On a recent trip to Costco, I confirmed something about myself: I like to eat and walk. That said, I don’t go there specifically for aisle-to-aisle sample hopping. I make the drive to stock up on items I constantly use that cost far more at my local grocery store than they do at this leviathan wholesale club.
If you’ve never been to a Costco, I’m sorry. They’re wonderful places where you can buy everything from a 1-gallon jar of dill pickles, to a 4-gallon jug of PineSol, from a tent capable of sleeping 16 rhinos, to a 10-pack of energy-saving light bulbs, from the entire Peanuts DVD collection, to a coffee table book of Croatia that weighs 5-lbs. On this particular trip, I wandered into the clothing department and covered all the Red Sox jerseys on the table with New York Yankees ones. Oh, and have I mentioned their fresh-baked goods? I won’t rhapsodize about them too much, but they’ve got pies as big as my abdomen, and thigh-high stacks of fresh, warm, buttery croissants.
*** Here’s an important tip for shopping at Costco: Eat before you go. *** Having a full belly before you step foot on their property helps you bypass the cafeteria outside, which serves (according to many sources) “the best” hot dogs and pizza. If you’re hungry when you enter the mega-warehouse, don’t blame me for the carnage, for there will be some. You’ll suddenly find your blood sugar level slipping, and with it, any semblance of will power. Ridiculous “wants” turn into “needs” – for instance, you’ll need that 2-lb bag of Reese’s Pieces, a moist lemon cake, a 60-count container of brownies, bricks of Irish Cheddar cheese the size of my thigh, and a multi-pack of quiches, which could double as wheels on your car. Being the epitome of the Dessertatarian, I seldom “need” anything in the produce department, though I will tell you their mammoth boxes of mushrooms give me nightmares.
But it’s not just the large sizes (1-gallon of Mrs. Butterworth’s!) or the variety of items that I’m convinced draw people to this warehouse. It’s the hair-netted, cheery little old ladies that wait at the end of every aisle offering you tasty morsels like your grandmother used to. Most of the time I can’t eat these bits of goodness (I’m vegetarian) but I grab one anyhow, move along, and then pass it to one of my children. It’s a rewards system, sort of like, “Yes, I’ve made you come do The Big Shop, here, have a piece of bacon.”
And here lies my issue with fellow Costco shoppers. Please pay careful attention to the above paragraph. Nowhere will you see mentioned, “I grab one, stand there eating it, chat, text, knit a scarf for a Clydesdale.” No. It doesn’t. I accept one morsel and MOVE ALONG. Grab and move. GRAB AND MOVE. It isn’t that I’m agoraphobic and don’t want to stand next to the woman with her nineteen screaming children. No. I just don’t want to be one of those people who keep others from enjoying the treats: A clogger.
Cloggers are unaware of their cloggy-ness. Cloggers are the ones who’ll stop their cart in the middle of the main aisle (blocking traffic going in both directions) and s-l-o-w-l-y wander towards the sample lady. If you’re like me and you’ve stocked up for the Apocalypse, it’s not so easy to stop your cart on a dime because Timmy Tortoise decides he wants a cocktail weenie. There should be an orderly queue where people pull their carts up, take a sample, SAY THANK YOU to the cheery little old lady, AND MOVE ON. Please, for the love of God, move on. Why must you stand there running the cocktail weenie around in your mouth like you’re trying to figure out every nuance of its creation, how long it’s been stored in that can, and where, for that matter, it was canned. “Hmm, I taste New Jersey.” Just grab the damn weenie and move.
Alas, this doesn’t happen. So now you’ll find yourself wedged between weenie eaters when all you wanted to do was grab and move. To compound issues, directly across the aisle from you is another sample stand, so The Cloggers will slowly ooze that way, while texting, chortling, knitting. It’s as if they’ve not eaten in weeks. To get in between a prospective sampler and the cheery little old lady is akin to hopping into the tiger’s enclosure at the zoo and plucking the slab of meat away, a veritable death sentence, or at the very least, you’ll lose a limb. When they finally do move, it’s only to wipe their sticky fingers on the handle of their shopping cart, before blocking the waste receptacle. The number of people at Costco that I see ruminating in front of waste receptacles is stunning. It may be the only place on earth where people find it enjoyable to dine in front of a trash can. What we do put up with for free food!
It’s usually around this time (aisle 8 or so) that my children begin making grunting sounds that amount to, “You said this was going to be a fast trip.”
I did say that. I lied. It will never be a fast trip. I need to systematically go down every lane because I’m never quite sure what I’ll find (4-liters of first cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil!), but I do know that at the end will be a charming grandmother-figure holding out a treat. It makes it all worthwhile.