I'm afraid this is not a post about athletic contests involving shopping carts.
These do exist. The Chiditarod, for example, looks to be a real hoot. Teams of human "dawgs" pull shopping carts through freezing-ass Chicago streets for charity, complete with special guidelines for sabotaging other teams. What's not to like?
But no, this is about the imaginary Olympic Games that take place in my head when I go to the grocery store. I don't think I even realized how often I play these games until I saw a funny post by Marie from Mousearoo's Mumblings.
Marie confessed to being a "Judgy Mcjudgerson" because she noticed that the woman ahead of her at the store bought two items: hoodia, and a package of Rolo's candies. Marie questioned the wisdom of this combination.
Marie asked if other folks ever found themselves judging the purchases of others and I thought, holy crap, YES YES YES YES!!!
I am absurdly, ridiculously judgmental about the items people buy. Even though I may smile and make conversation with other shoppers as though I were a normal person, I'm secretly thinking:
"Hey, middle-aged wheezy guy with the large gut and red face and ear hair (ok, so the ear hair isn't relevant, it's just kinda gross)--yeah you, Mr. Good Chance of a Heart Attack on the Golf Course Next Weekend: Do you really need to buy all that bacon and salami and sour cream and chips and full-fat milk and pepperoni pizza and Ben and Jerry's? You think that one head of lettuce redeems that whole basket of junk? Buster, that's iceberg lettuce! It doesn't even count!!!"
You think it's immature and obnoxious to judge other people like that? Wait, it gets worse...
I actually feel competitive about the stuff in my cart. I want to have the healthiest bunch of groceries the cashier has seen that day or even that week.
Do I realize that neither the cashier nor anyone in line gives a rats ass what I buy? Well, yeah, if I think about it rationally. But what fun is being rational when self-delusion is so much more gratifying?
For other neurotic nutballs like myself who want to play shopping cart Olympics, here are some handy rules and tips. Notice that these rules are one-sided rules devised to make it easier to WIN! Because what's the point of competing in anything if you're gonna lose?
1. Judge others by your own standards: As we all know, there are many competing nutritional theories out there; research is often contradictory, and folks of different ages and life philosophies have different goals. So let's say you started on a vegan raw food diet two days ago because of something you read a magazine, and you are chatting with a 96 year old man behind you in line who has fought in 7 wars and still runs ultramarathons. If he has a steak in his shopping cart and you do not: score one for YOU!
2. Don't go to the Farmers Market the same day you go to the regular grocery store. Because you bought your produce there, right, and it was all healthy and organic and local? And now you've got nothing but your less impressive, somewhat processed, "compromise" foods in your cart. So yeah, you know you're going to put organic chard and garlic and local tomatoes in your "Barilla Plus" pasta tonight but how will the cashier and the people in line know that?
Defensive trick: If you are shopping with a family member or a significant other, you can restore any lost Farmers Market credit by working anything you bought there into the conversation. Yes, you will sound like a total jerk, but isn't it worth it to let everyone know that you get better produce at the Farmers Market than at the big chain grocery store?
3. Shop only for yourself. What if a friend or relative asks you to pick up a case of Red Bull, a bag of Oreo Double Stuffs, and a carton of cigarettes? People are going to think you're buying them for yourself!!!! It's almost as bad as when your grandmother runs out of that big bottle of her favorite laxative.
Tip: You can ask the cashier questions about these products to clarify that they're not for you: "My friend wants, um, a package of "Marlboros" but she didn't say what kind. Do they come in different colors?"
4. Special rules apply at super healthy hippy stores: It's no fun to play grocery cart Olympics if everyone around you has piles and piles of exotic produce, dried legumes and unrecognizable grains bought in bulk, cheeses made from the milk of unfamiliar mammals, foreign fermented unpronounceable curds, green juices, seaweed and hemp-based food items, etc. Especially if they remembered their reusable little canvas market bags and you never got around to buying one in the first place!
So in this case: You get bonus points for shopping at the same place as these uber-healthy, gastronomically adventurous creatures. This means you get credit for everything healthy in THEIR carts too, just because you shop at the same store. In this case, the cashier is not the imaginary judge who will award you your medal; rather, it is all the people "out there" who might be hypothetically impressed that you shop at such a virtuous establishment.
5. This last tip is so obvious I forgot to include it the first time and had to re-edit: Don't play the game when you've got too much crap in your own cart! We all have those days when we deserve some junk, or at least manage to talk ourselves into the idea that we deserve some junk. Just like an Olympic athlete doesn't need to enter every event, an Olympic Neurotic Competitive Shopper gets to sit out a few contests and freely toss Snickers bars or Pringles tubes or whatever into the cart. No one will notice, right?
Does anyone else feel either Smug or Sheepish about what you put in your cart? Do you notice what anyone else is buying?