A PhD in Shopping
I enter the crush of cars fighting my way to a parking spot. I turn the key counter clockwise and hear the engine cough once before shutting off. I breathe deeply enjoying my thirty seconds of peace and quiet before exiting the comfort of my car and walking into the chaos of the grocery store. There I pick an overlarge cart and begin to search for the choosed items for my kids and myself. I look overhead for the sign that indicates the isle for the bathroom supplies. But every sign reads like a marketing placard, nothing is written in plain English just marketing speak. Two isles over I find “Home healthcare” and make a sharp right past another directed women who seems to know where she is going. In fact everyone seems to know where they are going although to me it feels more like a busy beehive than patrons at a grocery store. I scan down the isles for soap for the kids and myself. Six shelves high, from floor to about a foot below the ceiling, stretches every conceivable beauty aid imaginable, except that is soap. I excuse myself politely and ask a women whose shopping cart was brimming with items, a good indicator that she knows where all the items are, if she could direct me to the soap.
“What kind of soap?” She asks matter of factly but with a slight hurried edge to her voice.
“What do you mean what type of soap? Soap soap.” My confused reply doesn’t go unnoticed by this expert shopper so she tries to educate me immediately rambling off the varies types of soap available. The list is impressive from liquid soap to antibacterial, from aloe enhanced to chemical free, to facial scrub; she seems to have a PhD in soapology.
“Well what type is it you need?” I pause, my male mind racing to give the right reply, like a third grader pressured into giving the correct life or death answer to a teacher.
“Soap. The type you use to clean your body with. The type I use and grew up with. I stand back a pace ready for the explosive reply. Instead she groans and asks who is the soap for to which I tell her it is for my two daughters. Quickly she scans the isles and like a magician, plucks two liquid viles of antibacterial; aloe enhanced peach pit grinded soap. She shoves the items into my arms and wanders down the isle racing amongst the other patrons to finish up her shopping. I turn and watch her peel away to the left and into another isle thoughoughly exhausted by this first purchase knowing I don’t want to even shop for the various shampoos for my wife and two daughters. I move my steel cart down a bit spying shampoo bottles, rows and rows of shampoo. Again my mind freezes but I am certain that I am not going to ask anyone what shampoo to by so I begin to look at the labels. I’m an intelligent man this should be simple. I hold the first bottle up close to my eyes and read the front label.
“Herbal essence: over 99% natural and plant derived shampoo with Rose Hips, Vitamin E and Jojoba.”
Sounds more like ingredients to dessert than a hair cleanser. I read on and notice that the word natural appears not less than four times from naturally derived to leaving hair naturally luxuries. Then I notice the ingredients label tucked away on the bottom of the bottle. I squint my eyes to read the small print.
“Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropl Betaine, and Iodopropynyl Buitlcarbamate to list but a few.” That doesn’t sound so natural to me but it’s a pleasant pretty pink liquid so I throw it into the cart for my older daughter. Then I remember reading an article somewhere listing the chemical compounds used in the fuel of the space shuttle and I’m certain that this is the same stuff so I take it out putting it back on the shelves. The next bottle. The next shampoo bottle is really no better except it has 2 UV Filters for “brilliant care and protection.” Good just in case I run out of sun block at the beach I can always spread this stuff over my skin. I throw that bottle into the cart. The next ones for my kids with a family name that I trust Johnson’s. Hmmm “Blueberry Bash” fun name so I’m about to throw this bottle into the cart when I decide to read this label too.
“Unique (that’s always good if your buying a Rembrandt but I’m not certain about shampoo) triple action (sounds more like a Hollywood film commercial but ok) system to tame kids’ flyway frizzies, cowlicks and tangles.”
My mind flashes images of me dressed in a lion tamers outfit whipping and taming’ my kid’s hair into shape. Somehow that imagery is so pleasing I put in three more bottles into my cart. My wife and kids taken care of its my turn to find a shampoo. Simple enough until I try finding a section for men’s shampoo. Row after row of shampoo products, each packaged pleasantly, of women’s shampoo but none for men. Figures but then I see Denorex dandruff shampoo near the end of the isle on the bottom shelf and by it several other male shampoos. I pick up the first bottle and am immediately struck at how plain the packaging is. Somewhere, somehow I’ve become sensitized. I want my shampoo to look at least partially as nice as the women’s shampoos. I search the tiny collection until I find one fairly close. Nice purple packaging, even a name that men can relate to: “The Volumizer.” I don’t even bother to read the back instead I throw it into the cart and decide that this is enough of shopping at the grocery store for one day. I realize as I push my cart to the cashier that I need to become more educated to products, their materials, and more importantly, I need to scout the isles so that I know where I need to go. The world of shopping at a grocery store has become vastly complicated with too many choices to choice from. I hear the familiar electronic ring of the cash register and the girl from behind the counter asks for form of payment.
“Would that be cash, credit, debit, our Stop & Shop card or cheque?”