Izraelevitz: Thank You For Shopping At Smith’s

Los Alamos

One of the little pleasures of married life for Terry and I is going shopping at Smith’s together. We enter by the flower section, we look in each other’s eyes, and I ask, “Does this qualify as a date?”

Long behind us are the days when we juggled three boys enthralled by pyramid displays, when we had to choose between hysterics and a box of frosted “Barney And Friends” cookies. It is also one of those few instances in modern life where marital roles are not a source of confusion for me. David pushes cart; Terry finds stuff. Except that is, when I have to go into that huge cavern of modern consumerism all by myself.

Speaking of caverns, I am sure the prehistoric Izraelevitz clan specialized in hunting mastodons, for the simple reason that Izraelevitz men cannot find anything smaller than a large prehistoric mammal. I think my modern trips to Smith’s are very much like what happened to my ancestors when the mastodon herd had moved on and the only prey left were prehistoric squirrels. We did a lot of walking around and couldn’t find much of anything.

There are some things that are easy to find, and I am no dummy. Bread is under Bread; milk is under Dairy. Some items I can identify because their location has been beaten into my brain. Eggs are in Dairy and not in Poultry for no reason I can understand, except that “that is the way it is.” Depending on the specific supermarket, bread crumbs are either in the baking section because it is ground like flour, by the salad dressings because it is made of crushed croutons, or in the Bread section, because that actually makes sense. And then I get to those items on the list that demand shopping logic skills comparable to a 1600 on the SAT.

“Excuse me, but where is the Parmesan cheese?”

The clerk looks at me with a tired look. “Let us think about this for a minute,” he says. “What do YOU use Parmesan cheese for?”

I am taken aback. “Is that relevant?”

“Yes, sir, it is.”

“Well, the only meal I make with Parmesan cheese is my mother’s spinach pie, and the recipe calls for a cup of Parmesan cheese.”

He rolls his eyes. “Any other dish that might benefit from a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese?”

“Well…Hmm… SPAGHETTI!” The epiphany complete, I run off to the Pasta aisle.

I have since realized that supermarkets place items not where they are supposed to be, but where you might realize that you forgot to get some the last time you were there. Thus, I have successfully used this insight to find birthday candles near the cake mixes and taco dip near the chips. If the Smith’s folks are reading this, I suggest that they put the whipped cream near the strawberries, napkins near the fried chicken, and diapers near the apple juice, but those are just ideas.

Every once in a while, however, my deductive powers fail me and I have to rely again on that tired-looking clerk. By the way, how do they remember were everything is?

“Excuse me again, the kalamata olives?” “Aisle 12, on the left, third of the way down at eye level, behind the display of 50-cent-off coupons for Vlasic Brand Kosher Mini-Pickles.” Fortunately, I always bring a small whiteboard where the clerk can conveniently draw me a map, complete with landmarks and intermediate stopping points.

Every once in a while, however, I find that there are limits even to a typical clerk’s spatial acumen. “Hi again, one last thing; where are the egg roll wrappers?” I can see the clerk’s mental rolodex rapidly spinning behind that furrowed brow.

“I presume you looked in the Chinese food section?” he asks hesitantly.

Indignantly, I reply, “That is the first place I looked.”

“By the tortillas in the refrigerated section?”

“Just came from there.”

“I’ll have to ask the consumer item placement specialist.” I follow him to the gentleman stacking sausages by the Cheese section.

“Chris! Egg roll wrappers?” he asks.

The consumer item placement specialist barks at us without breaking his stride. “Produce!”

Well, why didn’t I think of that?