I was so excited the other day to have finally gotten some money on my unemployment card. I thought to myself…”I can eat this week,” and headed out to the Ralph’s to spend a modicum amount of my weekly benefits on food, something I need to survive.
After making a right hand turn into the parking lot, slamming on my brakes and having to idle impatiently while two other cars chose to block the entrance to the underground parking and apparently wait for one of the 12 spots on the ground floor, I made my way over two annoying speed bumps and parked close to the escalator, which of course has been broken for two weeks now.
I had a small shopping list that included some lettuce, chicken, cat food, diet coke, and toilet paper which I desperately needed probably more than the 20 pack of soda I picked up first and put on the bottom of my cart.
“Remember to pay for that later.” I told myself.
I cruised my shopping cart down the aisle and ran into an extremely attractive Russian brunette who picked out her most uncomfortable pair of high heels to go shopping that day, and it almost felt like she wanted to say something to me until her short Armenian boyfriend who was about thirty years her senior appeared out of nowhere. Upon seeing me about to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the salad dressing aisle, this little man decided to say something I couldn’t understand in a language I don’t speak and then proceeded to grope his girlfriend in front of the tabasco sauce as if to send a clear message to me that she is hot, and belongs to him.
Silly Armenian, I’m more focused on my 10 soups for $10 than I am on your ten dollar mail order bride you got to make yourself look better in public.
I cross the frozen food section and pick up nothing as I make my way down the snack aisle where I run into an appealing Spanish girl who asks me which cheddar and sour cream potato chips I prefer as I’m picking out the Kroger brand bag of the same flavor.
“I actually like these.” I say as I put the chips that will probably be eaten before tomorrow into my cart.
The Spaniard picks them off the shelf, and is about to put them into her cart when low and behold, another short, foreign, “hands on” boyfriend appears out of nowhere and immediately puts those potato chips back while muttering something in Spanish about how Ruffles taste better. I choose not to interject with the fact that I have been eating cheddar and sour cream flavor chips for over 15 years and that recently I switched to Kroger brand because Ruffles changed their recipe and they’re just not that good anymore.
I make my way past the half off Halloween candy aisle and I think to myself it’s like three weeks past that holiday and 50% off just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. I’ll wait for the big after Christmas blow out in what feels like it’s two months away, but I know it will be January before I know it.
I grab a few bags of lettuce that I have a coupon for and I throw in a few power bars which is a breakfast meal I don’t necessarily look forward to but it’s cheap, and I’m frugal these days, plus they have a buy three, get a dollar off promo going on.
I pass by the cookie and cracker aisle, grabbing two bags of goldfish that I have been eating since the 1980s and as I turn the corner to grab a few cans of cat food, I see that weird Russian/Armenian couple again and as he spots me coming around the corner it’s almost on cue that he puts his arms around her waist and grabs her butt until she squeals with what I think was embarrassing excitement.
Oh God, get me out of this place already, but of course not before I find myself trapped at the end cap of that lane while an overweight asian woman mulls over which brand of toilet paper to buy and a regular sized asian man is texting while leaning on his cart which is ALSO blocking my way.
I check my list and I think I got it all, and as I look across the checkout lanes, I see the one with the shortest line and I head that way until right before I’m about to enter the lane, that Spanish couple cuts me off and oh look, they decided to go with the store brand potato chips like I told her to do.
As I’m starting to put my items on the belt I am greeted by the young, sweet cashier who asks me about my day, and tells me about hers and how it started at 7am when she dropped off her kid at school and I thank God that I’m only buying fancy feast at sixty-nine cents a can rather than baby food.
Then the uber sweet older Latino bag lady, (not homeless mind you) compiles all of my groceries into three bags, places them into my cart at right about the same time I turn around to hear that Armenian dude arguing with his girlfriend that she doesn’t need to purchase the Star, Us Weekly AND the National Inquirer magazines in her hands.
I hand the cashier my money off vouchers, and watch as a contestant does on Extreme Couponing as my total amount owed drops from $91 to $68 thanks to the Campbell’s 10 for 10 soup sale, the $3.50 off I saved, and the Ralph’s club discount I received. I swipe my EDD card, enter my pin, and I’m approved as the cashier hands me even more coupons and I thank the bag lady for packing my cart as I push it out the front door and into the elevator.
No one gets on with me, and I smile because I know I hate riding in elevators with other people, and I laugh at the antics of those two weird couples in the store as I make my way down to the basement floor and as I’m loading my groceries into my car, I look down at my cart, and it hits me…..
I never paid for that 20 pack of diet coke.
I guess I could go back in and be honest. I guess I could take the elevator back up to the 2nd floor and shell out the seven dollars for this soda, but with people across the country taking meat from the butcher aisle and shoving it down their pants to save money, I feel like maybe this accidental moment of theft is God’s way of telling me to enjoy the fruits and carbonation of my labor because no one really saw me, and getting away with shoplifting when you don’t mean to shoplift is a rush in itself.
I pack up my car, turn on some music, and drive away with a clear conscience.
And if you’re wondering…. those still are the best tasting twenty cans of diet coke that I never really paid for.