Sightseeing in the Meat Department, or Why I Won’t Go Grocery Shopping Alone

April 22, 2010

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.
• Plato
, Ion

I am an introvert. I enjoy my colleagues, I love being with my family and friends, and I like teaching and the students with whom I work, but I also need lots of time alone to corral the herds of thoughts that are always trampling through my head. Despite this need for solitude, there are some things I just don’t like to do alone. Grocery shopping is one of them. My distaste for doing this chore by myself has its origins in a memory recently resurrected when I found this poem in a box of baby pictures:

• by W-OZ, written many years ago in the backseat of my in-laws’ car

The preacher waits in the car for Gladys
who’s never learned to drive
and is too old now to learn new tricks.
It doesn’t matter where they go or
what they need:
socks or underwear or trousers or
new cushions for the sofa or
a gooseneck lamp for his study
or maybe two fried fish specials
from the Shrimp Boat on Watson Boulevard.

He’ll stay in the car thank you very much,
settling into
toetapping kneejuggling knucklepopping
impatience before the wait begins.
Today, we’re in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot and
I’m just along for the ride.

“Take your time,” he tells her,
although she knows he doesn’t mean it,
“Get what you want. You cook it; I’ll eat it,”
rejecting her pleas for his companionship,
turning his gaze away from her lonely eyes,
as he grabs the
Macon Telegraph and News
May 2, three months old,
crumpled on the floorboard next to me,
discarded wrapping from the African violet
she delivered alone
to Miss Ludie’s hospital bed.

He smooths it out and starts to read,
leaving her to hurry in and
worry her way quickly up and down the aisles,
short legs moving swiftly as I trail along behind,
forehead creased with anxiety over their three-meals-a-day,
wondering if he’d like black-eyed peas or okra,
and finally buying both.

And in the backseat as we leave the parking lot,
I vow that I will never
no not ever
live together, yet alone.

My husband and I hunt together for our food, wandering up and down the aisles, asking each other whether we are running low on cinnamon or linguine or marinated artichoke hearts, sightseeing in the meat department, wondering who will pay fifty dollars for a pork loin and why those uncooked roasts are sold pre-sliced, but knowing someone must be buying them because there they are, every time.

When I was in school, this was a date night activity, time to be together doing something that had to be done. We had—and still have—fun doing it, turning the mundane into a companionable activity. I recommend this strategy whether or not you’re in school, whatever the task. Julie Andrews, in her Mary Poppins (1964) incarnation, said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and—SNAP—the job’s a game!”

When life is busy, you have to take your fun where you can find it.

How do you add fun to your life? Try writing about it and turning your words into a poem to help you remember.

Words form the thread on which we string our experiences.
• Aldous Huxley

Poetry is life distilled.
• Gwendolyn Brooks



  1. “My group of friends had always found away to get out of their fourth period classrooms to meet up at the back table in the multimedia center. The task wasn’t as simple for me as I was in Physical Science and Mr. Johnson had a sixth sense when it came to excuses to leave his teaching domain. I had accepted my fate when I realized that my buddies had escaped their educational shackles and were walking by the science labs clearly expecting for me to join their escapades. Clearly a miracle would need to be in order for me to find my way out of the room.”
    This story relates to my experiences in the classroom as a student and how I found that the quotation is valid
    “what a web we weave, when we first practice to deceive.”

  2. Like many other folks I occasionally lament that I never win anything, but this isn’t really true: I did win something once. I attended Maple Primary Elementary during 2nd grade. Our class had a contest to determine who could submit the best ‘Litter Bug’ – I won! If I were to dig deep enough I could probably locate that tattered piece of construction paper and revel in that childhood memory.
    Little elementary kids grow up and I was no exception. Littering is simply disgusting to me. In fact the wrestling team I coached adopted a section of highway through ODOT’s Adopt A Highway program. It’s not uncommon to find me gathering up pieces of trash from our school grounds, and actively modeling this habit for our young students.
    Surely the moral of this story is: “What you teach can make a difference.”

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