Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Supermarket Obstacle Course Only Moms Know About

When you have a baby, going to a grocery store can be like wandering through an obstacle course where any number of people can turn your "quick trip to the store" into an hour-long ordeal. There you are, wandering up and down aisles with a list in your hand (assuming that A) you're that organized and B) your child hasn't demanded to play with said list merely because you don't want them to), trying to bribe your child into staying in the cart by giving them toys and/or food, when suddenly you're faced with someone who seems determined to bog you down until your child starts screaming. If you want to make it in and out of the store in a timely manner, these are the archetypes you absolutely MUST avoid.

The Lonely Old Person

You know who I'm talking about. The little old lady who likes to sit on park benches and strike up conversations with anyone and everyone possible, looking for someone who will hold a better conversation than her 4 cats do. The old man who insists on making exact change for every purchase at any store and tells the story of his "first Buffalo nickle" every time he dig for 42 cents. You never want to start out being mean or rude to these folks because, although no one likes to admit it, but we're all terrified that we're going to end up like them, prattling on about "the good old days when folks used to hold actual books in their hands."  But these folks are insanely hard to get away from if your child is at all friendly. With one adorable wave of your baby's hand in their general direction you've got a geriatric audience who, if you're lucky, will end up following you for the next two aisles. Most often you end up rooted to the spot, though, begging your child to stay in their seat as they attempt a swan dive out of the cart while you're distracted trying to politely listen to the end of the old gal's list of grandchildren who live out of state.

Your best defense: Don't make eye contact and do NOT stop your cart! If you must acknowledge that they have just had a "moment" with your child do so with a cheerful-yet-guardedly-busy smile and keep on walking. Even if it means going back down the pasta aisle later, just keep walking.

The Baby-Talker

Now, I'm not talking about the folks who adopt high-pitched voices and say, "Hi, baby!" over and over while waving at said baby like a clown-bobble-head doll, I'm talking about the people who have a conversation with you by talking to your baby. They'll come charging up to you (for some reason there are a high number of these people employed in warehouse stores like Costco), fingers wriggling in the air, cooing at your child and then it begins.

TBT: HELLOOOOO, little one! What's your name?
Mom: This is Baby.
TBT: HIIIII Baby! How old are you?
Mom: (S)he's 11 months old.
TBT: 11 months! Well you're almost one year old! Is your mommy planning a cool birthday party for you?
Mom: Yes.
TBT: Oooh, I bet you'll like cake! Is your mommy giving you cake?
Mom: Yes.
TBT: Goody! You'll be sure to put that cake everywhere, right?
Mom: *shifts uncomfortably, trying to move on* Baby, say bye-bye to the nice lady!
TBT: Oh, you don't want to go yet, do you? Don't you want to show me your teeth, little baby? 

You get the point. This can go on and on and on.

Your best defense: Don't answer for your baby. If your baby can't talk yet there's no reason you need to get rooted to the ground trying to talk for them - let them keep talking to your child until they start to feel the foolishness dripping off of themselves like olive oil on an overdressed salad. Stare at the person long enough with a bored look on your face and they'll get the hint a lot faster.

Other Moms

There are two types of "other moms" in grocery stores - the harmless kind that smile at you and your child and keep on moving, and the kind that have been stuck indoors, talking to no one but their babies and significant others for the past few weeks and are dying for some validation about their mothering practices. These are the dangerous ones - if you allow a short conversation to start up and discover that your baby is older than theirs you're done for. Suddenly it's, "Has your baby sat up/used a pacifier/ slept through the night/ had all of their shots/ eaten berries/ etc., yet?" and there's no end in sight unless one or both of your children start screaming.

Your best defense: At the first pause between sentences, fake a dirty diaper.  Sniff at your baby and say loudly, "Did you POOP?!?  AGAIN?!?"  Any mom, no matter how adult-deprived she is, knows that you do not want to have to change a poopy diaper in a grocery store.  Smile apologetically and make your way to the front of the store immediately.  (If you're nice you could also suggest a local mommy group she could join.)

The Crazies

Crazy people are always something I'm wary of regardless of whether or not my baby is in tow, but these days it seems like the crazies are harder to spot. Half the time you see someone angrily yelling at no one in particular the person will turn their head to reveal a bluetooth headset, thus revealing that the voices they're hearing their heads are the voices of actual people. However, unless you can smell the urine on their clothing before they sidle up to you and your grocery cart, the crazies are the hardest to shake. You can smile uncomfortably, you can say things like, "I really have to go," you can get in line even, and they'll follow you, talking to you about how to find out who your baby was in their past life, how the Illuminati is trying to cripple our economy by putting Wal Marts in China or how the government wants to kill everyone under the age of 5 with chem-trails. Babies open you up to a huge range of conversations with people and, if you're not careful, you could get yourself sucked into the ramblings of a nut-job.
Your best defense: Again, walk quickly, don't make eye contact, and try to find a store employee to ask a question. Often the crazy folks are wary of some authority figure and will wander off if you start asking someone who works there where to find things and ask them to escort you.
Of course, you could always try to out-crazy the person... but you never know if your claim to actually be Cthulu in disguise will make them more or less likely to continue talking to you.

Hopefully this guide will help some people out there somewhere, be it moms who need to get through the supermarket gauntlet or one of the childless folks out there who don't realize exactly how annoying it is when you talk to us through our babies.

1 comment:

  1. Ahahaha! You're hilarious. I love the "Baby-Talkers". So bizarre! I almost feel like an ass when I answer for my baby, as if I'm butting into their private conversation. Thankfully, while I'M being polite and accommodating, she's giving them the "WTF?" stare - we're a good team. :P