Today I found out that I am not the only one. For years I tried to do it as fast as I could, so others wouldn’t notice. I would have to bite down on my lip to stop from yelling at the savages that surrounded me. Obsessively fixing their mess as soon as the prying eyes were off of me. How could they function in this mad, mad world? How do they not feel the atrocities in every bone of their body? Alas… I am not alone anymore. There are more of us. Years of hiding in the shadows we can finally walk out into the light. The freedom to admit - I am grocery organization addict! I was going to shorten it G.O.A’s but that is the gun owners of America and that would be a awkward if there was confusion at our first conference.
As I watch the others check out I wonder how they can handle the thought of their ice cream placed right next to the boneless pork chops. Do you not see? Do you not feel that pork slowly leaking out near your dairy? Why is your frozen lemonade sharing a space with the Cheez-Its? It’s anarchy. Your bread in the front? Why even buy it if you are okay with it becoming a misshapen tube of sadness?
Here is a glimpse into my personal grocery insanity. It starts as soon as I walk in. I organize my cart according to how the products will be put on the belt. We start in the produce section. I can’t stop this habit even though I know later it will cause a mad fit of stopping the savages when I catch my family trying to destroy my precious fruits and veggies. All produce goes to the back of the cart heaviest on the bottom. We proceed to the proteins. All meats and seafood are stacked neatly at the front of the cart with a clear space from their veggie friends. Packaged pre-cooked meats can enter this neutral mid zone with no fear of repercussions.
On to the all mighty dairy and frozen section. I know, I know, this section should be last. My imaginary world where I never need anything from the middle packaged food section doesn’t allow me to let go of the dream. The dream that I am that holier than thou fresh food only shopper. I grab my milk, yogurt and butter placing them gently in the tiny top basket. See, I am genius. Until the damn eggs. I grab the box do the wiggle check as I look down. Where do I put them now? I filled my fragile section with dairy. No problem a little re-positioning of the veggies and the eggs are now nestled in their safe place.
We pass the Ice cream and I announce that we are not getting any treats till all rooms are cleaned. 5 minutes later I have two tubs of Ice cream in my hands and there is still a blur of “pleases” and “they are on sale” floating through the air. This is when it turns into utter chaos. After finding the Ice cream its appropriate home, the sense of urgency sinks in. We have the whole rest of the store left and now a ticking time bomb in the cart.
In an attempt to go faster I send the older ones on the mission for canned goods while the small one and I head to cereals and breads. All seems to be going to plan as my bread gently rests on top of my eggs and the cereal is in its allotted section next to the veggies. This is when the ones who obviously hold passive anger toward me come rushing around the corner. The cans just come flying in. How can this be my offspring?! Just lobbing canned tomato bombs at my poor defenseless bell peppers.
I scramble in a slightly irrational state to prevent anymore damage. It is now clear we are done shopping. One breakdown is all that is allowed at the store. I would like to say that this rule was because of my children but we all know that is a blatant lie. The study of the lines proceeds. I become the grocery store goldilocks. That line is too long, that line is too short, and that one is just right. I need a line just long enough to prep my groceries for the unloading and organizing. Too short and a second irrational mini breakdown will ensue.
With the cart organized, we start the unloading as soon as the first sliver of space shows itself. Frozen and dairy first, they are the heaviest and cold and cold should be kept together. Meats next. The line continues pantry items, veggies and fragile items. All with distinctive spaces between. My silent way of telling the cashier and bagger that I am one of those crazies. Please don’t make me say it out loud. I am afraid I have such a bad case that even my little ones know not to break the grocery line up and it is fruitless to argue with me about it.
Occasionally I hit the jackpot and I get to bag my own groceries. Since my local store (Albertsons on Johnston St. - Shout out) has amazing customer service this is a rare occasion. If am lucky, I get a long term employee and I only have to look over 5-10 times because they have learned to recognize those with my condition. One of them even knows to put my heavy items toward the front so they get unloaded first preventing any chance of future crushing of delicate items. The horror is the new guy. My Southern upbringing won’t allow me to tell this hard working young person that they are doing it all wrong. So, instead, I stand over the cart fixing each bag as it is put in. Imagine that conversation later at the keg party “Dude, some crazy lady today started freaking out because I put her Ice cream in the back next to her cereal… crazy ass old people.”
I never, I mean never, allow them to help me load up the car. I do this for them not me. I know that this is where I will break and may say things I will regret. A $3.00 loaf of bread is not worth destroying someone’s day. Groceries all snuggled away in the back we head home. Unload the car and as a team put them away. I announce, “See doesn’t it make sense now?” “It doesn’t look crazy once you see how it ends.” To this my oldest without a beat says, “No Mom, it still looks crazy.” And my middle child follows with, “You stopped looking not crazy a long time ago.” I really should stop feeding them.
So there it is my grocery neurosis. Know this my fellow addicts - I see you. We must support each other. I will be there for you when they put your chuck roast in the bag with your bread. Just the thought makes me sick to my stomach.