Herbert Spencer, a 19th Century English philosopher and scientist, is best known for the expression “survival of the fittest,” which he coined after reading Charles Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species.” Spencer wrote: “Thus by survival of the fittest, the militant type of society becomes characterized by profound confidence …” Yup, he’s been to a supermarket, alright.

Let’s face it, navigating the aisles of a grocery store is like boot camp. And I have the black-and-blue marks to prove it. Designers of those carts need to go back to the drawing board. It’s amazing how that lower metal bar lines up exactly with your shinbone. They need to raise the bar (pun intended).

Let’s start in the parking lot, shall we? You’re driving up and down looking for the closest spot. You spy reverse lights in the next aisle and speed around to get it. Blinker on, you wait. And wait. What’s happening? Well, she has to plug in her phone, check messages, put on her sunglasses and check herself out in the mirror. For what? She’s going home with the groceries! Finally parked, you’re ready for the real adventure.

On a recent trip, cart in hand, I headed to the cold cut counter. I tore off No. 32, but overhead, it says, “serving 23.” What? Only three people waiting. There is one slicer and a man who can’t decide just which ham he wants. So he tries them all. I honestly believe some people go to the deli counter for a free lunch. Up next, a woman who decides she wants three slices each of four different varieties of cold cuts. Uh oh, server needs to open a new package, so off to the fridge she goes…and we wait. And then here comes Sally, who proudly raises the number 24. Apparently she’s been aisle hopping! Nah, no way does she cut in now, says the gentleman in front of me. Carts gnash; voices raise. I decide I’ll have salad for lunch. Off to produce!

“Harry,” calls the wife loudly, “plum or beefsteak tomatoes?” Harry is sniffing bananas two aisles over but looks up and yells back, “whatever.” No need to tell you what happened next. He’s got a lot of “mansplaining” to do.

Now into the main aisles where the snail-paced walkers are staring at every shelf in FOMO mode (fear of missing out). Decisions, decisions: salted, unsalted, salted to the point of dying thirst? The options are endless. And so is the line of carts serpentining around these whifflers: Clash, bonk! Yup, black and blue.

Next aisle. Well, what have we here? Three neighbors surprisingly found themselves in the same aisle and find the need to catch up. They settle in, each with one foot up on that ungodly shin-banging rail, ready for a leisurely chat. Saying “excuse me” only brings frowns of annoyance, so I throw the cart into reverse and back out.

Uh oh, here comes Roadrunner: beep, beep! A kiddo no more than eight years old unleashed with Mama’s cart. Blood will be spilled. Mine, I reckon. Mama follows at a gallop, toting a two year old in her arms, yelling, “Get back here, or I’m taking your phone!” Wait, what? Used to be, “No ice cream for you!”

Finally, I arrive at the cash registers with my half-gotten food supply. Thanks to those neighbors, I completely missed the much-needed aisle of bandages. I spy the shortest line but am beaten out by, you guessed it, No. 24: Sally. With all due respect to Mr. Spencer, my “profound confidence” will be in the de-militarized zone today. I’m off to another line.

At last, I’m out the door, packages in trunk, key in ignition and to roll. Oh look! Someone’s got their blinker on for my spot…hmmm.


Does knowledge have intrinsic value or does it need to have a practical use to have value?

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