Many of my present-day anecdotes and experiences happen in those places I frequent as a normal, everyday middle-aged person. One of those places is the grocery store. This week, I’m reprising a piece a wrote some time ago, in simpler times when a visit to the going the grocery store was easier, carefree and less “COVID-y.”
Anyway, enjoy this “oldie” and I’ll be back next week with some new (but not necessarily fresh) material.
No one has ever enjoyed every minute of anything. Take a moment to process that. (I’ll sit quietly while you do.)
OK, just in case it didn’t sink in, I’ll repeat it.
No one has ever enjoyed every minute of anything.
What’s that, you need it one more time, only louder?
NO ONE ... HAS EVER ... ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE ... OF ANYTHING! OK, now we’ve simply stooped to one of those talk radio “I’m-repeating-myself-and-yelling-louder-than-you-to-make-my-point-so-I-must-be-right” moments, let me explain.
On its face, if you read that statement (don’t worry, I’m not going to write it again, underlined and in red or anything; you know where to find it if you need to reference it) it may seem like I’m some gloomy, pessimistic “glass-is-half-full-and-I-just-spilled-that-half-on-the-floor” jerk. I might be. But this isn’t an example of that.
All I’m saying is that it’s impossible that you or I could enjoy every minute of something, even something that is really kickass awesome, like a trip to Europe, or seeing your favorite band, or meeting the Dali Lama, hanging gliding or scarfing down a stack of those ridiculously good blueberry pancakes at IHOP (with the whipped cream on top, of course, because nothing says “balanced breakfast” like whipped cream, right?).
This thought popped into my head after I overheard two women talking in the grocery store. I was in a hurry (though I’m not sure why; maybe I just forgot to change my “pace” setting back to “normal” from earlier in the day), so I was coming in pretty hot, almost at a run but all four wheels were on the ground, and I was totally in control of my cart, so it was cool.
Anyway, as I transitioned from Aisles 4 to 5 (a really tough hairpin turn that included an endcap special for tomato soup and crackers), my progress was halted by these two women. They were both my age or older, and it appeared that they were friends, or more likely, casual acquaintances (I could tell by the strange, sing-songy tone they both used), but hadn’t seen each other for a while, so they were catching up.
Lucky for me, they decided to perform this “catching up” act right in front of the dill pickles I needed. (Wouldn’t it have been cool if they had been catching up in front of the ketchup I didn’t need? They weren’t.)
So, after screeching the cart to a halt, just missing knocking Female 1 into Female 2 (they never even noticed the close call or the smell of burning cart wheels), I collected myself and tried to find a way to separate these two to get at the pickles I needed. Before I did, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.
And when I say, “I couldn't help it,” that's no joke. They were talking so loudly I thought OSHA was going to come in make earplugs mandatory for everyone in the store. Let’s join the scene in progress:
(Sound effects of screeching shopping cart wheels as I arrive. Two women face each other in front of large shelf of pickles and relishes. Each has a cart, so there is a narrow lane down the middle, probably wide enough for a third cart, but only if you keep hands and feet tucked in with no purses or other items breeching the sides.
Female 1: “I know, how long has it been? What, a month?”
Female 2: “Probably. You know, we were on vacation for three weeks.”
Me: (politely nodding and smiling, trying to indicate to Female 1 that I need to get past her to retrieve two jars of the kosher dills. She's oblivious.) Uh … um … uh …
Female 1: (ignoring my subtle gestures and guttural verbal cues) “Oh, that’s riiiight! How was it?
Me: (quietly, almost inaudible, but still smiling) “Uh, ‘scuse me. I just …”
Female 1: (still acting as if I’m not there) "I’ll bet it was really good to get away.”
Me: (louder this time, with a preemptive “ahem” to get the ball rolling) “Pardon me. I just need to get a jar or two of pickles.” (No response.)
Female 2: “Well you know, we worked it out so we could spend the first week with Jack and Lisa and the kids …”
Female 1: (by now, she has moved – about an inch – to let me through, which puts me right in the thick of this thing, and since the pickles are low, I’m crouching in a position that could be uncomfortable for all of us, if you know what I mean) “Oh, I’ll bet you had a great time!”
Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit here, but it’s hard to describe in words alone just how little I meant to this scene, in the eyes of these two women. Now, if I really wanted to blow this thing out of proportion, I could say my next move was to take Female 1’s cart and, with one hand, give it a good push, sending it screaming down Aisle 5 as I used my other hand to escort her unceremoniously out of my way, all the time yelling: “Move your *$#&% ASS lady. I just need a damn jar of pickles. And let me expand on this by saying to you, Female 2, she doesn’t really care about you or your stupid three-week junket to Arizona or Coral Gables or South Dakota. She’s just making small talk because she has to since this was just some accidental encounter in the grocery store that, frankly, neither one of you probably wanted to have but here you are and now you’re stuck talking while some strange guy is crouching uncomfortably close to you innocently looking for his pickles!”
But I don’t (want to blow this story out of proportion, that is).
Anyway, I’m drifting, so let’s reel this thing back in. Finally, just as I was able to reach my pickles (there must be a better way to say that), I hear Female 2 say this about her trip: “We enjoyed every minute of it.”
To that, I replied, “No you didn’t.” (That was in my head. In reality, I think I slid away quietly, trying not to make eye contact after our crouching pickle close encounter.)
As a raced away toward Aisle 6, I thought about that statement: “We enjoyed every minute of it.” OK, Female 2, so you’re telling me that you enjoyed getting up at 2:30 a.m. on Day 1 because Allen (your husband for purposes of this discussion), booked you on a 5:30 a.m. flight? You’re telling me you enjoyed having to wait for like, a half-hour to go to the bathroom on the plane because you were sitting in the middle seat and the dude on the aisle fell asleep immediately after takeoff and you didn’t know if it was proper etiquette to try and wake him up?
And you loved that precious moment when Jack and Lisa’s three-year-old “accidentally” drew with permanent marker down the side of your rental car? What about when you got just a touch of food poisoning after eating those “caught-daily-fresh oysters” at that little joint at the beach that your friends back home said, “You have to try, but go early because it gets SO crowded”?
Please know, I’m not trying to be a fun sucker or put a cloud inside your silver lining. I’m simply saying there’s no way to enjoy every minute of something, even the really fun stuff. And should we? Should we enjoy standing in line, or stepping on a jellyfish, or listening to the guy who’s drunk on the tour bus to the zip-line place at 8:00 a.m.?
I appreciate that, after the fact, people forget about those “jellyfish/drunk guy” experiences and only remember the really cool stuff. And, you need those less-than-stellar events, even – or maybe especially – during the good times because they make the fun stuff even more gratifying and worthwhile. And, if everything -- every moment, every meal, every step you took -- was truly enjoyable, then wouldn’t that get a little … boring?
Plus, if we need to enjoy every minute of an experience, aren’t we setting yourself up for a big letdown?
Now, I get the spirit of the comment. I’m sure Female 2 simply wanted to communicate that it was a great trip, and I'm sure it was. (I heard Jack and Lisa and their kids are a real hoot.)
All I’m saying is sometimes, we go a bit overboard when we talk to others, and tend to want to make everything big, grandiose and “Oh my God” perfect. But things aren’t perfect, and that’s part of the fun of it.
So, when I claim that no onehas ever enjoyed every minute of anything, I’m not saying things can’t be good or fun or gratifying. I’m just saying you don’t have to pack fun and action into every minute to make things really, really, REALLY good (was that loud and emphasized enough?)
But one thing I’ve never enjoyed for even one minute? Those I’m-repeating-myself-and-yelling-louder-than-you-to-make-my-point-so-I-must-be-right talk radio shows.
Enjoy the day, whether it's perfect or not.
© 2020 David R. Haznaw