flock of crows. I tried to make my way to the front of the store as quickly and quietly as possible, so as not to be spotted by an old person who wanted my place in line. In this, I was successful.

I finally reached the Penguinmobile, quickly stashing my groceries in the trunk and starting up the car. As I pulled out of the parking space, an elderly man, who was driving down the wrong side of the parking aisle, nearly careened into my side. No contact was made, but horns were honked. I finished pulling out of the parking spot and headed home. Looking into my rearview mirror, I saw the old man had exited his car and was now standing angrily, shaking a feeble fist at my exhaust.

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