Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Small Town Traps: The "Quick Grocery Store Trip

Small Town Traps:  The “Quick” Grocery Store Trip

For those of you that don’t know, I grew up in a small town.  Small towns have a much different dynamic than larger cities.  In larger cities, there’s a feeling of anonymity which can be both depressing and comforting.  On the one hand, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people that don’t know you and don’t care about you.  On the other hand, you can go to Wal-Mart at two in the afternoon wearing the flowery pajama pants your mom got you for Christmas with no worries that these people will ever see you again.

In small towns, EVERYONE knows you.  The moment you step out the door the likelihood that you will run into someone that will recognize you increases exponentially with the amount of time you’re outside.  Quick runs to the grocery store become a pipe dream.  You feel like a celebrity, except without the good looks, money, or success.

Whenever you get into the store, it’s like a military operation.  You have the sections of the store mapped out.

The moment you begin to make your trek forward, you see someone coming.  You hear them cry out from the distance.  Most of the time, in this situation, you don’t actually know the person, they’re just a friend of the family’s, but that doesn’t mean they won’t share the horrifying details of their hernia surgery with you.  You glance around to see if there’s anything you can dive behind to make them lose your scent, but you’re completely isolated in the open.  And they’ve spotted you—caught your scent like a shark smells blood in the water.


What proceeds is a horrifying conversation in which you try to get away.  You try oh, so hard to get away.  But the conversation won’t end.  They discuss their newest child’s latest exploits, which include—shock and surprise!—pooping, peeing, vomiting, and crying.  Despite your best hints, they are completely oblivious to your desperate need to get out, and probably think you wear Spongebob Christmas Pajama Pants every day.  Perhaps it’s your formal attire?

Regardless, eventually, you make an excuse to get away—maybe your mom is expecting you to get home with toilet paper, a dire need everyone can identify with.  You think you’ve made your escape until you realize that they’re going the same direction as you.

Suddenly, brilliance strikes.

You race outside, pretend to get your wallet, but you’ve just opened yourself up to bump into more people.  You see them, like an army, swarming on the Wal-Mart.  Every person you have ever known has decided they desperately need something from the Wal-Mart at 3 in the morning.  You make a frantic sprint to the store and begin throwing things in the buggy (shopping cart for you non-southerners) as fast as you can.

Then, you run into someone else.

You make a frantic attempt to hurry the conversation without seeming rude, but they continue to stay and stay and stay, no matter how many times you try to tell them that your house is on fire because you left the stove on and your brother can’t get out because he ate poisoned mushrooms that have paralyzed him from the neck down.  They don’t care.  They want to show you baby pictures and ramble on and on about how their hernia surgery went.

Finally, you manage to get away after some quick, mumbled excuse.  But things don’t end that easily.

Frantic, you grab the one item you desperately need and make a sobbing sprint for the front of the store.  You have to get away. You have to escape the horrifyingly awkward conversations, the embarrassing clothes, and prying, judging eyes of small town life.  You see the faint glow of the numbered check-out lanes, and you think back to how the wise men must have felt when they saw the star resting over Jesus’ manger.  You feel like you’ve reached the Promised Land.

It’s then you realize that you will never get out of this place.  It was actually a trick and Satan has set you up to repeat the same awkward conversations over and over in some sort of hell-ish perversion of the Groundhog Day curse.