My assignment was to pick up a few items from the grocery store. You should understand in advance that I’m not the designated shopper in our family. I suffer from a condition called CFS (Can’t Find Shit). If you ask me, for example, to open the crisper and take out the bowling ball and the severed human hand, I would come back with, at best, one of those items and a bag of small carrots.
So you can imagine the panic that sets in when I’m handed a shopping list. I hope and I hope and I hope that the list will contain only familiar and easy-to-locate objects. For example, cucumbers are a good choice for me. I know where to find them, and when I come home with one that is spongy and inedible, I can say, “It was the best one they had.”
I scan the shopping list: six items. I feel good about five of them. The sixth is coconut milk. Oh, God. I do not ask Shelly where in the grocery store I might find coconut milk. That is announcing failure in advance. I vow to find it on my own.
As I drive toward the store, I consider the possible hiding places for coconut milk. I’m sure it’s not in the dairy section. And they probably don’t have an “all things coconut” section. It’s not a fruit juice. It’s not a soda. My only hope is that a thirsty monkey is in the store at the same time, so I can follow him.
I soon realized that I don’t have any of the qualities necessary for finding coconut milk. I’m not a good shopper. I’m not experienced at cooking, which might give me a clue as to what section the coconut milk would be in. I have no knowledge of the store. I have no patience. I’m not a good guesser. If there’s a choice that is correct and a choice that will go horribly wrong, my instincts always lead me in the direction that will be comically catastrophic. It’s often not good to be me.
I was willing to ask someone for help, but all of the store employees were in their secret hiding places, and the other shoppers all seemed angry. If I had a different type of personality, I might impose on the other shoppers and not care about their angry reactions. Or I might have interrupted a checker during a transaction. But as I’m trying to tell you here, I have NONE OF THE QUALITIES NECESSARY FOR FINDING COCONUT MILK. I don’t know how many more ways I can say that.
I decide to do a shelf-by-shelf search, leaving out no section of the store, no matter how unlikely. I search through the donuts and the tortillas. I rifle through the radishes. “It might be frozen” I think to myself before opening every door of every refrigerated section. After searching most of the store, I was near exhaustion – and starvation, ironically. I reached the Asian food section. I never knew that my grocery store was a racist, but there it was. My eyes gazed upon a can on the bottom shelf with mostly Japanese or possibly Chinese characters and an English title “Coconut Milk.” Now I have a new problem. I wonder if any of those words mean anything I should know, such as “Not intended for use in any of the ways your wife would like,” or “99% Panda urine.” There were a lot of ways this could go wrong. Worse yet, there were two brands side by side. Was one of them the “right” kind and one of them the sort of thing you only buy if you have a severe case of CFS?
I choose one brand randomly and grab four cans, semi-triumphantly. I quickly locate the other items on the list and sprint for the checkout. As a precaution, I double-check my shopping list. It said FIVE cans of coconut milk, not four. Damn! I hurried back to where I found the first four, only to discover that in the past five minutes the store employees had scampered out of their hidey holes and rearranged the entire store without anyone noticing. It was like a bad dream. The Asian food section was now nothing but pickles and mayonnaise. Or maybe I am bad at retracing my steps. The point is that I have NONE OF THE QUALITIES NECESSARY FOR FINDING COCONUT MILK TWICE.
Eventually I find where the Asian food section has been hidden. I pay for my items and stride triumphantly out of the store, across the parking lot, only to discover that someone has stolen my minivan. Or maybe I forgot where I parked. Or maybe the friggin’ thing was on the bottom shelf of the ever-moving Asian food section. The point is that I couldn’t find it.
In past situations like this, when I needed to distract myself so I wouldn’t spontaneously transform from Bruce Banner into something green, I used to check my BlackBerry to see if I had any interesting messages. But I got rid of my BlackBerry, and now I have something called an iPhone. It operates differently, in the sense that instead of being a device for communicating, it is more like carrying disappointment in your pocket. On this day, despite having both the ringer and vibration setting on, my iPhone had failed to warn me of two incoming texts and one voice call from Shelly. The first text message read “Also get lemon juice.”
The items I had already purchased would have melted in the car, should I ever find it, because temperatures hovered around 100 degrees. And I couldn’t take my groceries back into the store because I fear being arrested for shoplifting. Once I buy something, I spend the next six months driving in wide arcs around the store whenever I’m in the area just so no one will falsely accuse me of running out the door without paying. This is one more way in which I’m not normal. I know I had a receipt. Shut up.
Eventually I found the minivan. I drove home and tried to convince Shelly that the lack of lemon juice was Steve Jobs’ fault. She didn’t say anything, but judging from the way she shook her head in disgust, I think she really hates that guy.